Former middle school math teacher qualifies for PGA TOUR Champions event
Jay Jurecic spent 21 years as a teacher in Michigan but recently left his job to pursue the PGA TOUR Champions
September 15, 2021
By Bret Lasky, PGATOUR.COM
- September 15, 2021
- Jay Jurecic on Wednesday at the Sanford International. (Bret Lasky/PGA TOUR)
You almost certainly don’t know Jay Jurecic, but he might be the best story in golf this week.
For the last 21 years, Jurecic, 51, has been teaching middle school math at West Iron County Public Schools in Iron County, Michigan, a town of 11,000 in the Upper Peninsula.
On Aug. 7, he went into his Superintendent's office and took a leap of faith. He decided to resign to chase his PGA TOUR Champions dream. His last day as a teacher was Aug. 22.
“I always told my students, try to believe and keep going so I gotta get out there, too,” said Jurecic, after shooting a 10-under 61 on Tuesday at Bakker Crossing Golf Course to qualify for the Sanford International, his PGA TOUR Champions debut. “It’s a dream come true, I’m really blessed to have a day like today.”
He also got through the pre-qualifier with a 67.
Jurecic’s story is the .1% on PGA TOUR Champions.
He didn’t play high school golf, he didn’t play college golf and he certainly never played the PGA TOUR. He played football, tennis and skied growing up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in a town that has just one 18-hole golf course.
In fact, he didn’t get his first set of clubs until his 18th birthday when his mom bought him a set of Sam Snead clubs from a local store.
He was hooked. His county course, Youngs Golf Course, where he still plays today, offered free golf for school-aged kids. The next year it was a $50 college membership.
“Golf wasn’t that popular when I was a freshman in college so I thought I needed to run about and play tennis even though my mom said to go out for golf," Jurecic said.
After college, Jurecic thought about a career as a golf professional, but decided to go the teaching route.
In the summers, when school was out, Jurecic focused on golf. He would play mini-tour events.
“Even though I didn’t have the traditional route, I’ve always enjoyed playing and wanted to get better. Even in the UP, I would practice inside in the winter. I've always enjoyed the competition. Teaching allowed me to keep playing.”
From 2003 to 2005, he took a leave of absence from teaching to focus on golf full time. He played the Dakotas Tour, the Hooters Tour, a mini tour in Jacksonville, a mini tour in Alabama called the Gateway Tour and he even did PGA TOUR Canada Q-School, which he didn’t get through.
“Wherever I could play, I was trying to play to learn and get better.”
He kept playing when he could while teaching and over the last several years, with his 50th birthday approaching, he hatched a plan to give the PGA TOUR Champions a go. COVID-19 put a wrench into the plans last year when there was no Q-School for PGA TOUR Champions, but he’s signed up for this year.
He can definitely play. In July, he won the Michigan Senior Open. He went 66-69 to win by one.
Turns out, there is a correlation between his two-decades-long teaching career and his new pursuit.
“I always told students how you have to learn things, how your attitude has to be, how hard you have to work, I think all of that, no matter what you do is in there. You have to go out and learn math, you gotta put the work in, you gotta believe you can do it, you gotta have people helping you, you gotta pass your test when the pressure is on, you’re going to fail at times, but you gotta learn from your mistakes and just keep trying to get better everyday.”
Practice what you preach. That’s what Jurecic is now doing.
One of the biggest supporters of his golf career has been his brother, Jeff, who will be his caddie this weekend. He’s a commercial pilot for Delta so it was easy for him to zip up to Sioux Falls once he qualified.
It’s going to be a dream week.
Instead of shaping the next generation, he’ll be trying to solve Minnehaha Country Club.
“God’s given me a talent and I decided that I’ve got to use it.”
West Iron County Public Schools must be so proud.Jay Jurecic during a practice round Wednesday at the Sanford International. (Bret Lasky/PGA TOUR)