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Posted: June 21, 2012
When you speak with Jack Seltzer and his son, John, about their upcoming trip to the West Coast, your first reaction is to reach for a bottle of bubbly.
What is there to celebrate? Oh, everything. A wedding, too.
On Sunday morning, Jack and John, both Titleist PGA Staff professionals from the Michigan PGA Section, will tee off in the first round of the 45th PGA Professional National Championship, being contested this year at the Bayonet and Black Horse Golf Courses on California's Monterey Peninsula. (The top 20 finishers will play in the 2012 PGA Championship at Kiawah Island.)
Jack is 61 years old. An accomplished player who's played in five PGA Championships and eight Senior PGA's, he will be playing in the PGA PNC for the 16th time – but also the first time in a long time.
The last time, John was 13 years old. Last month, John celebrated his 32nd birthday.
"This is probably…," Jack says, pausing to collect his thoughts. "I've just wanted this for, I can't tell you how long."
Never before have a father and son competed in the same PPNC, a unique place in golf's history books that can never be erased. It's a proud moment for the Seltzer family, no matter which family member is the more proud.
"This whole thing is more of a testament to my father than anything else," says John, the head PGA professional at Polo Field Golf and Country Club in Ann Arbor. "I'm very happy to be playing it, but him at 61 is a real accomplishment.
"Plus, it's interesting how it all kind of happened."
It began about 30 years ago, a two-year-old John hitting balls on the range with a cut-down club. (There are videos to prove it.)
"He'd ask almost every day to hit balls and if we didn't, he'd cry," says Jack, currently an instructor at the Kendall Academy at Miles of Golf in Ypsilanti.
As he got older, John would spend his summers heading to work with his father. He'd hit balls, pick up balls, help with the golf carts, sneak in as many holes as he could.
"I would stay at the club all day," John says. "He'd throw me on the range, tell me stay out of trouble and don't bother anyone."
At 15, John beat his dad for the first time, even though he doesn't remember much about the day. Jack, on the other hand, can recount the proceedings shot-by-shot, including those three birdies on 15, 16 and 17 that were done in by his son's 15-footer for birdie to win the match on 18.
"Trust me, as happy as you are, I'm 10 times happier," Jack told his son that day.
There would be countless rematches to follow, of course, with John eventually following in his Jack's footsteps and becoming a PGA Professional, playing in the same state and section tournaments as his father.
Never, in all those years, however, had they played together in a competitive round.
Until last summer.
It was last August when Jack and John found themselves playing in the same group on the final day of the Michigan PGA Championship at Eagle Eye GC in Bath Township.
Both players started the day several shots back of the leaders, who were teeing off later in the day. Sixty-eight, they thought, might give them an outside chance to jump into the top 11 and qualify for the PGA PNC.
John did one better, catching fire with his new Scotty Cameron Select GoLo putter and rolling his Titleist Pro V1x in for five birdies on his way to a bogey-free 5-under 67. John was in for sure.
Jack battled to a 1-under 71, and was thrilled for his son, admittedly having paid more attention to his son's swings than his own. It wasn't until after doing a video interview with a local website that they realized Jack might also have a chance.
They sat and waited for three hours. The course was playing tough. The scores were coming in higher than expected.
Finally, the news: He made it, by a shot. Nineteen years after the last time. Over 50 years after first falling in love with the game as a boy in Flint, Mich., playing the local course all day for just 60 cents.
"It was just unbelievable," Jack says.
"I can't even tell you what it means to me."
"Fate was definitely smiling upon us," John says. And there is another example.
John and his fiance, Amanda, had been talking about having a destination wedding later this year. With the PGA PNC being played on the picture-perfect Monterey Peninsula, they made the decision to pack both the golf clubs and the wedding rings.
Amanda will also caddie for John during the tournament, while John's sister, Stacey, will caddie for Jack.
The wedding is scheduled for that Friday, two days after the final round.
"So we've really turned it into very something special," Jack says. "I don't even care if I finish dead last."
He'll be playing, but paying more attention to his son's scores anyway.