By Bob Denney, The PGA of America
Two decades removed from winning the Shell Houston Open, his lone victory of a 22-year PGA Tour career, Jim McGovern is at peace in a place where television doesn't shine its bright lights or draw the rapt attention of a scrutinizing national audience.
It is home, sweet home.
In his third season as the PGA head professional at White Beeches Golf and Country Club in Haworth, N.J., McGovern has not retired from competition. He merely refined his priorities to what comes first -- his family. McGovern, 48, will be part of the 312-player field in his first PGA Professional National Championship, June 23-26, at Sunriver (Ore.) Resort. He earned his berth by finishing third in last fall's New Jersey PGA Championship.
"It's great; I like being home," says McGovern, sounding ever like a man who found Shangri-La. "I love it here. The traveling was getting to me. My kids were getting bigger and I wasn't there to see them grow up. I have even dabbled a bit as a basketball coach."
One of nine children of Howard and Terese McGovern, owners of a family trucking business, McGovern has six brothers. Brother Rob is a former NFL linebacker turned U.S. Army military attorney; and brother Bill is the linebackers coach for the Philadelphia Eagles.
"Bill getting that job means that I might have to put on a little green, but not when they face my (New York) Giants," joked McGovern.
The McGoverns are a hard-working family, says Jim, and that stems from parents who believed in earning what comes from sound business practices and building those you care about most. "My dad made us who we are, what we are," says McGovern. "Mom is still going great at 82, and she is working in our golf shop."
A native of Teaneck, N.J., McGovern says he hurt his arm playing baseball during the same part of the season as when golf season was starting in school.
"The golf coach also was a gym teacher," says McGovern. "I was a junior in high school at the time. I remember the coach saying, 'Hey McGovern, you better try golf.'"
McGovern's path to full-time golf was later sealed when he suffered a knee injury in football at Bergen Catholic High School. Perhaps it was destiny as the McGovern brothers had grew up near the fourth hole at Hackensack Golf Club near Oradell. They would sneak on the course at twilight for any game that they could squeeze in before sunset. "It was like the biggest backyard we'd seen," says McGovern.
"Golf was a perfect challenge for me," says McGovern, who turned professional in 1988. "For me, it was facing one opponent -- the golf course. I love being tested."
The competitive side of McGovern carried over to his responsibilities as a PGA club professional. He reviews merchandise orders, trains an apprentice, coordinates junior camps and oversees details for the club's member-guest tournament.
This is the same guy who made nearly 200 PGA Tour cuts, tied for fifth at the 1994 Masters, and earned nearly $3 million. He remains just the second New Jersey native to win on the PGA Tour, following 1941 PGA Champion Vic Ghezzi, an 11-time Tour winner.
When McGovern defeated John Huston in a playoff in the rain-shortened 1993 Shell Houston Open, he became one of six first-time winners on Tour that year and pocketed $587,495. He would never win again, spending years between the PGA Tour and the former Nationwide circuit.
He regained a Tour card for the 2008 season, making just 11 cuts in 26 events. By then a lack of success and the travel away from his wife, Lauren, and their four children had taken its toll.
A disappointing 2008 season convinced McGovern it was time to consider making a career change. After playing in a handful of Tour events through 2010, McGovern interviewed successfully for the head professional job at White Beeches, a 1920 Walter Travis layout, just a few miles from his Bergen County home.
The new experience of competing against his club professional peers in The PGA of America has been a fulfilling transition. "I enjoy being with the guys that I have met in this Section," McGovern says. "They have accepted me."
The chance to compete at the highest level has been a part of McGovern's DNA throughout his career.
"I like being competitive. I'd rather be watching a tractor pull than a soap opera," says McGovern. "It excites me."
The 46th PGA Professional National Championship is presented by Club Car, Mercedes-Benz and OMEGA. The Championship, June 23-26, will be televised live by GOLF CHANNEL.
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