Back at Williamsport
When he was kid, PGA Tour professional Jason Bohn and his father would occasionally make the 45-minute drive from Mifflinburg to the Williamsport Country Club to get in a round of golf. The drive felt unbearably long for the 11-year-old Bohn, but he knew that at the end of it, he would get to play on one of his favorite courses, which made the trek worth it.
In the 30 years since that time, a lot has changed for Bohn and his family. He left his home in Mifflinburg after high school to play golf as a walk-on at Alabama; and later worked his way up to professional status in 1992, after hitting a hole-in-one for $1 million at a charity event in Tuscaloosa. As a professional, Bohn has won six tournaments overall, including two PGA Tour events: The B.C. Open in 2005 and the Zurich Classic of New Orleans in 2010. His career earnings are now in excess of $10 million.
He has come a long way.
But on Monday, all the memories of his time spent at the Williamsport Country Club as a youngster came rushing back to Bohn, when he revisited the course as a special guest at the 28th Annual Pennsylvania College of Technology Foundation Golf Classic, the primary fundraiser for the Penn College Foundation’s Scholarship Aid Program.
This year’s classic drew 100 golfers and raised around $55,000 for the scholarship fund, putting its balance over $1.2 million. Of that money, more than $531,000 in Golf Classic Scholarships has been provided to eligible students since 1990.
“It is wonderful to be back in the area,” Bohn said. “I had a lot of great emotions driving in, remembering Williamsport and this course.
“It was always a real treat when I was growing up and could get down here to play,” said Bohn.
Bohn, currently ranked 51st in the Fed-Ex Cup standings with 689 points, spent time interacting with those in attendance at the event; and held a mini clinic on the 13th and 14th holes, where he gave insight on his course management and playing tips.
Bohn said the Williamsport Country Club was every bit as beautiful as it was in his youth; though the rough was a little more difficult than he remembered.
“This is like PGA Tour rough, so I feel bad for some of the members on that,” he said with a laugh.
“But this course is such a gem. I hope people realize how fortunate they are to come out and play here.”
Bohn started the clinic by going through the usual warm-up routine that he uses to get himself into rhythm before a match, which involved hitting 10-15 balls a piece with each of the clubs in his bag, all at half-strength.
“A lot of times when guys are warming up they will hit an 8-iron six or seven times, which is something they will never do on the golf course,” said Bohn. “You want to hit multiple clubs one right after the other, because that is what you do on the golf course,
“If you warm-up that way, you will be surprised how fast that carries into your game,”?said Bohn.
After making a rotation through all of his clubs, Bohn then picked out targets down the fairway and used them to help shape his shots. The key to this, he said, was making the fairway as narrow as you can in your mind, to help improve your accuracy.
“This way, if you miss your target, you will still be in play,” he said.
From a strategic standpoint, Bohn said that most of the time players should approach golf like a game of poker, and play based on percentages. He said that even golfers who establish a good lead by playing aggressive are often foolish to continue playing that way when they have a shot to burn.
“It might not make for the most dramatic finish, but it still gets the job done,” said Bohn. “There is a huge advantage in course management, and that is true whether you have the lead or not.”
The most important advice he offered to those at the event, was for them to spend the bulk of their practice time working on their putts and wedge shots. As a player that has an admittedly poor drive, Bohn said that accuracy and a solid short game are why he’s succeded.
“The reason why the best players in the world are the best players in the world, is because of their short game,” he said. “Whatever your handicap is, if you want to lower it, this is where you lower it. There is no doubt about that.
“I have played with Tiger (Woods) and Phil (Mickelson) so many times where we are yelling ‘fore!’ two or three times on the same hole; but they are making pars and birdies, because their short game is so good.”
Speaking of Tiger Woods, Bohn said that he expects Woods to play pretty well when he returns to action this week at the Quicken Loans National, after being out with a back injury since March.
“He has been able to work on his short game for the last five or six weeks,” Bohn said. “When your short game is really sharp, you can still hit the ball all over the place and still make pars and birdies on par-5s.”
Bohn feels that the biggest obstacle for Woods will be getting to a place where he can trust his body to work the way it was before the injury, without pain or anticipation of pain.
When asked if he ever imagined as a kid that he would be playing his favorite sport professionally as an adult, Bohn said that he fantasized about it, but never thought it would actually happen.
“I can tell you that it is 1000 times greater than I ever thought it could be,” he said. “I could never have imagined this.”