Rumson head pro playing in this week’s Major BY TIM MORRIS Staff Writer Brian Gaffney did some soul searching during the winter. He was heading into his fourth year as the head golf pro at the Rumson Country Club. He had a great staff working for him, and he had learned how the club worked. Now, it was time to do more. Above right: Rumson Country Club head golf professional Brian Gaffney stands along the practice range at the country club on Aug. 6. Below: Gaffney hits some practice balls at the Rumson Country Club on Aug. 6. Above: Gaffney has qualified for the PGA Championship this week at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minn. “It all started with setting goals,” he explained. “I wanted to represent the club better in tournaments.” He had three very specific goals in mind: qualify for the United States Open, finish in the top 20 at the PGA Professional National Championship, and qualify for the Professional Golfers Association (PGA) Championship. He’s achieved two of those three this year and as a result, he’s teeing off this week (Aug. 13-16) with the world’s finest golfers at the PGA Championship at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Minnesota. “I’m thrilled to be going to the PGA,” said Gaffney, who went to the tournament in 2000, but, this will be his first appearance as a golf pro. Gaffney’s road to Hazeltine began at the New Jersey PGA where he finished in the top eight to qualify for the PGA Professional held at Twin Warriors Golf Club and Santa Ana Golf Club in Santa Ana Pueblo, New Mexico. He needed a top 20 there to punch his ticket to the PGA, which is one of golf’s four Major Championships. Gaffney finished in a tie for 13th to secure a berth in the PGA. He carded a three-under-par 281 for his four rounds of golf.G affney did more than just qualify for the PGA at that tournament. He played so well there (he could have moved into a first-place tie with a birdie putt on the 16th hole in the final round) that he believes he can win this tournament in the future. “Now I realize I can win it,” he remarked. Gaffney has certainly achieved his aim of representing the Rumson County Club better in tournaments. “I certainly hope the club is proud of me,” he said. “I’m thrilled to be the head pro there. I’m overwhelmed with how much support I’ve received.” Gaffney went out to Hazeltine late last month getting his first look at one of the country’s famed courses. He played 36 holes on the course and found it long and challenging. “For me, I have to hit a lot of fairways and my short game has to be good,” he said. “Holes 10,11,12 and 13 are tough holes. Getting through those holes is important.” In Hall of Famer, Gary Player, Gaffney found an inspiration. Gaffney, who weighs 145, doesn’t pound his drives long like most pros do. You could say he’s an atypical player. So was the diminutive Player, who wasn’t long off the tee either. That didn’t stop him from winning nine Majors including two PGAs, thanks in part to his conditioning. “I heard him at the Masters saying that he does 1,200 sit-ups a week,” said Gaffney. “I thought if he can do it, why can’t I.” That started Gaffney on a fitness routine in which time in the gym is as important as he time on the links, He has worked his way up to 200 sit-ups a day. He credits his improved play to his conditioning program. “It allows me to practice more,” he said. “It gives me the ability to hit more shots in practice.” A native of Westfield, Gaffney played his college golf at Montclair State University (1991-94). He worked as a club pro at Echo Lake and Manasquan River before, in his words, “chasing the dream” of making the PGA tour in the fall of 1998. Chasing the dream took him to Europe, South American and U.S. satellite events before turning his attending to becoming a golf club head professional. It started as an assistant pro at Essex Fells Golf Club in the spring of 2002 and would take him eventually to Rumson in 2006. Four years later he is putting the club on the map the way he wanted to and playing in the PGA with the best of the best. Having been to the PGA before, Gaffney, who lives in Monmouth Beach, knows it’s unlike any other golf experience. “You’re treated like a rock star for a week,” he said, adding that he will be driven to the golf course each day in a Mercedes. He can be sure he’ll be followed like a rock star by club members who will be watching his every shot at the PGA. We have someone local to root for.