Heun: Geneva High School graduate to compete in PGA Professionals event
Geneva High School graduate to compete in PGA Professionals event
The golf pro at your local course or country club is likely an excellent player, but a common lament among these men and women who specialize in managing the golf business is they don't get to play as often as they might like.
Nathan Desens, a former Geneva High School standout, believes he has landed in a good place to avoid that problem by working as the assistant pro at two courses that stress the playing ability of their managers and encourage them to try to qualify for the annual national PGA Professionals Tournament.
That's a mission accomplished for Desens. The 2014 Geneva High graduate is preparing to compete in his first PGA Professionals National Championship April 17-20 at Barton Creek Resort in Austin, Texas. It gives club pros a chance to advance to a regular PGA tour event, but mostly keeps their golf skills honed for competition.
Desens crafted his golf game during his high school career through help from Geneva coaches and private instructor Rich Flores. He attended Clemson University for its golf management program and eventually landed assistant pro jobs in 2019 at Red Stick Golf Club in Vero Beach, Florida, during the winter and Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio, during the summer.
"Fortunately for me, the golf courses I work at pride themselves on having the professional at the course being accomplished golfers, so you get to play a lot with members," Desens said. "There's a strong emphasis on practicing and playing in events, as they want the golf professionals to be good so the members can watch them succeed."
Desens knows a little bit about succeeding, having earned Upstate Eight Conference Player of the Year honors during his senior season in 2014, the final year for longtime head coach Bill Koehn.
His family still lives in Mill Creek in Geneva. And his home away from home during his high school years was Mill Creek Golf Club.
"I probably played that course almost every day when I was in high school," Desens said. "It was a great home-course advantage for Geneva because there is a ton of out of bounds on almost every hole and it has some quirky angles that you figure out after lots of trial and error."
Desens wasn't able to sharpen his golf skills on a regular basis at Clemson. As a student in the golf management program, he didn't have as much time to play and was not recruited for the college team.
"It was a closed-team program," Desens noted. "Only those players recruited by the coach were on the team, so there were no tryouts or walk-ons."
At this point, that doesn't matter. Desens is playing quite well, thank you. He shot one-over-par for three rounds in the PGA qualifying event last August at Beechmont Country Club in Beechwood, Ohio, just two strokes behind the winner. He then survived a three-player playoff to earn the only other qualifying spot for the championship event from his PGA zone.
It's a payoff of sorts for all the time he put in with instructor Flores from seventh grade through senior year in high school.
"The thing about Nate, when he was young, is that he was a good thinker and planned things out," Flores said. "He was always methodical on the golf course, which is why he is such a good player. And he has a good business head on himself, and that is why he likes all of the business aspects of being a head pro or general manager."
Flores, who was sidelined for months by a blood disease during part of Desens' high school career, said Nathan was the first student he saw again after he was able to get out of the hospital.
"He was a special kid and I wanted to help him," Flores said. "He is one of my all-time favorites because he was a real good kid and worked at golf and in school and in being a team leader."
And Desens hasn't forgotten the golf lessons or the inspiration to pursue a career in golf.
"Rich was certainly a big reason I became a golf professional because he introduced me to it and told me about the golf programs and what it is like being a professional," Desens noted. "He helped me get some of my first jobs in the area, caddying and eventually working in the pro shop at Eagle Brook Golf Course (in Geneva)."
Can we possibly see Nathan Desens on the leaderboard at a PGA tour event in the future?
"It's not something I am worrying about now," he said. "But the top 20 finishers (in the PGA Professionals Championship) qualify for the PGA Championship in May, so that is something to shoot for."
For now, Desens is pleased with the accomplishment of reaching his first PGA professionals event -- and with how well he is playing.
"I've been a pretty good ball striker the past couple years and I hit a lot of greens," Desens said. "I have also put a lot of work into my putting and that is coming on as a strong point in my game."
And any golfer at any level knows Nathan Desens is on to something if he heads into any tournament with those two skills working in his favor.
Tee it up for Old Glory
The Fox Valley Patriotic Organization and the Batavia Flag Day Committee are making a key point about their important fundraiser Sunday, April 24, at Topgolf in Naperville: You don't have to be a golfer or own golf clubs to have fun with the games available at Topgolf.
With that in mind, the "Swinging for the Stars & Stripes" fundraiser for construction of a Flag Day Monument on the Batavia Riverwalk is vital to the organizations' goal of establishing this monument recognizing Batavia's role in the creation of Flag Day, as well as a tribute to the American flag.
Cost for the fundraiser, to be held from 2 to 5 p.m., is $100 for a single player and $500 for a bay of six people.
Groundbreaking for the memorial will take place from 6 to 7 p.m. on Flag Day, June 14.
Tickets are available at the flagdaymonument.com website. A ticket covers the food, one adult beverage, raffles and Topgolf games.
Open those golf links
After being shuttered for a few golf seasons, Mill Creek Golf Club in Geneva is preparing to open again for the 2022 season.
Course owner Shodeen Inc. has hired Golf Visions Management Inc. to manage both Tanna Farms and Mill Creek, two courses on the far west side of Geneva.
The last thing Golf Visions shared with me last week was that it was waiting on the delivery of golf carts to Mill Creek. Some supply chain woes were causing a delay, but it sounded as if once those carts are delivered and the weather got warmer, Mill Creek would be back in business.
Plenty of local players are eager to add Mill Creek back to their course options and also to use it as a place to practice. The Mill Creek complex has always offered one of the nicer putting green and driving range setups.
Barbecue and open space
Supporters of the Campton Township Open Space Foundation are being asked to mark Friday, May 6 on their calendars as a day for an important barbecue.
The foundation's spring barbecue fundraiser takes place from 5 to 9.m. at Luau Coffee, 40W450 Route 64 in St. Charles.
Four D's Barbecue provides the meat options -- $25 for one-quarter chicken meal or a half-pound pork loin meal, while a $40 ticket provides a combination of those two choices.
Participants can dine at Luau Coffee, which provides lemonade or iced tea, or order a takeout.
Information is available from Joe Garbarski at (630) 584-9775 or firstname.lastname@example.org.