312 PGA Professionals started play in the 2022 PGA Professional Championship yesterday. Each of them with a different route to this year’s national championship. Some took a direct path to the event by way of being a past champion. Others qualified last year as part of the Team of 20 who competed in the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island. The rest gained entry through their local PGA Section to get here.
Michael Strain is the General Manager and COO of Dunwoody Country Club just outside of Atlanta. Michael played his way into the championship through the Georgia Section. Sounds simple enough and when you take one look at his swing in this video, you’ll expect he made it there quite easily.
Strain graduated from Mississippi State University’s PGA Program. From there he went on to build an impressive resume through the early stages of his career. In the same role (GM/COO), he worked at Detroit Golf Club and the Ivanhoe Club in Chicago. Toward the end of 2019, Michael started to notice he wasn’t feeling well. Turns out he wasn’t well; Strain was diagnosed with Stage 3 colon cancer. A substantial shock to the system, his first priority was surgery and then recovery alongside chemotherapy.
Think back and consider the timeline. Strain was going through his chemotherapy treatments in the spring of 2020. The same time our entire country was shut down due to a global pandemic. Imagine having your entire immune system compromised during that time. Although playing golf was the farthest thing from his mind, he still used the game as a goal to get through it.
Circled on his calendar was a date in early July. An ordinary Illinois Section Stroke Play event. This was going to be his return to competition. Michael completed his chemo less than one week prior to that tournament. With no energy and less practice, he competed. That round was the first step toward this national championship journey. From there, Strain kept working on his game throughout the rest of the 2020 season.
By the end of the year, he was playing well again and started to set some goals for 2021. It was always Michael’s dream to qualify for the PGA Professional Championship. Although there were many challenges trying to derail that personal goal, he kept on working. Strain realized a couple things during his recovery. Even though he once shot 63 in a tournament, he was prouder of the 93 he scored last July in the first stroke play event he entered post surgery.
He appreciated life, his family and the game more. Strain knew the longevity of his game meant more than any one moment. This allowed him to put pressure into perspective. His family was so worried during the covid shutdown for his well-being they were washing and wiping down all of the food that came into their house. Consider that level of precaution for everything you needed to do. Playing golf under pressure still meant something to him, but he learned how to process those moments and then be able to perform better.
In 2021, Michael Strain qualified for the PGA Professional Championship. He achieved his dream of playing in the national championship. Strain struggled in the first round yesterday. Although the odds may have been stacked against him to make the cut, think about what it took him just to get here. If there’s any player in the field that can overcome long odds, we should all put our money on Michael.
This is just one of the truly amazing ambassadors of the game competing this week for a coveted spot in the Team of 20. Make sure you continue to watch the next three days on The Golf Channel (3:00 – 6:00 p.m. EDT). The pressure is surely going to intensify as we have a cut to the Top 90 after Monday, Top 70 after Tuesday and of course the Top 20 on Wednesday. – KEITH STEWART, PGA