When the University of Toledo hired Jamie Broce as men’s golf coach during the summer of 2012 the Rockets knew they were getting a pretty good player.
Broce was the Mid-American Conference golfer of the year at Ball State in the late 1990s and spent six-plus years cashing checks on minor league pro tours before turning his attention to coaching as an assistant at the University of Indiana.
That didn’t mean he stopped playing though. Fact is, Broce may be better now than ever.
Last month, the 37-year-old was a four-foot putt away from winning the PGA Professional National Championship before losing the title in a playoff. Next month, he’ll play in the PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville.
“It’s hard to put into words what it means,” he said of qualifying for one of the game’s four major championships where he’ll tee it up with the stars of the PGA Tour. “Right now, I’m looking at it as another tournament. I’ve been in good form physically and mentally and I just want to go compete. I’ll probably think more about what it means after it’s over.”
He has already thought about what long odds he beat just to get there. In 2013, Broce lost in a playoff at the Northern Ohio PGA section championship, leaving him as first alternate for the 2014 PNC, an event primarily made up of club professionals from around the country.
“And probably 90 percent of the time, maybe more, an alternate never gets to play,” Broce said.
He became one of the 10 percent, though, when one of the qualifiers took a new job out of the area and relinquished his spot. So he got into the tournament and then darned near won the thing. He’s not exactly sure if the outcome was a highlight or a disappointment.
“I figure it’s an either/or thing,” he said. “I choose to look at it as having a great opportunity and that I played well. I led [by three shots] entering the final round and I knew I was in a good spot because the top 20 finishers qualify for the PGA Championship. But I feel I can compete against club pros and I was in position to win, so maybe there was a little disappointment that I didn’t.”
It came down to a four-foot putt, albeit a tricky downhill putt, on the final hole. He said it “caught a lot of the cup” but didn’t go in. A bogey there put him in a playoff and his foe from California birdied the second hole of sudden death to win.
That didn’t stop Broce from realizing his goal of qualifying for the PGA Championship. After that, he’ll turn his undivided attention back to a Toledo golf team that might be one of the school’s best ever.
The Rockets have finished second and third in the MAC championship tournament during Broce’s first two seasons at the helm. The five golfers who competed in last spring’s MAC tourney all return for the 2014-15 season, including standouts Chris Selfridge and Otto Black.
Broce believes his playing career, both as a collegian and a professional, “helped me become a better coach. And being a coach has made me a better player.”
That skill will now take him to the PGA Championship.
“I’m going to practice hard at chipping and putting and have the most fun I possibly can,” he said. “If I have more fun than anybody else, who knows what might happen?”
Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6398.