From the time a pint-sized ninth grader from Yelm High School tapped in his final putt to win the 1997 Class 3A state boys golf championship, the obvious question surfaced.
Could John Cassidy III be the next great golfer out of the South Sound?
Well, he darn well tried to be, winning four of seven Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges tournaments while at Tacoma CC in 2003, starring at the University of Nevada and eventually landing on the Canadian Tour for four professional seasons (2008-11).
Eventually Cassidy began asking his own imperative question of himself late in his touring career.
Is this what I should be doing?
The answer was no.
“I would say at some point, every touring golfer has questions they ask themselves,” Cassidy said. “It is a hard game, and we all battle it at some point, whether it is with confidence or short game or hitting it straight. You have to overcome that stuff.”
Cassidy, 32, is transitioning into a new phase of golf. He is a teaching professional at Alderbrook Golf and Yacht Club in Union and a member of the Pacific Northwest Section of the PGA of America.
That makes him eligible for one of the chapter’s biggest events — the Washington Open Invitational, which begins Monday at Meridian Valley Golf Club in Kent.
His new peers know how precise a ball-striker Cassidy is and how much of a threat he is to win any regional tournament he enters.
Make no mistake, Cassidy loves to play golf. He just didn’t think he could make a fulfilling career out of it.
“For me, it was kind of the realization that I could have played the Canadian Tour the rest of my life and not make anything,” Cassidy said. “And I wasn’t going to compete on the Web.com Tour or PGA Tour with those guys on a week-to-week basis.”
He cited the shift in the type of game it takes to win in tour golf — power — as the biggest reason he had to re-evaluate his career.
“The game has changed as opposed to what it was like 20-25 years, even 15 years ago,” Cassidy said. “Back then, it was more about controlling the golf ball because it curved. Now guys are so much bigger, and their ball does not curve at all.
“The courses are so long and play so firm now, if you cannot overpower the par 5s and outhit a golf course, you are going to have a hard time. ... It almost became an uphill battle for me to compete.”
After his final year on the Canadian Tour, Cassidy quit golf and moved to Montana with his girlfriend.
“In that year, I basically figured out I could not be away from golf,” Cassidy said.
He moved back to the South Sound and started teaching golf at the Airport Golf and Batting Center in Tumwater.
Shortly after that, he bumped into Justin Gravatt, the head professional at Alderbrook Golf Club. Gravatt said he needed help and asked Cassidy to join him.
Right now, Cassidy spends 36 hours behind the counter in the Alderbrook pro shop. He also gives eight to 10 lessons per week, which takes up another six hours.
Cassidy uses an instructional philosophy similar to the Butch Harmon way of teaching — a simple turn-back and turn-through swing. That is because Cassidy’s teacher is Las Vegas-based Shawn Callahan, who has been the head instructor at one of Harmon’s golf schools.
Cassidy also is in the early stages of finishing his PGA teaching professional program, something he expects to complete over the next 12-18 months.
“The whole thing about teaching is communication,” Cassidy said. “There are a lot of people who have information about the golf swing and can put it into words, but can’t communicate it to a broad amount of people. I feel like I do that well.”
88th WASHINGTON OPEN INVITATIONAL
Where: Meridian Valley Country Club, Kent.
When: Monday through Wednesday.
Course: 6,637 yards, par 72.
Format: Stroke play for 54 holes, no cut. Field consists of 136 professionals and 32 amateurs.
Defending champion: Chris Griffin, Tacoma Country and Golf Club (8-under-par 208 at Meridian Valley).
Skinny: After three consecutive years staged at Glendale Country Club in Bellevue (2010-12), the tournament is in the second of a three-year agreement at Meridian Valley, which was once the home of the LPGA Tour’s Safeco Classic (1982-99). This tight tree-lined course requires enough length to reach the long par-4 holes, but really puts a premium on precision golf. Griffin, a Lakes High graduate, won his first Washington Open title last year after faltering down the stretch at the 2009 event at Meridian Valley, won by Sumner’s Brian Thornton, who is an on-site teaching professional. Some of the great club pros in the Northwest have won at Meridian, including Chuck Milne (1976), Bill Porter (2002), Keith Coleman (2004) and Michael Combs (2005). Milne’s three-round 202 total is the best 54-hole tournament score at Meridian.
Tee times: Golfers will go out in threesomes. Tee times start at 7:30 a.m., and the final one is scheduled at 2:27 p.m. each day.Todd Milles: 253-597-8442 todd.milles@ thenewstribune.com firstname.lastname@example.org