You hardly know Jay Jurecic, but he’s possibly the best story in golf this week.
For the past 21 years, Jurecic, 51, has been teaching math at West Iron County Public Schools Middle School in Iron County, Michigan, a town of 11,000 on the Upper Peninsula.
On August 7, he walked into his principal’s office and took a leap of faith. He decided to retire to pursue his PGA TOUR Champions dream. His last day as a teacher was August 22nd.
“I’ve always told my students, try to believe and keep going, so I have to get out there too,” Jurecic said after shooting a 10-under 61 Tuesday at the Hills Crossing Golf Course to qualify for Sanford International, his PGA TOUR Champions debut. “It’s a dream come true, I’m really blessed to have a day like today.”
He also came through the pre-qualification with a 67.
Jurecic’s history is .1% on the PGA TOUR Champions.
He did not play high school golf, he did not play college golf, and he certainly never played PGA TOUR. He played football, tennis and skied growing up on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in a town that only has an 18-hole golf course.
In fact, he did not get his first set of clubs until his 18th birthday when his mother bought him a set of Sam Snead clubs from a local store.
He was hooked. His county course, Youngs Golf Course, where he still plays today, offered free golf to school-age children. The next year it was a $ 50 college membership.
“Golf wasn’t that popular when I was a freshman in college, so I thought I had to run around and play tennis, even though my mom said I should play golf,” Jurecic said.
After college, Jurecic thought about a career as a golf professional, but decided to go the teaching route.
In the summers, when school was out, Jurecic focused on golf. He would play mini-tour events.
“Even though I did not have the traditional route, I have always enjoyed playing and wanted to get better. Even in UP I would practice inside in the winter. I have always enjoyed the competition. Teaching allowed me to keep playing. ”
From 2003 to 2005, he took leave from teaching to focus on golf full-time. He played the Dakota Tour, the Hooters Tour, a mini-tour in Jacksonville, a mini-tour in Alabama called the Gateway Tour, and he even did the PGA TOUR Canada Q-School, which he did not get through.
“Wherever I could play, I tried to play to learn and get better.”
He kept playing while he could while teaching, and over the last many years of his 50th birthday, he’s approaching a plan to give the PGA TOUR Champions a chance. COVID-19 put a wrench into the plans last year when there was no Q-School for the PGA TOUR Champions, but he has signed up this year.
He can definitely play. In July, he won the Michigan Senior Open. He went 66-69 to win by one.
It turns out that there is a connection between his two-decade-long teaching career and his new hunt.
“I have always told the students how to learn things, how your attitude should be, how hard you have to work, I think that everything, no matter what you do, is in there. You have to go out and learn math, you have to put the work in, you have to believe that you can do it, you have to have people to help you, you have to pass your test when the pressure is on, you will sometimes fail , but you need to learn from your mistakes and just keep getting better every day. ”
Practice what you preach. That’s what Jurecic is doing now.
One of the biggest supporters of his golf career has been his brother, Jeff, who will be his caddy this weekend. He’s a commercial pilot for Delta, so it was easy for him to zip up to Sioux Falls once he had qualified.
It will be a dream week.
Instead of shaping the next generation, he tries to solve Minnehaha Country Club.
“God has given me a talent and I decided I should use it.”
West Iron County Public Schools must be so proud.