Somers, a standout golfer during his years at Elon, secured a spot in the PGA Championship with a fourth-place finish in the PGA Professional Championship in April.
When John Somers arrived to compete at the PGA Professional Championship in late April, he had more than golf on his mind. In fact, just days before, Somers did not know if he would even be able to play.
Somers, who played at Elon from 2009 to 2014, became a father for the first time two days before flying to New Mexico to play in the tournament. John and wife Catherine, another Elon alumna, welcomed daughter Colbie on April 25, just five days before the event was scheduled to begin.
The due date for Colbie’s birth was May 17 but Somers said the early birth was a “blessing in disguise” as it meant he would no longer have to worry about missing her birth while competing at a tournament. After spending some time in the neonatal intensive care unit, Colbie was able to come home with no health issues, which gave Somers the peace of mind he needed to compete at the PGA Professional Championship.
“I wasn’t even expecting to play,” Somers said. “It had always been on my mind, am I going to miss the birth of my baby? It worked out where the baby came and I got to be there with my wife and then welcome my little girl knowing that my wife and the baby are healthy and she’s got a huge family support system, which made me very comfortable and know that I can go out there and play golf and not have to worry about anything.”
Somers works as the head PGA professional at the Southern Hills Plantation Club in Brooksville, Fla. Among his duties include golf shop and staff oversight and running tournaments hosted by the club.
The PGA Professional Championship is a tournament for golf club professionals and teachers who are members of the Professional Golfers’ Association of America. This year, over 300 players competed, with the top 20 finishers earning spots at the PGA Championship, one of the four major tournaments in men’s golf.
During one of his practice rounds in the leadup to the tournament, Somers wrote Colbie’s name on a golf ball to honor his first daughter. However, he quickly had to alter his tribute upon teeing off.
“I lost it on that same hole and I felt so guilty and so bad about it,” Somers said. “I was like, maybe a golf ball’s not a thing to do. So, I started writing it on my glove right below my thumb so that way I can always see it. It’s just a really great tribute for her and hopefully, I can make her proud.”
After shooting a 68 in both the second and third rounds, Somers shared the 54-hole lead. Although he did not win the tournament after a final-round 73, Somers easily secured a spot in this week’s PGA Championship by tying for fourth.
Somers said he did not have a chance to reflect on qualifying for the PGA Championship following the round due to his media obligations and thinking about seeing his family.
“I was just so focused on getting back home and being with my daughter and my wife. It wasn’t really until probably Saturday or Sunday when I started getting all the emails and I’m looking at flights and hotels,” Somers said. “That’s when it kind of hit me like, oh man, I’m actually doing this. I’m playing a major.”
A graduate of Bartlett Yancey High School, located just over 30 minutes from Elon, Somers had a prolific college career with the Phoenix. He was named the team’s most valuable player in both 2013 and 2014 and won the 2014 Coca-Cola Wofford Invitational. He credited his time at Elon for helping him develop as a player.
“College golf is always special because it’s really your last time for a lot of people to experience a team atmosphere,” Somers said. “I made lifelong friends. We played some great golf courses. I had two great coaches with Bill Morningstar and Don Hill. It definitely shaped me into the player I am today.”
Somers has played tournaments on the PGA Latinoamerica and the Korn Ferry Tour, the direct feeder tour for the PGA Tour, but this will be his first appearance at a major championship. The event will be held at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, New York, on May 18-21. The course has hosted six major championships, including three PGA Championships, most recently in 2013.
To prepare for the event, Somers said he has spent time watching highlights from the 2013 PGA Championship and other videos overviewing the course. Despite this being his first appearance in a major, Somers said he has high expectations for the week.
“I’d love to win it,” Somers said.”That’s the thing I always tell myself – don’t enter a tournament unless you want to win it.”
Somers will play with Christiaan Bezuidenhout and Chez Reavie, who have combined to win six tournaments on the PGA and DP World Tours, in the first two days. They will tee off in the opening round on Thursday, May 18, at 1:14 p.m. and on Friday, May 19, at 7:49 a.m. The tournament will air on ESPN, ESPN+ and CBS throughout the week.