You almost certainly don’t know Jay Jurecic, but he could be the best story in golf this week.
For the past 21 years, Jurecic, 51, has taught math in middle school at West Iron County Public Schools in Iron County, Michigan, a town of 11,000 on the Upper Peninsula.
On August 7th, he went to his superintendent’s office and made a leap of faith. He decided to step down to pursue his dream of becoming PGA TOUR Champions. His last day as a teacher was August 22nd.
“I used to tell my students to try to believe and carry on so I got out,” said Jurecic after shooting a 10-under 61 on Tuesday at Bakker Crossing Golf Course to win for the Sanford International, its PGA TOUR, qualify champions debut. “It’s a dream come true, I’m really blessed to have a day like today.”
He also survived the pre-qualification with a 67.
Jurecic’s story is the 0.1% on PGA TOUR Champions.
He didn’t play high school golf, he didn’t play college golf, and he most certainly never played the PGA TOUR. He played soccer, tennis, and skied growing up on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, a town that has only one 18-hole golf course.
In fact, he didn’t get his first clubs until his 18th birthday when his mother bought him a set of Sam Snead clubs at a local store.
He was addicted. His county course, Young’s Golf Course, which 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 considered a career as a professional golfer but decided to take the educational path.
In the summer, when school was out, Jurecic focused on golf. He would play mini-tour events.
“Even though I didn’t have the traditional route, I always liked to play and wanted to get better. Even in the UP, I would train indoors in winter. I’ve always enjoyed the competition. By teaching I was able to keep playing. “
From 2003 to 2005 he took a leave of absence from teaching to devote himself entirely to golf. He played the Dakotas 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 failed.
“Wherever I could play, I tried to play to learn and get better.”
He kept playing whenever he could while he was teaching, and in the last few years, just before his 50th birthday, he made a plan to try out the PGA TOUR Champions. COVID-19 thwarted plans last year when there was no Q-School for PGA TOUR Champions, but it signed up for this year.
He can definitely play. In July he won the Michigan Senior Open. He went 66-69 to win by a margin.
It turned out that there was a connection between his two decades long teaching career and his new occupation.
“I’ve always told the students how to learn things, what their attitudes are like, how hard you have to work, I think everything is in there, no matter what you do. You have to go out and study math, you have to put the work in, you have to believe in you can, you have to have people to help you, you have to pass your exam when the pressure is high, you will fail sometimes, but you have to learn from your mistakes and just try to get better every day. “
Practice what you preach. Jurecic is doing that now.
One of the biggest supporters of his golf career was his brother Jeff, who will be his caddy this weekend. He’s a commercial pilot for Delta so it was easy for him to fly to Sioux Falls after his qualification.
It will be a dream week.
Instead of shaping the next generation, he will try to solve the Minnehaha Country Club.
“God gave me a talent and I have decided that I have to use it.”
West Iron County’s public schools must be so proud.