‘A guy with a lot of grit’: 51-year-old former math teacher makes PGA debut at Sanford International

KELOLAND.com Original

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Jay Jurecic has really enjoyed his time in Sioux Falls. 

Except now, the 51-year-old Michigan man has some laundry to do after an extended stay in South Dakota. 

“I got a little laundry to do tonight. I might have my sister do it,” Jurecic told KELOLAND News after his Professional Golfers Association debut in the Sanford International, a PGA Champions Tour event, at the Minnehaha Country Club. 

Jurecic has been in South Dakota since Sept. 8, but his fairytale-esque golf story started in early August when he quit his full-time profession as a middle school math teacher in a small town in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. He stopped teaching because he wanted to qualify for a PGA tournament. Jurecic accomplished that goal by winning at an amateur event at Bakkers Crossing and he started his professional career off the No. 10 tee box Friday morning. 

“I was really nervous and it was just nice to hit one of my best shots of the day to start the tournament,” said Jurecic, who started his round with a par on the 205-yard par 3. “It was cool to walk down the fairway after hitting a good shot like that.” 

His second hole as a professional golfer resulted in a bogey on Hole 11, but he bounced back with his lone birdie on Hole 12, a 509-yard par 5. 

“Almost an eagle, just a couple inches short,” Jurecic said. “I love the golf course. It’s in fantastic shape and it’s really fun to play. 

Along with having family and friends drive and fly into Sioux Falls, Jurecic said he’s been receiving a lot of text messages from former students after his interviews having been showing up on the Golf Channel and PGA Tour website. 

Along with highs of qualifying for his first PGA event, Jurecic has had to learn a crash course on the Minnehaha Country Club course. Friday was only the third time Jurecic played the 116-year-old Sioux Falls mainstay. 

“I’d like to have a few more rounds on it,” Jurecic said with a laugh. He enlisted a Sioux Falls resident and Hoven, South Dakota native Ryan Karst to caddie for him after meeting him during the Pro-Am Wednesday.  

“He’s been very helpful,” said Jurecic, who added Karst has helped him point out spots on greens and areas not to miss. 

It’s a week of firsts for Karst as well. He answered a phone call to help be a caddie from his insurance agent office Wednesday morning.

“They needed a guy who needed a caddie. Kind of dropped everything and came right out,” said Karst, who has been a member of the MCC for six years. “He played well and asked if I’d stick around for the weekend.” 

Keep up with the latest coverage from the Sanford International on our special page.

Karst had previously interacted with Jurecic before in amateur tournaments in South Dakota. Karst called Jurecic a “great guy” and a “grinder” on the golf course. 

“I saw a guy with a lot of grit,” Karst said. “Surprisingly, for his first tournament round, I thought the nerves were under control.” 

Karst started his golf career on a 9-hole, sand-green golf course in north-central South Dakota. He called the Minnehaha Country Club “the best course that I know of.” 

Both Jurecic and Karst are looking forward to the final two rounds on Saturday and Sunday. After two birdies on his second nine holes, Jurecic finished 3-over Friday and he’s 10 strokes back from the leader. 

With the nerves of the first professional round behind him, Jurecic said he’ll be more comfortable and he’s hoping to play in some windy conditions Saturday. 

“I like playing in the wind,” Jurecic said. “I’ve played a lot in the Dakotas.” 

He’ll also have some fresh laundry and plenty of friends from the “U-P” cheering him on.

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