Wednesday Spotlight: Pasatiempo course pro sets records, looks ahead

JIM SEIMAS Sentinel Staff Writer

PASATIEMPO — When Shawn McEntee turns 43 in July, the seven-year itch will officially kick in. McEntee, the head professional at Pasatiempo Golf Club, wants to tee up on the greener pastures of the Senior Tour, where the minimum age to compete is 50.

"My interest, potentially, is maybe the Senior Tour," McEntee said. "But that’s a long-term goal.’

On a consistent basis, McEntee has pieced together rounds that leave questions to why he isn’t competing on the PGA Tour.

To several head professionals in the Bay Area, McEntee is the Tiger Woods of the Northern California PGA Pro Series.

In a NorCal PGA Pro tournament at Pasatiempo on March 19, McEntee shot a course-record 8-under-par 62 for the win.

"It was a round that just kind of unfolded," said John Snopkowski, the head pro for Santa Teresa competing in McEntee’s group. "It was amazing."

And to McEntee’s credit, it wasn’t the first time he earned a course record. In another NorCal PGA event nearly six years ago, McEntee shot a 10-under-par 62 at Rosewood Lakes in Reno. The record still stands.

"I hope he does join the Senior Tour," Snopkowski said, "because he’s not leaving any room for us to win. Shawn has definitely shown in the past he’s a player. At tournaments, you always look how he shot to see how the course is."

McEntee is no stranger to PGA Tour events. In 1999, he was named the NorCal PGA Player of the Year, which is awarded to the golfer who accumulates the most points in a series of section sponsored events.

The honor came with an exemption to compete in the 2000 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

Through exemptions or qualifying, McEntee has competed in seven AT&T Pro-Ams, the PGA Championship in 1989 and ’91, the ’92 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach and numerous other Opens.

His best finish was a Top-30 finish at the L.A. Open, where he was in a threesome with Tom Watson and David Frost.

"That was really a fun time,’’ said McEntee, noting he watched Watson’s demeanor throughout the round. "I mean, those were some big names."

In the early 1980s, McEntee tried to make the PGA Tour through Qualifying School. After three long years, he was no closer than where he started. But his competitive nature never left him, which is why he became a head pro.

"I think you have to give yourself a certain amount of time to try and make the tour," said McEntee, who majored in business management at Cal-State Stanislaus. "I wanted to get into the business aspect of the sport and stay competitive."

Times have changed the game — new clubs, balls and tours. When McEntee was trying to break into the professional ranks, the PGA Tour was the end-all, be-all.

"There was no Nike Tour when I quit," McEntee said. "There was the (PGA) Tour and that’s it."

In the late 1980s, the Hogan Tour held it’s first event in Bakersfield and McEntee competed in it. The Hogan Tour later became the Nike Tour and is now called the Tour.

"I’m such a better player today than I was trying for the Tour," said McEntee, who learned the sport in sixth grade with instruction from his late father, Myles. "I’m more mature and experienced."

McEntee has played more than 500 rounds at Pasatiempo since becoming the head pro there in 1990. He wrote an in-depth breakdown on how to play the Alister Mackenzie-designed course on the Pasatiempo Web-site.

"I know the greens pretty well," McEntee said of his record-round, where he bettered former record holders Ken Venturi, Brian Pini and Forest Fezler by one stroke.

"You have to put the ball on the greens in the right spot and give yourself opportunities,’’ he continued. "It’s hard to do, but I pretty much did that all day."

There were exceptions, of course, but McEntee found his way out of trouble despite bogeying No.1.

"On No. 13, his second shot went under an oak tree," Snopkowski recalled. "It was the worst possible placement. There’s a bunker near the green, too. But he bumps it through the long cut and it gets over the short cut and goes in the hole for an eagle. Everyone was giving him high-fives."

When McEntee shot his record round at Rosewood, he did so playing the course for the first time.

"It was funny," McEntee said. "I had never seen the course before. It was all placement. I was going off this course guide."

Justin McDaniel, a long-time assistant at Rosewood’s pro shop, wasn’t working the day McEntee shot his record-round.

"I saw his score card," McDaniel said. "It’s on a plaque in the bar. I wish I could’ve seen it ... someone shoot 10-under."