Photo by Kathy Tran.

Thousands of young golfers dream about playing professionally. LHHS grad Blaine Hale Jr. will be living his dream this year as he tees it up on the 2024 PGA Tour with Tiger, Rory, Scottie and Jordan.

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Hale, a 2015 graduate, sealed the deal last month in Ponte Vedra, Florida, when he finished in third place in the final stage of the PGA Tour Qualifying School Tournament. Only the top five finishers on the TPC Sawgrass course received PGA Tour Cards.

The Advocate caught up with Hale shortly after his victory, and we asked him about golf, family and Lake Highlands.

So how has your life changed already?

I guess the fact that I will play in a PGA tour event will be the biggest thing. This will be my first PGA Tour event I get to play in, so that has been a dream come true and something in the past I thought maybe would never happen, so I’m very excited.

This final PGA Tour Qualifying event is four rounds. Were you in the Top Five going into the final round?

I was. I was 10 under par going into the final round in solo second place.

Tell us about growing up in Lake Highlands and how you got started in golf.

I grew up in Lake Highlands. My parents have lived in the same house since I was three years old. I went to Highlander School for elementary. I went to Lake Highlands Junior High, because that’s where most of my classmates were going, and then I graduated from Lake Highlands High School in 2015. I grew up near Royal Oaks Country Club. We were never members there, but our high school team practiced there. We joined Dallas Athletic Club when I was in the ninth grade.

Before that, I basically just played a lot of the municipal courses around Dallas with my dad and some of his buddies. I played in a bunch of junior tournaments during the summer.

Most of my early golf was in my backyard with plastic golf balls or at the municipal courses before I got into high school.

I was super lucky and blessed that I got a great place to play and practice in high school at Dallas Athletic Club. I am still a member there now and represent them on their young professional program. I am very thankful for them.

What was your high school golf experience at Lake Highlands?

Christopher Cole was my coach all four years. He is a cousin of my father-in-law, going back before I ever knew my wife.

In my class, Preston Dickson and I were teammates and buddies and still friends today. Braden Beasley is another good buddy of mine from the team, along with Kyle Kennedy and Parker Morgan.

High school was my first taste of team golf, having guys to practice and play with and compete and play money games and rib each other and spend time on the golf course for hours and hours on end.

I’m super thankful for them and the way they pushed me and the way that hopefully I pushed them as well.

A lot of young kids say they want to play in the NFL or NBA or want to become a professional golfer. When did it become real for you?

I would say golf has always been my sport. I loved everything growing up — I loved football, baseball, soccer, golf. Those were my four sports growing up. Whatever season it was, I was competitive in that sport, but I played golf all year round. I just loved the challenge, the internal struggle of how can I get better, how can I be better than my peers, how can I beat my low round, how can I beat my dad, how can I beat my dad’s friends? For me, golf has always been my sport.

Probably when I really thought I could do something is when I got to high school my freshman year. I was pretty good my freshman year but was really small. I had a growth spurt at the end of my freshman year and turned from a short-hitting guy with a decent short game to a pretty long guy off the tee but still had a decent short game to where I was starting to beat some good players and starting to compete in some big tournaments. I started thinking that I could really do this.

What has professional golf been for you up to this point?

For me, the year I turned pro was in 2019, and I played Q-school that year. Q-school (qualifying school) was my third professional event, and I ended up missing by one shot. Had I made it to the finals, I would have made Korn Ferry (the golf tour below the PGA Tour but above the mini-tours) status. I wasn’t too worried about it as it was my first run and could get a year playing mini-tour stuff and I’ll breeze through next year. Well, COVID came, and the world shut down. I was actually planning on playing in China my first year as a pro, but that didn’t work out because of COVID, so I stuck to the mini-tours. They canceled Q-school that year, too, so I stayed another year on the mini-tours. I kept trying Monday qualifiers but never made it through. I kept pushing myself to get ready for Q-school in 2021 and put a ton of pressure on myself and didn’t play very well my second year as a pro.

I missed in the first stage that year by one or two shots, and that was super disappointing. I came home, and that was a tough time as you realize you have nothing in front of you. You have no guaranteed tournaments. You’re going to be traveling again by yourself to mini-tour events. So I did that again in 2022 and had a much better year and felt pretty good about my game, but unfortunately missed the Q-school again by one shot.

So then that whirl of emotion came again. Am I doing the right thing? Is this the right sport for me? Do I need to go get a job? All those thoughts creep into your head. This past year, I set my mind to just go compete each week. Don’t worry about what will happen at the end. Just play good golf, and everything will take care of itself in the end. Coach Hybl used to tell us all of the time: If you’re playing good golf, it doesn’t matter where you’re playing, it doesn’t matter where you’re at, it will benefit you in some way. So I just stuck to the mini-tours. I played every event I could this summer. I traveled all over the country, driving to Kansas, Illinois, Oklahoma, Arkansas, playing as much as I could. Thankfully, I had a really good year. I was consistent and felt my game took a big step. More of my good weeks became really good, and some of my bad weeks, I still had good weeks. All that was a huge confidence-boost heading into Q-school and stringing together a ton of good events this summer. I came into Q-school obviously extremely nervous, but I made it through the first stage pretty easy. Second stage was very difficult, but I had a good last day and obviously the third stage, when I got my card, was a dream come true.

What changed in your game, if anything, the week of Q-school to get your card?

The weather made it very difficult, and I had a very nice week off the tee and with the irons. I never really put myself in trouble other than the last hole on the last day! By that point I had basically locked it up, so I was all right. I putted well, consistent all week. I made a couple of long putts here and there and made the short ones I was supposed to. It wasn’t one of those weeks where the putter was extremely hot, but it was very solid in windy conditions.

How do you handle the stress of playing professional golf where every shot counts?

For me, when I’m on the course, it’s a routine. When everything is spinning, you have to fall back on something that’s solid. For me, my pre-shot routine, before I hit a shot, I try to keep very consistent. It helps to calm your mind and get channeled over your shot versus not moving too much or thinking about it.

Off the course is where I feel the stress comes more into play. Just running scenarios through your head. And truthfully, I try to keep it similar to on the course. I try to do similar things at night, similar things in the morning to calm my mind. Just trying to use all my energy on the golf course rather than off of it.

What hat are you going to wear on the Tour?

I’m not sure. I’ve been wearing the Lee Trevino Super Mex hat most of this year. Hopefully, I can keep doing that, but if not, someone will come calling.

Will there be more sponsorship opportunities now that you have your card? 

There are few sponsors that I’ve had for the past couple of years. I hope I can continue with them, because they’re the guys who got me started and got my career going. I’m a big believer in giving back to the people who got me to this point. I would like to stay with them and add a couple more here and there, and off we go.

What do you think about the PGA Tour vs. LIV golf controversy?

It’s sad, because you want the best players in the world playing against each other. I think that will only happen in majors (Masters, U.S. Open, British Open and PGA Championship) now. I imagine they will get together and figure this out sooner or later, if I was going to guess. I don’t know the politics that goes along with all that. I’ve been worried about playing mini-tour golf for the last few years, so I might be the least-qualified guy to talk about LIV-PGA drama.

What are your goals for your first year on the PGA tour?

I’m not sure yet. I need to sit down and think about that coming up.

I’ll need to sit down with Allison and talk about those things, because we’re expecting our first child in May, so that’s a life-changing event as well. We’re super-excited, and that will throw another thing in that we have ahead of us. Big year ahead! I’ll be a father and on the PGA Tour.