Dave McNabb is getting to be a regular contestant at the PGA Championship. His appearance at the Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, N.C., in this week’s final major of 2017 will be his third PGA in the last five years, a great achievement at any age, but an exceptional feat at 51.
The head professional at Applebrook Golf Club in Malvern, McNabb has maintained his game at a particularly high level this season. Together with the Senior PGA Championship and the U.S. Senior Open, this is his third major of 2017, albeit his first one with the best of the PGA Tour playing a course that will measure around 7,600 yards.
McNabb, who qualified for this week thanks to his second-place finish in the PGA Professional Championship in June, said he feels a “great sense of pride” in what he has accomplished.
“Usually at this age, your skills either start to deteriorate or you start to lose length. Any number of those things,” he said in a telephone interview from Charlotte. “There are a lot more commitments that you have that eat up some of your time. So I take a lot of pride in the fact that I’ve been able to maintain that level of ability from a playing standpoint while still doing a pretty good job at the club as well.”
As for keeping his length, McNabb said he must make sure his technique is solid and sound, which is why he works sometimes with Overbrook head pro Eric Kennedy, to ask him what he’s seeing with his swing. Another aspect is physical conditioning.
“I try to eat right and get in the gym as often as I may … which isn’t much this time of year,” he said. “But in the offseason, I try to get to the gym pretty regularly and stay healthy so when the season comes I’m in good physical condition.”
With the short game, McNabb said experience helps.
“You get used to what you need to do and how you need to do it and not be so precise about every single shot and sweat over all the minor details,” he said. “I think the experience of having played those shots in the past certainly has helped. I don’t practice any more than I have in the past. I probably practice just a little bit less because I don’t want to wear my body out.”
McNabb missed the cut in his previous two PGA appearances, 2013 at Oak Hill near Rochester, N.Y., and 2014 at Valhalla in Louisville, Ky. He thinks a “reasonable expectation” this year is to play all four days, beginning with Thursday’s start of competition.
“I don’t have any grand illusions that I’m just going to come out and play so-so golf and make the cut,” he said. “This is a pretty good challenge for me to take on given the length of the golf course and the condition of the golf course and that sort of thing.
“If I can put the ball where I have to, if I’m able to execute that, I think that’s a pretty realistic goal. I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility by any means.”
His focus on preparation doesn’t mean that McNabb hasn’t observed what it happening outside the ropes. He said the energy and excitement is “cranked up to a whole another level,” and he’s going to enjoy his time.
“It’s a really cool experience,” he said. “This thing never gets old. I can play in as many of these as they’ll let me play in.”