After coming within a shot of qualifying for the 2015 U.S. Senior Open, and at the behest of some of his students, golf instructor and four-time Web.com Tour winner Hugh Royer III has resumed his professional playing career.
Royer, who teaches out of Possum Trot Golf Club in North Myrtle Beach, will continue teaching while entering Monday/Tuesday qualifiers for Champions Tour events in the hope of making a run on the PGA Tour’s senior circuit.
All the while he’ll be preparing for the Champions Tour Qualifying Tournament in the fall.
“You go back to last year with the Senior Open qualifier and missing by one, it kind of gave me the itch that I can still do this and I want to do this,” Royer said. “At 52 years old I figure I’ve only got a few years left to give it a shot.”
Royer was a full-time member of the PGA Tour from 1996-98 and had four top-10 finishes in 98 career events. On the Web.com Tour, he won four times in 143 events – twice in both 1993 and ’95.
He settled into a teaching career for a while, opening the Champions Golf Academy at Long Bay Club before renewing a playing career in 2010 and 2011, often playing in Swing Thought Tour events and entering PGA Tour Q-School. It was largely in preparation for an anticipated attempt to join the Champions Tour after he turned 50, but he lost a financial sponsor after about a year of touring and returned to full-time teaching.
He was the lead instructor for the opening of the South Carolina Golf Center at Shaftesbury Golf & Fish Club in Conway in late 2014 before moving to Possum Trot.
Royer said many of his clients are encouraging him to play. “You teach these people and grab a club and show them how to do something, and they look at you and say, ‘You make it look so easy, why aren’t you doing this?’ ”
Last summer, Royer entered a U.S. Senior Open qualifier at Berkeley Hall Club in Bluffton and came within a shot of forcing a two-man playoff for a spot in the tournament. He ended up being the site’s second alternate.
He was preparing to enter Champions Tour Q-School late last year but had to skip it after he awoke one day with a pinched nerve and it lingered.
Royer is exempt from pre-qualifying that precedes the Monday/Tuesday qualifiers because of status gained through his Web.com wins, and has to pay just $100 to enter the qualifiers. Between four and seven tournament spots are available in each qualifier.
Royer has entered two this far, shooting 74s before both the Mississippi Golf Resort Classic in late March and the Mitsubishi Electric Classic in Atlanta in mid-April to finish several strokes out of qualifying positions on both occasions.
He said the next Champions Tour event with qualifying is the June 3-5 Principal Charity Classic Des Moines, Iowa, and there will be another 10 to 12 for the remainder of the year. Royer is funding his own travel on the qualifier circuit with some help from a friend.
If Royer can qualify for a Champions Tour event, a top-10 finish earns a start in the next tournament.
“Hopefully I’ll get into the next one and build on it, and hopefully lightning strikes in a bottle and you win one then you can decide what you really want to do,” Royer said.
Royer said his play has been aided by Dr. David Haught of the Human Performance and Wellness Center in Little River, who has tried to get Royer’s body strength to match his golf swing. “It’s been kind of an eye-opening experience to wake up sore every morning, but it’s good for you,” Royer said.
Royer said he plans to continue teaching even if he becomes a regular member of the Champions Tour because the schedule is sparse enough.
“With teaching, if you’re busy you teach and work on the game in the down time,” he said. “I create relationships with my students and I hold them dear to me.”
Royer’s niche is junior golfers but he has clients of all ages. Student Hailey Cleary of Lexington, whose junior titles include The Blade Junior Classic, will play at Limestone College next year and Nicholas Beiers of Lexington was named to the North-South All-Star high school competition and will play at Coker College.