FORT MYERS, Florida – It is a few minutes past seven on a steamy March evening, and Justin McCarraher is pounding 5-irons on the west end of the Fiddlesticks Country Club driving range.
As head pro for the past three years, it’s a place he knows well, having given lessons here to dozens of members. Fiddlesticks is one of southwest Florida’s most highly-acclaimed gated, golf communities and the 600-plus members hold him in high-regard.
Around working his day job as club pro, McCarraher’s recent routine is to begin and end his day fine-tuning his game on the expansive practice facility.
The popular pro, 39, has a tournament circled on his calendar for the week of March 22. It’s not just another event on the PGA South Florida Section schedule, where he’s been a dominant player the past few years. He finished No. 2 in 2019 player-of-the-year points.
It’s a bit bigger. In fact, in the career of a club pro, it’s as big as it gets.
McCarraher is teeing it up with the big boys on the PGA Tour at the 4th annual Corales Punta Cana Resort & Club Championship in the Dominican Republic March 25-28. It is an opposite field event featuring 132 of the game’s best players vying for a $3 million purse. The world’s top 50 players compete for $10 million purse in the WGC Dell Match Play Championship that week in Dallas, Texas.
Is there a club pro on the planet that would not want this experience?
McCarraher is focused and looking forward to showcasing his game in his first PGA Tour event.
“I’ve stepped up my practice sessions to prepare for the tournament to get some form of my “A” game,” said McCarraher from the Fiddlesticks pro shop after returning from giving a lesson.
“January through March is peak season for the pro shop and I haven’t had much chance to play competitively. I’ll give it my best shot although I’m not used to competing against the world’s best players.”
When asked if there’s a “Team Justin” that will be traveling with him to the Dominican Republic, like many professionals have these days, he smiled.
“There is no “Team Justin” that will be traveling with me,” he said. “I plan to play two practice rounds and use a local caddy from Corales. I know what I have to do and a caddy with local knowledge will help answer questions that come up. Haven’t decided exactly what to wear but will definitely have something with the Fiddlesticks name and logo.”
McCarraher’s journey to golf’s biggest stage began December 8 at The Preserve at Ironhorse (West Palm Beach) where the PGA South Florida Section held a one-day 18-hole qualifier in which 40 players competed for a solo spot. McCarraher shot 2-under 70 to tie Will Coleman, earning the No. 1 spot by winning a playoff on the first hole.
“Justin has been a top player in the PGA South Florida Section for many years,” said Geoff Lofstead, executive director. “To qualify for a PGA Tour event speaks volumes about the quality of his game that he’s able to excel on the golf course around his job duties as head pro of Fiddlesticks.
“It’s going to be tough to compete against pros who play every day and make a living on Tour, but Justin will hold his own.”
With the tournament less than two weeks away, Fiddlesticks Country Club is buzzing with pride and rallying around their head pro. Over 60 members responded with a donation to assist in traveling expenses for McCarraher.
“The Fiddlesticks community is thrilled that our head pro, Justin McCarraher, is teeing it up in a PGA Tour event,” said longtime Fiddlesticks resident Larry Den, a key figure in raising funds to assist all Fiddlesticks pros to play competitively in regional tournaments.
“Can’t say enough good things about how engaged Justin is in running the pro shop. In addition to all the pro shop duties, it’s impressive that Justin keeps his game sharp enough to compete with the world’s best players.”
The Corales Punta Cana Resort & Club Championship is scheduled March 25-28 at Corales Golf Club – one of the most scenic golf courses in the world – and will be covered live all four days on Golf Channel.