In The Spotlight: Jay Synkelma, PGA Teaching Professional, Class A Member

Mary Jo Bellner Swartzberg

“I’m lucky to do what I do,” Jay said as we sat down to interview for this article. Truth be told, it shows every day when we see Jay conducting golf lessons on our driving range. Jay loves the game of golf—he always has—and this love of golf started at age two, when he swung a golf club for the first time.

Jay was born and raised in Ironwood, on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The Synkelmas lived on a 9-hole golf course, which is where Jay learned to golf and, at age seven, Jay proclaimed that he wanted to be a golf pro.

Jay would play and replay the 9-hole course. One day, Jay and a friend played 80 holes of golf from 4:30 a.m. until 10:30 p.m. Growing up, Jay won many tournaments as a junior between the ages of seven and 17. This was just the beginning of a long and enjoyable career in golf.

Born into a family of two brothers and a sister, all of the children were athletic. In high school Jay played golf, basketball, and football, but dropped football to avoid the risk of being injured and possibly ruin his career in golf.

Jay accepted a golf scholarship at Palm Beach College in Florida. His idol in the golf world was Tom Watson and Jay replicated Tom’s golf swing.

After graduation, he relocated to Arizona, where he accepted a position at El Conquistador.

Getting into the PGA Qualifying (“Q”) School is not easy, and Jay tried many times. In 1997, he did qualify for the finals of the Q School and missed getting his PGA Tour Card by two strokes; however, he attained a Nike Tour Card. As an amateur, he qualified for his first PGA Tour event in the Milwaukee Open and was paired with Tom Lehman.

During his pro career, Jay had wins in the Arizona Open and the Idaho Open, where he came in second and shot a career low of 61. Other important wins include two times in the SW Section PGA Championship, the SW Kansas Open Championship and the San Juan Open. Jay also played in many PGA Tour events, including three Waste Management Phoenix Opens.

Jay has had a 30-year career in teaching golf, with 10 of those years as lead instructor of the Hilton Golf Academy at El Conquistador. Many of his students would return every year for Jay’s lessons, including students from Europe!

Although Jay has many trophies, more importantly are his memories, including:

* Having his wife, Karla, caddy for him for a year

* Caddying for Jack Nicklaus in an exhibition round

* Beating the men’s defending champion with a score of 35, at the tender age of 12

* Making 8 holes in one

Some Jay-isms:

* Golf is a game everyone can get better at and have fun.

* The definition of a good golf swing is something you can repeat and trust with good results.

* It does not matter how it looks; there is no perfect way to swing a club.

* I will never try to change your swing, but I will try to make what you have better.

Besides golf, Jay’s other hobbies include hunting, fishing, and skiing.

Jay has a family of golfers—his wife and his two daughters.

To arrange a golf lesson with Jay, contact him at [email protected] or by phone at 520-820-0741.