Timeout with Tambo: LaFata passes PGA test

Johnny LaFata lines up a shot on the San Vicente Golf Resort course.Sentinel photo/Bill Tamburrino
Johnny LaFata lines up a shot on the San Vicente Golf Resort course.Sentinel photo/Bill Tamburrino

Johnny Lafata passed the PGA (Professional Golfers’ Association) Playing Ability Test last Monday at San Vicente Golf Resort. Lafata shot identical 74s to register a 148 on the 36 hole test. The target score was 154 for two rounds.

Passing that test will allow Johnny to start giving golf lessons and to pursue his dream and enter a career in the field of golf.

Lafata was very familiar with the course. His father Joe started him golfing at San Vicente when he was 3 years old. Johnny and his brother Joe literally grew up golfing at San Vicente.

“My dad taught me how to golf at San Vicente. I didn’t have to take lessons. He is a four handicap.”

Joe Lafata must be a good teacher. Johnny won the Junior Golf Tournament at San Vicente while in grade school and qualified for the U.S. Junior Championships. Their mom Lorie is not a golfer.

Johnny started school in the Ramona Unified School District and graduated from Ramona High School in 2009 with a 3.25 grade point average. He started out as a criminal justice major at Palomar College but has changed to a sports management major and is working full time on getting his PGA certification.

Johnny joined the golf team at RHS his freshman year and earned four varsity letters playing his home matches at San Vicente. He earned All Avocado League honors his sophomore, junior and senior years.

His first coach at RHS was Rick Hardiman. He also played for Jerry Patenaude and Edbob Schwartz.

Johnny started working at San Vicente in 2007. It was his first job and he’s still there. He started as a cart attendant and he now is a Pro Shop assistant and a cart attendant. When he is not working he tries to get in three of four rounds a week.

Golf is Johnny’s passion and job, and he hopes to make it his career.

“I am studying to pass the written exams and learning club repair for the PGA apprentice programs. I will see where that takes me. I would also like to try some of the mini tour events like the Gateway Tour. I would like to be a teaching pro if I don’t do well on the tours and eventually get into golf course management.”

John Rathbun, the head golf professional at San Vicente, thinks that Lafata has what it takes to make in the golf industry.

“He is very personable,” said Rathbun. “There are a lot of avenues that he can take. He can learn to repair clubs, give instruction and manage a pro shop and then a golf facility. He has the personality, skills and aptitude to do it all.”

“He is useless and you have to put that in the article,” joked Fred Arcaina, assistant golf professional, before saying, “he is a good kid and a good worker. This was his first job and he fits in really well here. He has a good sense of humor.”

When asked if he put in any extra work or did anything differently to pass the PGA Playing Skills Test, Johnny replied, “I knew that I could shoot the required score. I am a two handicap and I shot a two over on both rounds. It was over 100 degrees and my blood sugar got a little low during the second round, but I settled down and did what I thought it would take to qualify. Playing at San Vicente was a bid advantage. I love this place.”

So now Johnny has to study to pass the rules test, learn club repair and get into an apprenticeship program. The hardest hurdle is out of the way. He will start giving lessons in the near future.

   
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