When Jim Pfrogner first learned how to play golf as a teenager, he was saddled with right-handed clubs.
Good thing they didn’t stick when Pfrogner returned to the game after college. Pfrogner is a left-hander.
And the 74-year-old is so good that he’s seemingly invincible against fellow left-handers. Pfrogner recently captured his fifth consecutive National Association of Left-Handed Golfers National Championship in the masters division. Pfrogner fired a 70 in the first round before coasting to a nine-shot victory at Seneca Hickory Stick Golf Course near Niagara Falls, N.Y.
Pfrogner, keeping with his humble personality, said there are many good golfers he has to compete against. And his desire to win golf tournaments is reflected by Pfrogner’s priorities and his daily practice routine.
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“I’d rather play golf than eat,” said Pfrogner, who has also won two senior division NALG National Championships.
A member at Palm-Aire Country Club in southern Manatee County, Pfrogner won last year’s event when it was played at his home course.
Palm-Aire head pro Jay Seymour has seen Pfrogner’s game, and why it’s so deadly.
“It’s steady tee to green. It’s just consistency across the board,” Seymour said. “His wedge game is probably as good as anyone’s in the club. He can roll in putts from anywhere on the green. From every club in the bag, he can fire on the flag with.”
Aside from earning national championships on a routine basis, Pfrogner also became the top left-handed golfer in his age division in the world earlier this year. Competing in Miyazaki, Japan, Pfrogner won the super senior division of the 24th World Association of Left-Handed Golfers World Championship. Before he could triumph, though, Pfrogner dealt with the adversity of playing alongside a player that was breaking the rules.
“It was bugging me the rest of the tournament, so my game was sort of shattered a little bit,” said Pfrogner, who won the event in 2012 in Scotland as well.
Still, he persevered through the distraction, and the victory earned Pfrogner a unique trophy: a samurai sword. It sits in the trophy case in the hallways of Palm-Aire’s clubhouse. Seymour said people walk by and ask why the sword is in there.
“I hadn’t seen anything like it,” Seymour said. “... Definitely one of the most unique trophies I’ve ever seen, and definitely one of the coolest ones.”
Pfrogner’s golf journey began in western Pennsylvania before his career took him to Maryland, where he was the track coach at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County.
There, Pfrogner joined Rolling Road Golf Club in Catonsville, just outside Baltimore. His game steadily improved and, eventually, Pfrogner played the Maryland State Senior Amateur for the first time in 1998 and won. That gave Pfrogner the confidence that he could succeed in competitive golf. That translated into more tournaments once he retired and relocated to Palm-Aire in 2001, where he joined the Society of Seniors — an organization that the top senior amateurs belong to.
The organization holds tournaments throughout the year for both right- and left-handed golfers. Currently, Pfrogner is ranked No. 11 in the Society of Seniors’ legends division
“This organization I’m in here gives me plenty of competition and these guys are the best (senior) amateurs in the country,” Pfrogner said.