Northwestern alumnus to play in PGA Professional Championship
If Reece Bartelt finishes in the top 20, he will earn a spot in the PGA Championship in May.
SUPERIOR — A Northwestern High School graduate is one tournament away from playing in the PGA Championship.
Reece Bartelt, 30, will hit the links April 17-20 at OMNI Barton Creek in Austin, Texas, for the PGA Professional Championship. The top 20 finishers move on to play at the PGA Championship May 16-22 in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
He earned his spot in the upcoming tournament after being tied with three other players for the final qualifying spot in the PGA's Illinois Section Tournament. In the playoff, Bartelt made a birdie to lock in his spot.
For Bartelt, the opportunity is one he doesn't want to take for granted.
"Number one, I just want to enjoy myself. I know a lot of people will put unneeded pressure on themselves, so I'm just going to go enjoy the opportunity. It's my first time qualifying for the tournament, but obviously I do have expectations on how I want to play," he said. "If I can make it all four days and get to the end of the tournament, that would be great. The goal would be to make the top 20 and make it to the PGA Championship."
Bartelt has been playing golf since he was a child, following his dad around the golf course.
When asked what he loves about the game, Bartelt said "everything," before touching on a few of his favorite aspects of golf.
"I grew up also playing a lot of team sports, so the part I liked about golf is your success or failure is just based on you. In basketball, you could play well and your team could lose, or you could have a bad game and your team could win, so I do like the individual nature of it.
"You can always get better in golf. There’s always room for improvement, there’s always parts of your game that need to be worked on, and I love the challenge of it. I love that I get to be outside on beautiful pieces of land with my friends," he said.
After high school, he attended Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Michigan, to join the school's PGA golf management program. He ultimately decided he wanted to teach golf, and now does just that at SMART Golf & Fitness Instruction in Chicago.
Bartelt described his high school golf career as decent, and said his game started to improve after he took a deep dive into analytics a few years ago.
"I started tracking stats in an advanced way and did figure out that my long game was a weakness. I was pretty short and accurate, but the distance I hit it was holding me back, so I increased my speed, started hitting it farther and higher up in the air and turned my long game into a strength," he said.
Rebuilding his swing was a major piece to that puzzle, he said.
Bartelt's brother, Kade, has had a front-row seat as his caddy and is looking forward to being on the bag for his brother in Texas.
So what does he think about Reece's game?
"Reece is one of the best putters and short-gamers probably I’ve ever been around," Kade said. "He’s really good at his golf course management — working and thinking his way around the golf course, using his mind. He’s not physically the biggest guy out there or the longest hitter, but what he lacks in that he makes up for in his strategy, his thinking and his short game."
The brothers appreciate their time together on the golf course.
Kade knows how Reece plays, what his strengths and weaknesses are, and he helps Reece keep emotion out of his decision-making, Reece said.
"I wouldn’t have anybody else (as caddy)," Reece said.
For Reece's childhood friend and fellow Northwestern grad Aaron Corry, it's not a surprise to see his friend reach his goals.
"He’s just a really determined guy. Once he sets his mind to something, he just does it ... that’s also why I think he’s going to do so well at this event," Corry said.
No matter what happens next week, Kade said he's proud of Reece.
"No matter how he does results-wise, I’m just proud of him, proud to be his brother, proud to be his caddy. No matter what the result, he’s a great guy and a great golfer," Kade said.
HOW TO WATCH
Catch the PGA Professional Championship on the Golf Channel April 17-20.