SISTER/CADDY 5 MONTHS PREGNANT
By Bob Weiner
The 98th annual PGA Championship at Baltusrol Golf Club this week evokes a flood of fond memories for Ron Philo Jr.
The Scotia-native, currently the Director of Golf & Club Operations for Stowe Mountain Resort in Stowe, VT, is a proud member of one of the Capital Area’s most respected golfing families. His grandfather, father and uncle were, or currently are, members of the PGA, and his sister, Laura Diaz, plays on the LPGA Tour. She won twice in 2002 and appeared in four Solheim Cups. His father, Ron Philo Sr., played in one PGA Championship and has been a PGA member for 40 years. His uncle, Dave, appeared in two PGA Championships.
Photos provided by PGA of America.
Nationally recognized for his teaching abilities, Philo is also an outstanding player with an impressive resume that includes a memorable visit to Springfield, NJ to compete in the 2005 PGA Championship, the last time Baltusrol was the host.
“Playing in the 2005 PGA Championship at Balstusrol was certainly one of the biggest and memorable things I’ve ever done,” said Philo. “There are so many memories for me.”
11 YEARS AGO
Philo recalled that his 2005 trip to Baltusrol was special even before the opening round of the PGA Championship officially began.
“I remember playing a practice round with my father and the longtime pro there, whose name was Mike Martin,” Philo said. My father ended up beating us all, even though he couldn’t reach most of the par-3s in regulation. That course was very long for its time, and extremely difficult.”
Of course, the most famous part of Philo’s 2005 PGA Championship run was the fact that his sister was on the bag as his caddie.
“It was amazing. Laura was five months pregnant at the time,” Philo said. “It was extremely hot that week, and everybody was cheering for Laura everywhere we went. In fact, they cheered for Laura a lot more than they cheered for me along every fairway. It became quite a story all around golf. They even featured her on a front-page sports story in The New York Times.”
Philo also recalled a very special playing partner in the first two rounds.
“I remember that I got a chance to play with Loren Roberts (nicknamed the Boss of the Moss), and his caddie, Graham Corts. Loren was a true gentleman, and it was very comfortable playing those first two rounds with him and his caddie. I had practiced and played with both of them a few years earlier, so it was a very pleasant time.”
To make the 2005 PGA Championship even more special, Philo ended up making the cut, the only time he made the cut in eight major championship appearances.
“No doubt, the 2005 PGA Championship was one of my greatest achievements,” he said.
“Besides having my sister on the bag and getting a favorable pairing, there was also the fact that I just loved the course. I enjoy the old-time layouts, and Baltusrol is just that. I absolutely love courses that were designed by (Albert) Tillinghast, and it was redone by Robert Trent Jones. At the time, the third hole at Baltusrol became the first par-4 to play at least 500 yards. Baltusrol is truly one of the storied golf courses.”
A STELLAR CAREER
Besides his successful run at the 2005 PGA Championship, Philo owns many other noteworthy accomplishments. The highlight of his playing career was winning the 2006 PGA National Professional Championship at the Turning Stone Resort. “Any time you win something, it’s better than just making the cut,” he said.
Philo is a five-time PGA Section Player of the Year and a four-time PGA Section champion in New England. He’s appeared in more than a dozen PGA Tour events, including a U.S. Open and seven other majors.
As a noted golf instructor, Philo was selected as the “Best Teacher” in Vermont by Golf Magazine and the New England Golf Journal for 2015-16. In 2010, he was named the New England Section PGA Teacher of the Year.
Philo said he learned the game and honed his craft by listening to his family and friends.
“My grandfather got me started, and that’s when I fell in love with the game, but it was my entire family that taught me the game,” he said.
My father was only 19 years older than me, so we played a lot of golf together. And when my sister got a little older, I noticed her persistence and extreme effort. That’s how she became the player she is today.”
When Philo was growing up, he rubbed elbows with pros like Schenectady’s Bobby and Jimmy Duval. He also played with former world No. 1 David Duval, Bobby’s son, when they were youngsters. Philo got to know many of his father’s friends, including former PGA Tour standout Hubert Green, who like Bobby Duval competed locally in the now defunct Capital District Skins Game.
“All of the people I knew when I was younger were contributing factors to what I am today,” he said. “When I was a kid, and I played with my father and the other PGA pros, they would invite me to play. But I had to put up my own money. If I won, they paid me, but if I lost, I had to pay them. There was no mercy because I was a little kid. I had to prove myself to them. There was no participation medal.
“I would say that the people I learned the game from when I was younger were what I call gamers. They challenged you. We had an unbelievable network in golf back then. My biggest reward back then was being accepted by those guys. It was a different era. I guess I’m part of the end of that era.”