Jason Caron’s game took a major turn for the better last summer, right before the New York State Open at Bethpage Black, when he received one pivotal swing tip from his favorite teacher. The qualified instructor was on a national championship college team, played in 11 professional majors and also happens to be his wife.
“You should be talking to her,” Caron, head pro at Mill River Club in Oyster Bay, told the group of reporters that engulfed him after he shot a dream-like par-70 and a tie for 17th place after the first round of the PGA Championship on the Black Course. “She’s the real deal.”
He credits the advice that Liz Janangelo Caron gave about the positioning of his hands on the backswing for the upswing in his fortunes. He finished sixth in the State Open and carried his confidence into this year. In the past two weeks, he finished fourth in the national club pro championship (thus qualifying for the PGA), won the Met Section head pros tournament and had the lowest score in a U.S. Open local qualifier.
“We haven’t been practicing much. It’s just the play has been good and the confidence is there,” said the Long Island pro who was ahead of Tiger Woods (2 over) on scoreboards after the first round. “Can someone get a picture of that?” Caron said.
Liz always has a clear mental picture of Jason’s swing. “It was funny. He was just getting the club stuck behind him. I tend to do the same thing, so I was like, 'What if you feel like if your hands are on your toe line a little bit more?’ He was like, 'Oh, let me try that,' ” she said, while keeping an eye on Caroline, 6, the older of their two daughters (Julia, 2, was at nursery school).
When she was told that he gave her kudos for his play, she alluded to his tournament schedule, saying, “He knows to say that, I guess, for brownie points because he was away so long. He’s trying to backtrack.”
His day was the stuff of which every club pro dreams. When he rolled in a 50-footer from the fringe for birdie 3 on No. 16, someone in the bleachers, presumedly a Mill River member, shouted, “Easy game, baby, easy game!” Caron gave a thumbs-up.
Of course, he knows what a tough game it is, having played on the PGA Tour and admittedly been rattled by the sight of Woods and Greg Norman. Caron will be content with whatever this week brings.
Next week might bring more competitive golf. Liz said that Caroline was so pumped that she insisted that mom enter a qualifier for the Women’s PGA Championship. That might happen, Liz said, adding, “You reach a point where you don’t do it for you anymore, you do it for your kids. It’s special for them.”
Balin shoots 78. Danny Balin, head pro at Fresh Meadow Country Club in Lake Success, bogeyed three of his first four holes and never got going. He shot 78.