When Jason Caron won the PGA Winter Stroke Play Championship this past February in Florida, he was looking forward to the competitive season in the Met Section.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic turned the world upside down and tournaments in the metropolitan area were being postponed, casting great doubt on whether there would be any competitive golf at all.
"After I won the Stroke Play, you think in April we have the National Club Pro Championship and your full season in the Met Section kicks in May, June," said the Mill River Club pro. "But when COVID hit everything got pushed back, pushed back, pushed back."
When tournament play finally got going in late July, so did Caron. He won the Met PGA Championship and the Long Island Open. He finished second in the New York State Open and the Met PGA Head Pro Championship. All this after missing the cut at the PGA Championship in August in San Francisco.
Caron's extraordinary season has culminated with him being named the PGA of America’s Professional Player of the Year. He is also the Met Section Player of the Year. He may have his wife Liz, herself a club pro working alongside her husband at Mill River, to thank for it.
"We don’t talk about golf a lot because we have two little kids, but we were discussing one night over dinner a couple years ago and told her I don’t know what’s going on but the club seems like it’s behind me a little bit. She says I’ll take a peek at you," Caron said. "She walks by me on the range the next day and I’m slapping it around and she says put your hands over your toe line. OK, whatever that meant. Next thing I know, the golf ball had a different sound. I went off and played great and two and a half years later it’s still working."
Caron, 48, and having completed his sixth season at Mill River is relatively new to the club professional world. After graduating from Charleston Southern in 1994 he stumped the world of tour golf, earning full-season exemptions on the PGA Tour in 2000 and 2003, and playing on the Korn Ferry Tour where he estimates he made around 100 starts. There were lots of minitour events thrown into the mix. But after he started dating his wife, who runs the ladies and junior programs at Mill River, he told her that if he didn’t get his tour status back in the next year, he would try the club world. He ended up with a teaching job at the Siwanoy Country Club in Westchester in 2012 and after three seasons moved to Mill River as the head pro.
"Jason is a great player. The members love him and this is a tremendous accomplishment, something he well deserved and should be very proud of," said Don Mollitor, general manager at Mill River. "Everyone at the club is extremely proud of him."
At 48 you could certainly call Caron a later bloomer.
"This year the biggest difference was when I got in contention to win, I was ready mentally to win the tournament," Caron said. "Overall, that’s what took me to the winner’s circle."