PALM HARBOR — Jeff Klauk got an early education in the finer points of golf. His father was superintendent at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra, and the youngster spent plenty of time on the challenging course.
The practice has paid off.
Klauk enters the Transitions Championship at Innisbrook as the top-earning rookie on the PGA Tour with $544,265, good for 37th place. But it's not such a surprise, considering the 31-year-old from Boynton Beach ranked third on the Nationwide Tour in 2008 with $407,418 in earnings and his resume includes an individual NCAA Division II title in 2000 for Florida Southern.
"I definitely like harder golf courses much better, so I'm looking forward to this week for sure," he said. "Growing up on the Stadium Course there at Sawgrass, it was very difficult. And it suits my game, harder golf courses."
Playing at Sawgrass, he explained, made him "a very good ball striker and a good chipper around the greens." Meanwhile, growing up as the son of the superintendent gave Klauk an appreciation of what it takes to get courses in top shape. In fact, he learned about course maintenance first-hand when he got a speeding ticket and his father, Fred, made him mow the greens and fairways to pay off the ticket.
But he and his brother started mowing the course to earn money for their entry fees. "I think it made us appreciate things a lot more," he said.
Later, PGA star Rocco Mediate, a Florida Southern graduate, prevailed on Klauk to attend the school, and he became a key part of the three-time Division II national championship team, earning player of the year in 2000.
Nine years later, the Sawgrass Kid is still mowing 'em down.
BRADLEY OUT: Valrico's Michael Bradley withdrew Tuesday morning. Bradley, 42, is fresh off a win at the Puerto Rico Open, his first PGA Tour win in 11 years. By finishing in the top 10, Bradley qualified to play in Palm Harbor. He earned $630,000 for his win in Puerto Rico. He'll be replaced by David Berganio Jr.
MISCELLANY: The Transitions Pro-Am begins this morning at 7:50, with defending champion Sean O'Hair and Kenny Perry teeing off on the Copperhead Course. Other notables include Retief Goosen (1 p.m.) and Stuart Appleby (2:30). … Steve LeBrun won a five-hole playoff at Fox Hollow to secure the final Monday qualifier spot.
Times staff writer Rodney Page contributed to this report.