Jason Ballard will serve as the host professional for the 2023 PGA Championship at Oak Hill in Rochester, but has a strong connection with The Masters after serving as an assistant pro at Augusta National. Jason fielded some questions about the first two majors of the season.
Q: Will you be attending The Masters as part of your preparation of Oak Hill hosting the PGA Championship?
JASON BALLARD: Unfortunately, I will not be working this year’s Masters Tournament. With Oak Hill hosting the PGA Championship in mid-May, the timing doesn’t quite work out. I look forward to returning to the Masters Tournament again in 2024 and beyond.
Q: This is Straight Down ambassador Larry Mize’s final tournament round at Augusta. Have you ever been paired with him in a round?
JASON BALLARD: I have never played with Larry, however, he always treated the staff with such respect. I was fortunate one time to help him tune his driver in with Trackman on the practice tee prior to the Masters.
Q: Do you have a favorite hole at Augusta?
JASON BALLARD: I enjoyed all 18 holes equally, however, I always thought #1 (Tea Olive) at Augusta National was underrated in difficulty. Besides the pressure of the tee shot, the green has some incredible slope and run off areas. Interestingly enough, Ben Hogan once called Oak Hill’s #1 (Challenge) the most difficult starting hole in championship golf.
Q: How do you imagine playing in a major event compares to being the pro hosting one?
JASON BALLARD: I’ve never had the opportunity to play in a major championship before but I’m sure that is a very special experience. The last club pro to win a major was Claude Harmon who won the Masters in 1948, an incredible accomplishment! His green jacket hangs proudly in our clubhouse as his son Craig was the Head Professional for 42 years prior to my arrival. Being a PGA member and hosting the PGA Championship is something that I am very proud of and I look forward to showcasing our incredible staff and facility for the world to see.
Q: If it’s solely based on speed, which greens would win a Sunday race: Augusta National on Masters week, Oak Hill hosting the PGA or SLOCC Fall Classic on Sunday? Give us a first, second and third.
JASON BALLARD: I can’t really comment on green speeds, however, when it comes to slope, I vote SLOCC #1, ANGC #2, and OHCC #3.
Q: How would you compare the degree of difficulty of the renovated East Course of Oak Hill to Augusta National?
JASON BALLARD: It’s tough to compare the two courses as they are completely different, however, I believe Oak Hill is a more difficult off the tee and Augusta National is more difficult on the greens.
Q: It would be an incredible an accomplishment, but can you give us a few players who have the games to pull off a double major and win at Augusta and Oak Hill?
JASON BALLARD: Here is a list of players who have accomplished that feat: Craig Wood (1941), Sam Snead (1949), Ben Hogan (1951 & 1953), Arnold Palmer (1960), Jack Nicklaus (1972), Tiger Woods (2002), and Jordan Spieth (2015). There are so many of the top players playing well right now that I think anyone in the top-10 in the world could win this year’s first two majors. Keep in mind that only Sam Snead has won the Masters and PGA Championship consecutively.
Q: Is there a PGA club pro who you think could be a dark horse to finish in the Top 10 at Oak Hill?
JASON BALLARD: We won’t know which PGA club pros will qualify for the PGA Championship until May 3. We are pulling for one of Oak Hill’s own Assistant Golf Professionals, Walker Singleton who is vying to qualify in the top-20 and earn a spot in this year’s PGA Championship.
Q: What is your go-to Straight Down outfit?
JASON BALLARD: My go to shirt is the Dodge, pant is the Quest, shoe is the Field V2, and outwear piece is the Ballard (obviously)!