by Joey Johnson
Local PGA Professional Rea Schuessler recently qualified for the 78th Senior PGA Championship to be held at Trump National Golf Club in Potomac Falls, VA next May. Rea is the Director of Instruction at the Gulf Shores Golf Academy (www.gulfshoresgolfacademy.com) based at Craft Farms and Kiva Dunes. His qualification into the prestigious event is based on his T25 finish in the 28th Annual PGA Senior Professional Championship at PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie, Florida where he competed against 264 PGA Professionals from around the country.
Randy Burgan and I recently sat down with Rea and talked with him about what initially drew him to the game, his career in golf, and his achievement of qualifying for a Senior Major.
Rea was introduced to golf by his parents who both loved the game. He grew up in Mobile in a home adjacent to the Country Club of Mobile. He distinctly remembers being drawn to the game at a very early age and being told by his mother that “you can’t go out there until you learn what ‘fore’ means”.
For Rea, competition came early at local and regional junior events. Woody Woodall arrived at Mobile CC when Rea was 15 and was very influential in improving his fundamentals and sharpening his skills. He played high school golf for renowned Coach Eddie Holmes at UMS (now UMS-Wright). As a senior he finished second in the National High School Invitational Tournament which placed him on the High School All-American Team. Between his junior and senior year of college Rea won the Birmingham Invitational hosted at the Country Club of Birmingham, the Labor Day Invitational at the Country Club of Mobile along with qualifying for The US Amateur at The Olympic Club. Finishing his senior year at South Alabama he won The Rome Intercollegiate in Rome, Georgia.
After college Rea went to work at Indian Bayou in Destin, FL for a year. Competitive golf was always on his mind, though. For the next few years he played various mini tour events in the US along with competing on The Sunshine Tour in South Africa which is now part of The European Tour. During this time he competed against and played with the likes of Pensacola’s Joe Durant, John Daly, Jeff Maggert, Lee Janzen, David Feherty, and a young Ernie Els.
The Ben Hogan Tour was starting up and Rea missed qualifying for the tour by virtue of a playoff loss. After that he decided it was time to get back into the club professional business. He worked as an assistant at Westmoreland Country Club in Wilmette, IL before heading back home to the warmer climate of the south. He spent about a year as an assistant at the Country Club of Mobile before getting his first Head Professional position at Gulf Shores Golf Club, a positon he held for 16 years. At that time he accepted an offer from Cherokee Ridge in north Alabama. Once again, though, Rea got a call from “back home”. Jim “Scrappy” Edgemon offered the Director of Golf position at Kiva Dunes and Rea accepted.
During his years as a “club professional” Rea has continued to compete in local and sectional PGA events. The competition is what initially drew him to the game and at age 56 he continues to be one of the best players in this area. His accomplishments include: two-time PGA Gulf Coast Chapter Teacher of the Year, four-time PGA Dixie Section Player of the Year, four-time PGA Dixie Section Senior Player of the Year, and two-time PGA Dixie Section Champion.
Along with his lifelong love of the game of golf, Rea also has a love for helping others improve. His teaching certifications include Aimpoint Express, Titleist Performance Institute (TPI), US Kids Golf, and Operation 36.
Rea credits the experience of playing in the PGA Professional Championship on four previous occasions with his ability to get over the hump this time. “Sometimes you get in your own way and make it a bigger deal than you should”, he said. “But, this time I was able to stay focused on shot-to-shot and hole-to- hole and not get too far ahead of myself”.
Rea tied for 25th place with a score of 3 under par (285) over four rounds with scores of 71, 72, 68, and 74.
Next May Rea will be teeing it up with the likes of Bernhard Langer, Jeff Sluman, Colin Montgomerie, and old friend Joe Durant. The event will be televised nationally be Golf Channel and NBC.
His goal? “I want to play my best golf” is his answer.
We know you will Rea…..and we’re pulling for you!