ASHEVILLE, N.C. – He has worked for the good of the game for many years. On Saturday and Sunday, Jim Hyler worked for the good of Pam Kuong’s game.
It has been a year and a half since Hyler completed his two-year term as president of the USGA, and he took a weekend break from his current job to caddie in the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship at Biltmore Forest Country Club, where he has been a member for 15 years. Just as he earned plaudits for his stewardship in 2010 and 2011 at the USGA, Hyler won raves for his looping effort on Kuong’s behalf.
“Without Jim, I would have probably shot 90,” said Kuong after she completed her stroke-play rounds of 82-81, comfortably inside the cut to reach match play. “He was great on club selections and on how the course would play, all the little nuances.”
Kuong, 52, of Wellesley Hills, Mass., is a two-time Massachusetts Women’s Amateur champion, and she won the 2011 New England Women’s Amateur. Regional success aside, she has played in several USGA championships and targets them every season.
“That’s the uniqueness of USGA events,” Kuong said. “I get to meet people like Jim and the other competitors. That’s why it’s a goal for me every year, to try and play in a USGA event. If I don’t do it, I feel like my season is lost no matter what else I do. The people are great, you’re treated like a professional and you get challenged at USGA events.”
One of the challenges in getting to these championships for many players like Kuong, who works at Bank of America, is keeping their game in tune.
“I’ve got to be efficient, because I do a lot of client entertainment at night,” said Kuong. “I was joking on Friday after my practice round that I had to get on a conference call with a client. Here I am at a USGA event and I’m trying to juggle conference calls and what have you. But there are a lot of people like that.”
Kuong plays out of Charles River Country Club, the companion stroke-play course for the 2013 U.S. Amateur, and she derives great support from fellow members.
“I’ve been fortunate in that I have had a lot of mentors there, and so many good players to play with,” Kuong said. “We’re really proud of how many of our members have qualified for USGA events. This week I’ve had so many people shooting me emails and keeping track of me, both men and women.”
“Pam is what amateur golf is all about at the highest levels,” said Hyler, who caddied for Kuong as the result of a blind draw of the available caddies and had not met her before. “She’s a career amateur who is a professional; she works full-time and plays when she can.”
The level of camaraderie between Hyler and Kuong was evident as they made their way around this Donald Ross layout.
“I’m not up here all the time but I’ve played this course a lot,” said Hyler, who lives in Raleigh. “The mountain influence can make putts behave differently on different days. I didn’t always get the reads exactly right today, but Pam’s speed was really good.”
When he isn’t grinding over putts, Hyler is keeping very busy.
“I’m working fulltime for a family office in Raleigh,” said Hyler. “We own several operating businesses and we’re looking to buy more operating businesses. I work on sourcing deals and on governance with the companies we have. I’m also on the board of one public company, so I am actually really busy, which I like.”
Hyler maintains a strong link with the USGA, post-presidency.
“I miss the people – I don’t really miss the rigors of the job,” Hyler said. “I have stayed in close contact with Mike Davis and some of the people on the Executive Committee. I particularly miss working with the staff there.”
So perhaps it’s no surprise that Hyler jumped at the chance to participate again in a USGA championship, this time from inside the ropes, or that he continued his track record of success.
Ron Driscoll is the manager of editorial services for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.