Cindy Miller decided the time had come to take a risk, to follow her heart. She gave up her job as the teaching pro at Tri-County Country Club in Forestville. She turned her focus to improving her game, taking it back on the road, feeding her competitive fire.
"I'm reading a book, 'If You Want to Walk on Water You Have to Get Out of the Boat,' " Miller said. "I decided to follow my gut, and my gut was right."
Miller is loving life at 48, an age she divulges freely because it's laced with inspirational value. She finished tied for 20th at the Hi-Vi Classic in Iowa, a stop on the women's senior tour, and earned $6,403. She cashed the biggest paycheck of her life, $13,000, by winning the Golf for Women magazine LPGA Teaching and Club Professional Championship last week. She's the oldest player to capture the championship.
Toss in $500 won at the Chautauqua Pro-Am and Miller had three-week earnings of $19,903, a haul that dwarfed her career earnings on the LPGA Tour.
"I made $7,500 in three years on tour 25 years ago," she said.
The good news keeps rolling in. Miller, who still teaches at the Wehrle Golf Dome, has been informed she's one of 600 finalists for Golf Magazine's ranking of the top 100 instructors in America. She's been selected to audition for a Golf Channel reality series that will reward one participant with an LPGA Tour card. And her son, Jamie, last week advanced to the second round of match play in the U.S. Public Links Championship, losing, 1-up, to an eventual semifinalist.
"Jamie now knows he can compete at that level," Miller said. "Before that, it was, 'Can I or can't I?' That's a big deal, believing in yourself."
The Millers, of Silver Creek, clearly warrant the title of First Family of Western New York golf. Allen Miller, Cindy's husband, is years removed from a go on the PGA Tour and immersed in a teaching career at the Wehrle Golf Dome. Dave Pelz, the international short-game guru, once called Allen Miller the second-purest striker of the golf ball he'd ever seen, a notch behind Lee Trevino.
Jamie will return to Ohio State in the fall, hoping to secure at least partial scholarship status after redshirting as a freshman. He had four rounds in the 60s during spring qualifying with the Buckeyes and continued his roll this summer. He participated in the North and South Amateur in Pinehurst, N.C., and shot 71-71 in the Public Links regional qualifier in Cincinnati. He then nailed down a match-play spot at the Public Links in dramatic fashion, finishing his second round birdie-birdie, a blitz that included a 370-yard drive on the 17th hole. He followed with an eagle on the first playoff hole.
"I've gotten a lot more consistent, and a lot more confident," Jamie said before leaving for this week's New York State Amateur in Kingston. "I'm not scared to go out there and shoot a 68."
Miller said the guidance provided by his parents far outweighs the burden of having two parents who've had success in golf. Allen and Cindy are known for integrating state-of-the-art teaching techniques into their lesson programs.
"We were actually talking about that (Saturday) night," Jamie said. "We were talking about expectations, and I think I expect more out of myself than anybody else. Having two parents who play I think is cool. I don't think the expectation is any higher because they both played."
Miller time has arrived.
"It's still kind of sinking in," Cindy said. "It's like all this hard work has finally started paying off."
Around the links
The membership at Lancaster Country Club received a reprieve Saturday when teaching exams prevented Rob Krajewski, a Canisius College student, from participating in the first round of the club championship. Krajewski would have been the overwhelming favorite after shooting back-to-back casual rounds of 64 and 66 on July 11 and 12. Members are scouring the club records to determine whether the 64 set or equaled the club record. He accomplished the feat with a pair of eagles while shooting 7 under on the back. The last came on the 18th, a 340-yard par-4, which he drove to 8 feet. Krajewski is also entered in this week's state amateur.
The second BDGA women's individual will be held Monday and July 30 at Lancaster Country Club. The event, open to public- and private-club players, includes two rounds of golf and a lunch on the final day. Cost is $60.
Kim Kaul of Gowanda CC is the leader after two events in the women's trial points standings as compiled by the BDGA. Kaul placed second at the Western in Rochester, shooting 79, and reached the semifinals of the recent New York State Women's Amateur. Kelsey Johnson from Orchard Park, Kari Kaul of Gowanda and Kathy Hunt of Crag Burn also qualified for the championship flight at the state am.
Jeff Wolniewicz of Binghamton University and Crag Burn leads the BDGA men's standings with 550 points, followed by Jamie Miller of Tri-County (210) and Bob Rosen of Westwood (155).
The Long Drivers of America (LDA) come to Rochester this weekend for the penultimate event before the national championship. The competition will be held Friday through Sunday at Lake Shore Country Club.
I'm liking Matt Every, the winner of the 2001 International Junior Masters, to complete an unprecedented Western New York double and capture this week's Porter Cup. Every, a first-team All-American at Florida this year, has been top-10 at the PC each of the past two years.