For the second time in his golf career, Paul Holtby is a rookie.
When the longtime teaching professional turned 50 in April, he qualified for various senior tournaments through the Southern California PGA.
Days after his birthday, Holtby won the SCPGA Senior Individual Stroke Play tournament at Temecula Creek Golf Course. A month later, he won the Northern Chapter 2-Day Pro-Pro event at Soule Park.
“I am playing the best golf of my career,” Holtby said. “I’m hitting it farther than I did when I was 22 but I am also a lot more accurate off the tee. As a result, I am getting a lot more chances to make birdies and go low. I’m having so much fun.”
Holtby credits his “day job” for helping lead the resurgence in his play. Holtby is referring to the Golf Development Complex (formerly the Barber Golf Range) that he and partner Diane Cooper bought 19 months ago.
Holtby had long wanted to own his own a training center and driving range, but when his dream became reality, the Simi Valley native started to realize what a project he and Cooper were taking on.
Since they took over, Cooper has dealt with the business side of things and Holtby spent the last 19 months doing hard labor.
As the facility’s new maintenance man, Holtby went to work cutting and trimming trees, removing nine years’ worth of overgrowth around the 20 acres of property, and moving over 20 tons of sand.
He built and installed all new signs on the range and built new tee boxes for many of the facility’s hitting stalls.
Besides bringing the facility up to top standard, Holtby also discovered the manual labor had gotten him into the best shape he’s been in since he was in his early 20s.
“I feel great and I am so much stronger I am able to hit the ball a lot farther,” Holtby said. “I love tackling all the projects and seeing the finished product come out like we had hoped.
“It’s been so gratifying to see all the hard work paying off. When we first took over it was a struggle, but slowly and steadily things have improved and now we’re in a really good spot.”
Having a growing and prosperous business has led to an improved outlook on his own game.
For much of his life, Holtby stressed over the financial side of playing. Every time he teed it up in a tournament he put pressure on himself to make the cut so he can at least break even on expenses. Holtby felt he often played too defensively.
Holtby now has a completely different approach, playing loose and free.
“I look more forward to playing golf these days,” Holtby said. “When I do enter a tournament now I am in a position where I play for birdies and not playing to make sure I make the cut so I earn some money to pay bills.
“That has allowed me to be more aggressive and that gives me a better chance to shoot a lower score.”
With his mind and his body in sound shape, Holtby has set his sights on the PGA Tour Champions Q School.
There are two stages of Q School for the Champions Tour, but Holtby is hoping he can bypass the first stage by performing well at the Senior PGA Professional Championship at Desert Mountain Golf Course in Arizona on Sept. 28-Oct. 1. If Holtby can finish in the top five, he will earn an automatic exemption into the final stage of Q School.
Holtby earned his spot in the finals by finishing second at the SCPGA Section Senior Qualifier at Oak Valley. Despite having had his appendix removed three weeks before the event, Holtby posted 68-69 to finish second.
“I managed to play without ripping stitches,” Holtby said. “I only swung about 75 percent but I was still able to hit it pretty long. I feel good about how I am playing.
“I don’t practice much, but I have done it for so long my swing is there. It’s more about having a clear mind and being able to relax and enjoy playing, win or lose.”