This is the first of a series, which I will profile Coast golf professionals.
Russ Bloom didn’t grow up thinking he would play golf for a living; in fact, he didn’t start playing golf until he was 13, a dogleg he chose because of his size.
“I was really small, so that made up my decision to go play golf,” said The Oaks owner. “I shot 59-55 on my two nines and qualified for the high school team at 15.”
In two years, Bloom took his game from 114 to qualifying for the US Amateur at Newport CC in Rhode Island. That’s a fast-moving golf cart. The San Diego State golf coach saw his potential and offered him a scholarship. He played for the Aztecs from 1994-1999 and qualified as an amateur for the Buick Open at Torrey Pines in 2000. He also made the quarterfinals of the Public Links that year.
While still an amateur, the San Diego native played money games with the owners of the Viejas Casino. They made him a “sweet deal” to turn professional.
With full status on the Hooters Tour in 2001, the self-made Bloom made his way to The Bridges in Bay St Louis for an event. He fell in love with the Coast and moved here in 2002.
His success story, however, won’t be penalized for slow play. As Burns’ paraphrased words emphasize, the best laid plans of mice and men don’t always work out, but for Bloom, he’s right where he wants to be. His choice to give his professional a rest tees off as good news for golfers on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
“I went to The Oaks and asked I could marshall for playing privileges,” he said. “Instead they gave me a machete and told me to hunt golf balls on the outskirts of the practice range with all the bugs and snakes. I told myself that if I was going to stay here, I needed to do more.”
In 2003 Bloom passed the Playing Ability Test PAT that all prospective PGA golf professionals must take. Passed? That’s an understatement. He shot 69-71 in terrible weather to make it by a whopping 15 shots. He was the only person to make it that day at the MSU Golf Course in Starkville. A short par-4 later, 14 months to be exact, he had his PGA Card.
From player to teacher.
“The last five or six years I’ve taken teaching more seriously. I want kids to be all-around players and to set goals,” he said. “My own experience motivates my teaching. A solid setup makes the golf club work where it needs to work.”
Simple swing mechanics and maintaining posture guide his instruction.
Competing as a youngster with now PGA Tour winner Charley Hoffman has certainly influenced his focus on golfers who want to succeed. He knows the recipe for success, and juniors Presley Baggett (LSU) and Hannah Levi (MSU) are proof that Bloom does not take short cuts off the tee.
His own golf game has suffered since he bought The Oaks in Pass Christian in 2014, but he doesn’t mind. Helping golfers enjoy the game and being a husband to wife Leah and father to Gracie 13 and Katie Rae 5 are more than enough reimbursement for his spending time on the practice tee.
Tommy Snell, golf coach at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, writes a column for the Sun Herald.