Brad Lardon is hoping to turn an act of compassion into something much larger.
When the coronavirus outbreak led to his home state of New Mexico shutting down all golf courses, the director of golf at the Club at Las Campanas in Santa Fe held the same fear as many PGA professionals throughout the country who are unable to conduct business as usual.
“That’s when our club’s board of directors got together and let the employees know that they will pay all the employees, whether hourly, salary or part-time, even if the club remains closed for the year,” Lardon said. “It was a ‘wow’ for sure. We are maybe in the .05 percentile of clubs that can do that.
“I was thinking about how lucky we are. If this thing drags on into most of the summer, there are going to be a ton of out-of-work folks who won’t be getting a paycheck.”
Although Lardon anticipates losing a majority, if not all, of his teaching and competitive playing revenue this year, he still has the fortune of receiving steady income from Las Campanas. That’s allowed him to take a step back and wonder what potential there was for him to help other PGA professionals without the same luxury.
After a brainstorming session with his wife, Kim, and daughter, Lily, Lardon came to the conclusion that he could offer lessons by video chat and contribute the proceeds to help other pros. He’s asking anyone who is interested to send video of their golf swing, jump on a Zoom call to discuss the mental game or anything else for which he can offer his services.
That’s a special opportunity for many, given Lardon’s outstanding résumé. He has competed in three PGA Championships (2007, ’11 and ’16), two U.S. Opens (2002 and ’04) and last year’s U.S. Senior Open. He made the cut at the 2002 U.S. Open at Bethpage State Park.
He also has a distinguished teaching career, including being named the Sun Country PGA Section Teacher of the Year in 2017.
"If I could get $10,000 for my section, that would be great, but if 15 guys can do it, now you are talking about $150,000. Now it’s getting to be some real money.”
“I know every industry is hurting, but I wanted to do something for my industry,” Lardon said. “I thought it would make sense to start a social media campaign where if you want to take a lesson from me, here’s the fee and I’ll give this money to golf pros who are in need.
“And then the big picture was that if I could get some of my friends who are in more high-profile positions, maybe they could do it in their own regions. If I could get $10,000 for my section, that would be great, but if 15 guys can do it, now you are talking about $150,000. Now it’s getting to be some real money.”
Since Lardon launched his campaign with the help of Lily offering much-needed social media guidance, he has collected a little more than $3,000. Some of the money has been donations from fellow pros who don’t need a lesson but still wish to help. Bill Harmon recently donated $1,000 from the Harmon Foundation. Casey Russell, the well-known director of golf at Sweetwater Country Club in Sugar Land, Texas, also contributed.
There has been interest from other pros who would like to start campaigns in the same spirit as Lardon’s. There is hope that a mini-network of video lessons can emerge in the coming weeks.
“I’m going to keep doing it until we become operational again,” Lardon said. “And through all of this, I’ve asked through social media for golf pros, if they are having a hard time and are out of work and can’t put food on their table, send me your story and I’m going to try to help you. For me personally, that’s going to be the Sun Country PGA section and South Texas PGA section. Those are the two sections where my career has been, so I want to give back to those professionals.”
With Lardon spreading positivity, there have been a couple of unexpected stories to develop in return.
One came courtesy of an attorney named Philip Kief. Early during Lardon’s assistant pro days at Deerwood Club just north of Houston, he would walk the range on Saturday mornings and give tips to those who were interested. Kief, a young kid at the time, was often on the receiving end of Lardon’s advice.
Although the two hadn’t kept in contact, Kief heard about the campaign and sent Lardon an unexpected check.
“He sent me a note saying that it’s the least he could do after I walked the range giving him advice all those years ago,” Lardon said. “That was really amazing to see.”
Another great story that’s come from Lardon’s efforts is that TaylorMade has offered a new SIM driver to be raffled off to one of the people who donate. Better yet, the driver will be signed by one of their stars.
Lardon, who has been a TaylorMade staff member since 1991 when he played an ICW 5 set as a rookie on the PGA Tour, said there also will be prizes given to a few lucky contributors.
No matter the amount raised, Lardon hopes the intent of his campaign is contagious and can lift spirits during a difficult time.
“Really it’s about trying to provide value and security to the community,” Lardon said. “We just don’t know the answers and we’re all living day-to-day. We haven’t thought of a huge endgame, but I hope this can take a little bit of stress and anxiety off of other guys.” If you would like to donate to the cause, send an e-mail to Brad Lardon at Lardon4golf@gmail.com.