MINNEAPOLIS -- The Tower Tee Family Golf and Recreation Complex opened in 1963 in suburban St. Louis. The facility expanded through the years until it now includes an 18-hole par-3 track, a driving range, a short game area, a mammoth putting green, a miniature golf course and batting cages.
Roy Lotz, a carpenter, started Tower Tee. It has stayed in the family and is now considered a St. Louis landmark.
"We have a great little par-3 course," Bob Gaus said. "We usually sneak around once a day with a foursome. You can play it in about 45 minutes, so the money changes hands very quickly."
Gaus is the teaching pro at Tower Tee. He keeps busy giving lessons, when he's not occupied with the 25 or so tournaments that make up the schedule for the Gateway Section of the PGA of America.
"I've been the (Gateway) Player of the Year six times," Gaus said. "I'm leading the points right now, so I have a good shot at No. 7."
Gaus gave up some ground earlier this month with a 78 in the Page & Tuttle Pro Open. This inflated score came at the Far Oaks Golf Club in Caseyville, Ill., where the tees can be stretched to 7,083 yards.
The task is somewhat larger (and longer) for Gaus this week. He is among 20 club pros and instructors who have qualified for this week's PGA Championship at Hazeltine National in Chaska.
"This is my fourth time in this tournament," he said. "My last major was the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. I thought that was long, but man, this is way over 7,600 yards."
Gaus shook his head and said: "I'm 48. I'm hitting it farther than I did in college because of technology, but 76 hundred plus. There are some holes I probably can't get to."
He contemplated the Big H's official 7,674 yards for another moment, then said: "If I hit it solid, I'll be OK. But if I don't ..."
If he doesn't -- if he hits like he did going around Far Oaks in 78 eight days ago -- Gaus will be back in St. Louis for the weekend, looking for a couple of 45-minute trips around the Tower Tee par-3.
Gaus played at Southern Illinois-Edwardsville and turned pro in 1983. He played in most any tournament he could find, put in time as an assistant pro and then was set up to give lessons at Tower Tee by Dick Lotz, the founder's son.
"Not Dick Lotz, the player who was a (PGA) Tour player for a number of years ... just Dick Lotz, a good guy," Gaus said. "Tower Tee's great for me because I set my schedule for lessons and can play a lot of tournament golf."
Check the Internet and you can find many reports of Gaus' lofty status on the local golf scene in St. Louis. He also was fully exempt on the Nike (or Buy.com) Tour for a couple of years in the mid-'90s. And he made another run at trying to get through the PGA Tour's Q School last fall.
"You never felt like settling down as a head pro at a private club in the home area?" someone asked.
Gaus smiled and said: "I wouldn't have lasted too long. It doesn't take a lot for me to go off. First time a member said, 'Your bag room lost my head cover,' that probably would've been it.
"And these days, those jobs aren't what they used to be. The pros used to have the shop and they could make a nice living. Now, most of the clubs take the revenue from the shop and are hiring a young guy to be a caretaker."
No matter their backgrounds, the triumph for the 20 club qualifiers comes in making the 36-hole cut. A total of 16 have done so over the previous 10 years.
"I had a chance to make the cut at Sahalee (Country Club, near Seattle) in '98, and then I gagged on the back nine," Gaus said. "That's what we're all trying to do: first, make the cut, then get that crystal trophy they give to the low club pro."