Valencia High alum Max Homa settling into PGA life

Max Homa is making just his fourth professional start on the PGA Tour this week at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

Michael Cohen

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — Over the last year, Valencia’s Max Homa has made competitive golf look easy at times. But other times, he’s showed just how difficult the professional grind can be.

The Valencia High grad who led the Vikings to a spot in the 2009 CIF Southern Section Championships is making just his fourth professional start on the PGA Tour this week at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Although the 23-year-old has some big credits on his resume — the 2013 NCAA Individual Championship at Cal, member of the winning 2013 Walker Cup team, U.S. Open — he’s also discovered the hard way that the rigors of a first-year PGA Tour player are much different than that of an amateur player.

"The biggest struggle is not seeing the courses before (the tournaments)," Homa said. "My last two weeks, playing Torrey Pines and and here, I mean that’s five courses I had to play for practice rounds and you really don’t get that many days."

His lack of course knowledge didn’t seem to bother him much in the Cal grad’s first ever pro start at the Frys.com Open in October. He finished tied for ninth at Cordevalle Golf Club, another Monterey Bay-area course. But the Farmer’s Insurance Open uses both of Torrey Pines’ courses, North and South, and the AT&T Pro-Am features a full rotation: Spyglass Hill Golf Club, Monterey Peninsula Country Club and Pebble Beach.

Practice rounds have become crucial and tournament experience invaluable.

"I’m still trying to figure out exactly how to prepare," Homa said. "This week especially, it’s going to be kind of tricky. But I think it’s all part of the learning curve. I think you also just have to be ready for the things like this. Once I kind of get a game plan, it will be a little bit easier.

"But this is only my fourth event, so I’m still getting used to it."

Following the performance at CordeValle, a beleaguered Homa went to PGA Tour Qualifying School. He was ready to blow it off. Q-School is one of the most mentally demanding grinds in sports and he was ready to coast off of the few sponsor’s exemptions his top-10 finish earned him.

But with still only little guaranteed, his mom convinced him to press on through Q-School. He finished tied for sixth, effectively graduating and earning a spot on the Web.com Tour and more status on the PGA Tour.

"It’s funny, now that I have that to fall back on it’s really just a nice security to have," Homa said. "I feel like if things don’t go the way I want them to out here, I have something to fall back on and it kind of gives me peace of mind."

But what would really give him peace of mind is a win. He came within striking distance and he liked what he saw. He might be young and inexperienced but he’s not counting himself out of the race this week at Pebble Beach, next week when he’s back at home in Los Angeles or any other week in any other Tour event.

"I mean ninth place, you’re not that far out of it," Homa said. "I actually felt like I was in it to win that last day. It kind of changed my perspective on what I should be thinking."

The way he’s thinking now is big.