For Sandy Springs pro, PGA is a family outing

There are golfing families. And there are the Stevens.

Craig Stevens, 50, is a teaching pro at Steel Canyon Golf Club in Sandy Springs. His son, Chase, is an assistant pro at Highlands Country Club in LaGrange. His youngest daughter, Caitlin, will play as a freshman on the golf team at Reinhardt in the fall.

Chase Stevens will be on the bag while his sister and mother, Cindy, will hoof it around the Atlanta Athletic Club watching Craig Stevens compete in the PGA Championship this week, the third time he's qualified for a major.

Craig Stevens didn't have any trouble describing what it will mean to play in front of friends and family at the same course on which he appeared in this first PGA Championship.

"It's awesome," Craig Stevens said. "This will be my 10-year anniversary, and to play twice in Atlanta in the PGA is awesome."

He taught his kids how to play the game. Caitlin Stevens was 7 when she received her first set of clubs on Christmas, the same age when her father first played in Wichita Falls, Texas.

"This is the first really big golf tournament I've watched him," she said. "With me going off to college I'll get to learn. I'm really excited as his daughter, but the fact that I do play golf, I know what he's doing."

Caitlin Stevens was 8 and didn't watch when her father missed the cut with a 73-76 in Atlanta or when he shot 82-75 to miss the cut the next year at Hazeltine in Minnesota.

She will be taking it all in this time. Caitlin Stevens and her mother plan to wear same-colored shirts that match her father's – they went shopping a few weeks ago – for extra support.

They won't be his only group of followers. Chase Stevens said friends of his from Highlands will wear "Team Lumpy" shirts, saluting the nickname for Craig Stevens, who describes himself as a "thick person."

Chase Stevens will lug around his father's 35-pound bag in the summer heat, trying to stay focused.

"Hopefully I'll be in the zone from being starstruck watching everybody and won't make a fool of myself," he said. "Seriously, my whole job is to keep him light and entertained, and keep his mind off pressure."

Craig Stevens began teaching his son how to play when the latter was 3. Chase Stevens has a photo of his father helping him swing a plastic club in the backyard. Chase Stevens has caddied for his dad on numerous occasions, including both times he qualified for the PGA. He wasn't on the bag during either tournament, though, and wasn't there when Craig Stevens qualified for this year's event,  shooting 2 under at the PGA Professional National Championship in late June in Hershey, Pa.

Chase Stevens is looking forward to this tournament for all of those reasons.

"Just watching his name up there among everybody else and pulling into the parking lot and seeing his name on the practice range is just going to be surreal," he said.

Craig Stevens admittedly is worried about the course's length of 7,467 yards, but he has sizable goals.

"My wish is to shoot 2- and 3-under for Thursday and Friday and be in contention for the golf tournament," he said. "All the events I play in, I don't play for cuts. I play to be in contention for the golf tournament."

Craig Stevens' best score on the Highlands Course was 69 before a flurry of practice rounds last week. With a homemade swing, he drives the ball between 270-275 yards. He says he's a good putter who has good days but rarely bad ones.

Stevens, paired with Brendon de Jonge and John Rollins for the first two rounds, will tee off at 7:30 a.m. Thursday and 12:40 p.m. Friday.

"I have a lot of friends and relatives that will be there," he said. "It's going to be a very good week."