Taft golf coach Chad Sorensen finds healing through competition at KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship

Taft College men's and women's golf coach Chad Sorensen. (Courtesy PGA)
Taft College men's and women's golf coach Chad Sorensen. (Courtesy PGA)
By Bob Denney
PGA Historian Emeritus
 
To read the complete story from PGA.com, click here.
 
Chad Sorensen was cooling down after his first round in a major championship Thursday at Southern Hills Country Club, when U.S. Ryder Cup Captain Steve Stricker passed by.
 
Such intersections with golfers who Sorensen admires are commonplace when you’re inside the ropes at the 2021 KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship.
For the 52-year-old PGA Head Professional at Buena Vista Golf Course in Taft, California, the Stricker sighting brought back instant memories. Sorensen used to mark “WWSSD” on his golf ball to honor his favorite golfer.
 
“‘What Would Steve Stricker Do’ was my swing thought when I was hitting wedges,” said Sorensen, who posted a first-round 6-over-par 76. “I didn’t switch the marking until four years ago. I stuck a sleeve of golf balls in Steve’s locker this week, hoping that he might sign them for me.”
 
Nearly four years ago, on July 20, 2017, Sorensen’s world—and how he marked his golf ball—changed forever. That’s when his wife, Raeleen, 51, and daughter Raegan, 19, were killed in Bakersfield, California, by a head-on collision with a drunk driver.
 
“I tried to put my daughter’s name on the ball, but I found out each time I saw it in the fairway I broke down,” said Sorensen. “I just have an ‘18’ on the ball now. That’s the same date as my daughter’s birthday (April), my wife’s birthday (October) and my wedding anniversary date (November).”

Sorensen made a “bucket list” of goals to honor his late wife and daughter. Earning a berth into a major was one, having tied for 14th last fall in the Senior PGA Professional Championship. This week’s experience carries extra significance with son Clayson, 21, serving as caddie.
 
“My son and I talked about how we might not hold it together once we finish a round on 18,” said Sorensen. “Making the cut would be something else, and is probably out of reach, but we were just trying to come here and enjoy ourselves. My daughter used to say, ‘Dad, you’ve got 18 holes, don’t worry about it. You’ve got 18 holes to play.’”
 
Also standing in his way, Sorensen hasn’t played a competitive round since January. The coach of both the men’s and women’s golf teams at Taft College, he’s had to oversee 26 events since mid-January, as the teams schedules ran concurrently due to the pandemic.
 
“My son has actually played for me on the men’s team an extra year due to COVID,” said Sorensen. “It’s been fun, and he’s the No. 1 player on my team. We travel in vans all around California, and he is now caddying for me. He’s kept me on the tightrope pretty good.”
 
Clayson, on his way to pursuing a career in the tech industry, works for his father in the golf shop at Buena Vista Golf Course and will transfer to California State University, Bakersfield next year.
 
Chad has a new partner, Launa Morton, who was in the gallery Thursday. Her daughter was friends with Sorensen’s late daughter, and Morton used to be in a “bunco” game group with Sorensen’s late wife. A friend suggested that Chad call Launa, and they began dating a couple of years ago.
 
“I told my son that I think I’m going to ask Launa Morton out, and he said, ‘Dad, if you end up with her, I’m good with that.’
 
To read the remainder of the story from PGA.com, click here.