Jim Souhan
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Alex Beach was born in Eden Prairie. His family moved when he was young and he attended Stillwater High School.

Wednesday, Beach practiced at Bethpage Black in preparation for his second appearance in a PGA Championship. An assistant club pro at Westchester Country Club, he’ll be surrounded this week by family members from Minnesota and friends from the New York area.

In the midst of a conversation about his roots, Beach paused beside the putting green outside the old Bethpage clubhouse and said:

“My first boss was Mike Tracy, the pro at Stillwater Country Club. He was the first guy to hire me, and the first guy to fire me. I know he’s going through some stuff right now. I wish him the best.”

A few years ago Tracy fell out of the back of a pickup truck and fractured his skull, leading to a long hospitalization and continuing convalescence.

“Every pro here has that first PGA pro who shaped their career,” Beach said. “I owe a lot of credit to him and the country club.”

Before a tournament that honors club pros, Beach honored the pro who inspired him to become a pro. Now Beach wants to prove that he can be a touring pro.

The lefthander missed the cut at the 2017 PGA. He qualified for the 2019 PGA by winning the PGA Professional Championship on May 1 in Bluffton, S.C. As well as a berth in the PGA Championship, Beach, 29, earned entry into six PGA Tour events over the next 12 months.

As a pro at renowned courses such as Baltusrol and Westchester, Beach has rubbed elbows with stars. Now he’d like to prove he can beat them.

“I’ve earned the opportunity to see what happens,” Beach said. “It only takes one great week to change everything — which I did two weeks ago. Now it only takes one more to really change everything.”

John Scanlon coached Beach at Stillwater High. He remembers a skinny kid with a ridiculously strong grip, a deft touch around the greens and a pronounced competitive streak.

“He was a small kid in high school,” Scanlon said. “I saw him about a year and a half ago in Florida, and he’s really buffed out. He always moved the ball pretty good, but he really moves it now. Which I guess you need to do to play the Black.

“He did it more with work ethic and talent than by visiting the best teaching instructors. He did this on his own.”

Beach attended Nebraska, where he studied PGA golf management, leadership and communication and befriended Minnesotan Mark Carter, who is part of Beach’s large entourage at Bethpage Black.

“This is the dream,” Carter said. “He’s put in the hours, and he knew he could do this. He has people from New York and New Jersey out there pulling for him, as well as Minnesotans. This is a home game.”

One of the challenges of a PGA teaching pro’s existence is finding time to actually play.

“I don’t have kids,” he said. “I’ve never really before now had the ultimate flexibility to practice and play. I’m now in that situation at Westchester, where they really support me to play and practice. I made time, and I simplified my game so I could work all week and still go out and play competitively. It’s been a lifetime of little things that culminated in where we are now.”

Where he was earlier this week was at the Champions dinner. In the official photo, he’s seated between Rory McIlroy and Jason Day.

Thursday, he’ll receive his “reward” for qualifying for this PGA — the brutally long and tough Bethpage Black course. Beach hadn’t played it until last week.

“It’s so good,” Beach said. “It’s pure golf. It’s hard. It’s a monster, but it’s fair. You have to hit good golf shots. If you don’t, you’re going to pay a price, and that’s how every major should be. It’s not quirky. Everything is right out in front of you.”

Like this rare opportunity for the once-skinny kid from Minnesota.

Jim Souhan’s podcast can be heard at TalkNorth.com. On Twitter: @SouhanStrib E-mail: jsouhan@startribune.com