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Jim Plotkin practices his golf swing at his home Monday in Carlsbad. Photo by Shana Thompson
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Carlsbad’s Jim Plotkin qualifies for USGA Senior Amateur Tournament

For Jim Plotkin, both the links and the Pacific Ocean’s waves are his calling, but if he had to choose which he prefers, then there’s trouble.

Plotkin, 57, of Carlsbad is a golfer and a surfer, who qualified for the USGA Senior Amateur tournament on July 16. He’ll compete in two rounds among 156 other golfers on Aug. 25, to determine who will take the top spot. There is no prize money involved, just lots of bragging rights, as well as many golf perks.

“I’m not sure if I had to pick golfing or surfing and stick to just that one sport I could,” he laughed. “I like them both.

“I am thrilled to have qualified as qualifying for a USGA event is at the top of my list. I’d love to do well in the tournament and play in several more before I can no longer compete at this level. My goal is at least two more, then will have played in three different USGA events three times.”

Over the years he has played in three NCAA Golf Finals, three USGA Amateurs and three USGA Mid-Amateurs. However, he hasn’t played in a USGA event since 2000, but said each is “very memorable and great tournaments to play in.”

Golf’s a calling, and real work

When he’s not hitting the waves or swinging a club on the golf course, Plotkin serves as the president of the Plotkin Group based in Carlsbad. The family business specializes in employee testing for selection, management, development and retention.

No stranger to the greens, the Fresno State graduate earned a business degree after attending the school thanks to a golf scholarship. He’s got a long history with the game of golf and has been playing since he was a 14-year-old growing up in San Bernardino.

“Since I played so much golf, surfing has been my favorite hobby for the last 21 years,” Plotkin said. Photo by Shana Thompson

“We joined a club that I could ride my back to. There were a bunch of kids around my age that would join up to play and practice all summer. Until I quit high school baseball, golf was my second favorite sport,” he said.

What’s the fascination with the game: “I love to compete and it’s a very challenging game. It is one sport that you can compete in until you are physically unable. Although, I have played very little competitive golf over the last 17 years. I hope to start competing more often in the next few years,” he said.

So, what’s his handicap?

“Currently I am a plus-1. Depending on the time of year determines how much I play. Anywhere from zero rounds a month to six times. I’m too busy with family and work to play much at this time of my life. Plus, I have two other hobbies that I enjoy as well, surfing and softball.”

Even though his handicap is impressive, Plotkin said his game isn’t perfect by a long shot.

“No one ever perfects golf, not even the pros on the PGA Tour. I have accomplished a lot in golf over the years, but the family is higher on the list than my golf game. At this point in my golf career, I’m a rusty good golfer,” he said.

He learned the game from his dad, Hank, as well as caddied for him when he was a kid.

“At the beginning I was … taking lessons for a long time. I practiced a lot which is one formula to get better,” he said. “I think the key to be a good golfer is lots of practice and play, and a good head on your shoulders. Golf is a mental game at all levels, especially tournament golf.”

According to his proud dad, who he took over the family business from 25 years ago:

“He plays senior softball along with me and is the highest rated player in our league,” he said. “He took over managing the Plotkin group from me after he decided to stop playing professional golf and settle down and raise a family. He can beat most people in ping pong or pool with either hand.”

He added that his son is “is a quiet, humble nice person like his mother.”

In addition to the above tournaments, Plotkin has competed and qualified in: One PGA Tour Final Qualifying Tournament, One Ben Hogan (now called Tour) Tournament, One season on the South African and Canadian Tours.

He’s also been a senior champion at his club, La Costa twice. Does he feel like a celebrity of sorts?

“No, not at all; I am just another player out there,” he said. “There are many good players at La Costa. We have lots of good golfers all over the county.”

As for life outside working, golfing and surfing, Plotkin is married to Bonnie and the couple have two teenagers, Eric, 16, and Rachel, 14, neither likes golf or surfing, he said. Although after a recent weekend of hitting the waves, Rachel might become a regular surfer with dad, he said.

His second passion, surfing, is one that he seems to have more time for; a couple times a week, he said.

“Since I played so much golf, surfing has been my favorite hobby for the last 21 years. I am closer to a 10-handicap surfing, but I still love it. I enjoy surfing because it is a great workout, riding a wave is like nothing else and it takes less time than golf.”

As for what keeps him young at heart, he has a simple philosophy of life:

“Take care of your family is rule No. 1; my philosophy is similar to my golf game: grind away, do not give up, practice to get better, keep improving, be consistent, take calculated risks and integrity.

“Also, be the best you can be at things that matter. You have to put in the time to be good at anything.”