Golf Buzz

June 22, 2014 - 3:33pm
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T.J. Auclair
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Daniel Korytoski
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Daniel Korytoski, PGA Head Professional at Orchard Hills Golf Course in Newnan, Ga., was at the Dunes Club Sunday playing the waiting game and hoping for his first start in the PGA Professional National Championship.

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. -- Daniel Korytoski was living a lonely, anxious life Sunday on the driving range at the Dunes Club.

Korytoski, PGA Head Professional at Orchard Hills Golf Course in Newnan, Ga., you see, was the first alternate at the Dunes Club in the 47th PGA Professional National Championship.

Should anyone withdraw, Korytoski needed to be ready to run over to the first or 10th tee to take their place and make his National Championship debut.

RELATED: Complete PNC coverage | Mickelson's college roommate | Get to know the Dunes

"Obviously you don't want anyone to get injured or anything like that," said Korytoski, who had been by the Dunes Club driving range for roughly six hours already when we spoke. "It's been a long day. I got here nice and early, had a big breakfast after the morning wave finished teeing off. I initially went over to Grand Dunes, but there were two other alternates over there, so I said, 'well, I'm going to go over to Dunes Club then' and I'm the first alternate over here. The first alternate already got in over there."

That's right -- Justin Stelzer, an assistant professional from Rancho La Quinta Country Club, snuck into the field at Grand Dunes when 2001 National Champion Wayne DeFrancesco withdrew due to back problems.

"If I'm able to get in it would mean a lot," Korytoski said. "It's what we all play for. It would be very special. I've got a lot of support back home. It would be good to get in. It would be fun."

There was a withdrawal at the Dunes Club -- 1980 National Champion John Traub pulled out after hitting his opening tee shot. However, since Traub hit a shot, no one was eligible to replace him.

Korytoski said he left his home in Georgia at 3 a.m. on Friday to make the 6 1/2-hour trek to Myrtle Beach. Immediately upon arrival, he went out for a practice round.

"I was pretty tired after having driven 6 1/2 hours and then walking 18," he said. "But I slept good Friday night."

So what does an alternate do while hoping for that spot in the field?

A sweat-covered Korytoski explained.

"I've gotten in lots of practice today," he said. "Lots of practice and drinking lots of water just in case. Occasionally I've walked over to the first tee to find out what the situation is, but I told the officials, 'Listen, I'm right here at the end of the range. If someone's late, just wave your hand and I'll walk over there to see what happens.'"

And when he wasn't practicing, or checking in with officials, Korytoski was mingling with fellow Georgia Section member Sonny Skinner, who recently became the Senior PGA Professional Player of the Year Award winner for the fourth year in a row.

"I know Sonny Skinner very well," Korytoski said. "He beats me to death whenever we play. Actually, I think I beat him one time for 18 holes, but that's about it. What a phenomenal player he is. His work ethic is second to none. He's the Senior Player of the Year and a good friend of mine. I'm glad we have him in the Section, but it's tough to be in the Section with him because he's so good. But, it makes everybody else better. We strive to get better because of Sonny."

On Sunday, Korytoski wasn't worried about Skinner -- he just wanted a spot in the field.

June 22, 2014 - 2:52pm
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
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Ben Weir
PGA of America
Ben Weir made his PGA Professional National Championship debut on Sunday. Weir was a college roommate and teammate at Arizona State with five-time major champion Phil Mickelson.

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. -- When you think of the name "Weir" in golf, you probably think of 2003 Masters Champion Mike Weir, a lefty.

But this story is about another "Weir" and his connection to arguably the world's most famous "Lefty," Phil Mickelson.

Meet Ben Weir. The 44-year-old PGA Director of Instruction at Red Mountain Ranch CC and John Jacobs' Schools in Mesa, Ariz., is in Myrtle Beach competing in his first PGA Professional National Championship.

RELATED: Complete PNC coverage | Preview | Get to know the Dunes | Photos

Weir spent two years (1990-91) as the college roommate and teammate of Mickelson, the five-time major champion, at Arizona State. The pair were members of the 1990 National Championship team (Mickelson won the individual title in 1989, 1990 and 1992).

"You can't argue about being able to live with and play alongside the best short-game expert in the world. But, if that's my only claim to fame, I'm in trouble, right?" Weir joked.

"Phil was great," he added. "I took a lot of notes when I lived with him. He always said he thought I'd be a better teacher than a player. It's hard to do both. You're either one or the other. I revert back to a lot of things he said in college and I've tried to live by that every day. It's helped me with my success and kind of revived my career a little bit."

Weir became a Class A PGA Professional just over a year ago. In his National Championship debut at the Dunes Club on Sunday, he shot a 2-over 74. Given the conditions -- hot and not much wind to speak of -- Weir admitted the round could have been better.

But, were it not for some Mickelson-esque short game magic, it could have been worse too.

"The real turning point for me was on No. 15," he explained. "I had a good drive and I flew the green into the back bunker. I had to pitch out of the bunker sideways because there was no way to hold the green. It would have run off the front of the green. So I chipped out 25 feet to the right so I could have a flat putt. Then I made the putt for par. That was really the turning point and gave me that momentum to birdie 16, the par 5. There are no gimmes out here, but 16 and 17 are both birdie chances if you put it in the right spot. No. 18 here is a 'hang tough' hole, so I was happy to finish with a par."

On Monday, Weir will move over to Grande Dunes for his second round, where -- based on the stats -- lower scores are easier to come by.

Weir will have to go low to make it into the third round. New this year, the top 90 players and ties advance to the third round of the National Championship. There's then a second cut after 54 holes to the top-70 and ties for the final round.

Weir didn't want to get too far ahead of himself, but should he make it to Valhalla, you can bet he'll be penciling in a special practice-round partner.

"If I'm lucky enough to earn a spot in the PGA Championship this week, I will for sure be playing a practice round with Phil at Valhalla," he said. "If it means we're a six-some on Tuesday of that week, I'll be playing with him. He won't get away from me."  

Michael Breed
2012 PGA Teacher of the Year Michael Breed hosts "The Golf Fix" on the Golf Channel.

Five PGA Professionals competing this week in the 47th PGA Professional National Championship will be featured Monday with program host Michael Breed on Golf Channel’s “The Golf Fix” at 7 p.m. ET.

INSTRUCTION VIDEO: Michael Breed on tricky fairway lies

The following PGA Professionals will provide advice alongside Breed, the 2012 PGA Teacher of the Year and PGA director of instruction at the Michael Breed Golf Academy in West Nyack, N.Y.:

· Rob Labritz – PGA director of golf, GlenArbor Golf Club, Bedford Hills, New York

· Kelly Mitchum – PGA assistant professional, Pinehurst (North Carolina) Resort

· John Nieporte – PGA head professional, Trump International Golf Club, West Palm Beach, Florida

· Karen Paolozzi – PGA assistant professional, Druid Hills Golf Club, Atlanta, Georgia

· Ryan Polzin – PGA head professional, Royal Oaks Country Club, Houston, Texas

The program airs following "Golf Central" and the second round of the National Championship.


June 22, 2014 - 11:59am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
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Wayne DeFrancesco
PGA of America
Citing a bad back, 2001 champion Wayne DeFrancesco withdrew from 47th PGA Professional National Championship on Sunday.

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. -- Wayne DeFrancesco withdrew prior to the start of his first round in the PGA Professional National Championship citing a bad back.

DeFrancesco, the 2001 National Champion, was replaced in the field by Justin Stelzer from La Quinta, Calif.

RELATED: Complete PNC coverage | Preview | Get to know the Dunes | Photos

In all, DeFrancesco -- PGA Teaching Professional at Lakewood Country Club in Rockville, Md.-- has participated in 17 National Championships and has competed in the PGA Championship on five occasions.

In 2001, at the Crosswater Club in Sunriver, Oregon, DeFrancesco became the only player in the history of the National Championship to hold the lead alone all four days. His final-round even-par 72 was good for a three-stroke victory.
DeFrancesco, who opened the National Championship with a course-record 7-under-par 65, became the first PGA Professional National Champion from the Middle Atlantic PGA Section.
Stelzer, an assistant professional from Rancho La Quinta Country Club, is making his National Championship debut. 


June 22, 2014 - 11:30am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
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Tom Gillis
USA Today Sports Images
Tom Gillis, a member of the Tour, received backlash from fans at the Air Capital Classic Saturday because of some remarks he made on social media Thursday about members of the host course, Crestview CC in Wichita, Kansas.

In case you missed it earlier this week, Tour player Tom Gillis -- who has spent time on the PGA Tour in the past -- sent out a tweet Thursday that got a lot of attention.

And it probably wasn't the kind of attention the Tour was looking for from one of its players.

Gillis, competing in this week's Air Capital Classic presented by Aetna in Wichita, Kansas, sent this out on Thursday:

He followed that tweet with this one:

Naturally, the membership at Crestview Country Club -- the host site -- weren't happy about what Gillis had to say.

Neither was Tour official Tom Hearn.

As reported by Golf News Net, Hearn said that while the PGA Tour does not discuss disciplinary measures for its players, the Tour would be following up.

"I would like to say that hopefully the Crestview membership knows from the bottom of our hearts that is absolutely not the representation of the rest of the players and staff," Hearn said in the Golf News Net report. "When we come here, we are treated tremendously, and it’s a very unfortunate comment."

As you might expect, fans attending the Air Capital Classic let Gillis know how they felt about what he had to say on social media. It turned into a scene right out of "Happy Gilmore."

Fellow Tour player D.J. Brigman captured this video of what greeted Gillis as he played the 17th hole on Saturday:


To his credit, Gillis could appreciate where the fans were coming from and sent out this tweet Saturday night:

Lesson learned.


June 22, 2014 - 7:38am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
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Dunes Golf & Beach Club
PGA of America
The Dunes Golf & Beach Club in Myrtle Beach, S.C., will pose a stern test for the 312 PGA Professionals this week hoping to earn a berth into the 2014 PGA Championship.

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. -- Under partly cloudy skies, the 47th PGA Professional National Championship presented by Club Car, Mercedes-Benz and OMEGA teed off this morning at The Dunes Golf & Beach Club and Grande Dunes Resort Club.

The first two rounds of the tournament, featuring 312 players, will be played at both courses for the first two rounds before moving to the Dunes Golf & Beach Club exclusively after the 36-hole cut is made.

RELATED: Complete PNC coverage | Preview | Get to know the Dunes | Photos

The PGA Professional National Championship is one of the most special events in all of golf, as the top 20 finishers will earn a berth in the 2014 PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky., in August.

It's not easy to get in any major and this week is no exception.

Twenty players, on the number, earn that coveted spot in the PGA Championship field this week. If there are ties for that 20th spot, a playoff is contested at the conclusion of the PGA Professional National Championship, creating the ultimate "tournament-within-a-tournament" situation.

It doesn't get anymore dramatic for that final spot than it did a year ago when the tournament was played at the Sunriver Resort in Sunriver, Ore. After 72 holes, there was a six-man playoff to decide the final three berths to the PGA Championship.

Two players -- Danny Balin and Bob Gaus -- moved on quickly, both with birdies on the first playoff hole, leaving Rob Labritz, Jason Schmuhl, Chris Black and Corey Prugh to play for the final spot.

Labritz looked to be out of the mix after drawing an awful lie with his tee shot in a fairway bunker on the 457-yard, par-4 11th hole -- the second hole of the playoff. Forced to punch out while the others played onto the green, Labritz proceeded to miraculously hole out for birdie from 95 yards with a 53-degree gap wedge.

Here's the shot:



After none of the others matched the birdie, the 42-year-old Labritz was in his fourth PGA Championship.

"I don't have many words," Labritz said. "It's been an emotional week, but a great ending to it. What a way to go back to the PGA at Oak Hill."

It will be fun to see what kind of drama is in store this time around at Myrtle Beach.