Steve Schneiter didn't let a bad break get him down on Friday. (Photo: PGA of America)
Steve Schneiter didn't let a bad break get him down on Friday. (Photo: PGA of America)

Perseverance pays off for three never-say-die grinders

Steve Schneiter, Donald Yrene and John Traub are scattered up and down the scoreboard after two rounds at Turning Stone, but they shared one thing on Friday. All three displayed an admirable ability to bounce back from a run-in with trouble.

By T.J. Auclair, Junior Editor

VERONA, N.Y. -- One of the most valuable aspects of a strong golf game is perseverance.

Not a lot of people have it. Perseverance -- or lack thereof -- defines a player's character. If he makes a mess of a hole, does he let it linger to other holes? Or does he take it like a man with short-term memory and mop it up before things get out of control?

Among the professional ranks, a player with exceptional perseverance is often referred to as a "grinder." With that in mind, there may not have been three bigger grinders at the 39th PGA Professional National Championship at the Turning Stone Resort Casino in Central New York on Friday than Steve Schneiter, Donald Yrene and John Traub.

Through two rounds, Schneiter, a PGA Professional from Sandy, Utah, was just one shot off the lead at 7-under-par. After a birdie on his 15th hole of the day, he became the only player in this year's National Championship to reach 9-under-par and had a one-shot lead at the time.

However, the par-4, 400-yard seventh hole at Shenendoah Golf Club -- his 16th hole of the day -- turned out to be an adventure he would rather not have had.

"I played solid all day except for on No.7, where I unfortunately had a bad break," he said. "I pulled the ball to the left of the green and buried it in the lip of the bunker. Unfortunately, the bunker was not raked properly before and it landed in a bad position. It took me two strokes to get out of the bunker. I then missed my 10-foot bogey putt."

Schneiter left that double-bogey on the seventh green and bounced back to make two solid pars to put himself in excellent position for the weekend for a crack at his second National Championship title.

"I feel good about the position that I'm in, as I still have a good chance to possibly win again for the second time in this National Championship," said Schneiter, the 1995 winner. "As a past champion, I have great confidence since I've been successful here in the past."

Yrene, the 39-year-old head professional from The Golf Club of Scottsdale in Arizona, was another grinder who didn't let a run-in with double-trouble get the best of him.

After a birdie on the first hole at Shenendoah, followed by a solid par, Yrene did his best impersonation of one of his beginner students and took a smoke-out-of-the-ears-inducing double-bogey at the 456-yard, par-4 third hole that dropped him to 1-under and seven shots off the lead.

"The third hole was a disaster," he said. "I hit a duck-hook, pulled it left and made a double. I tried to just hang in there and stay calm."

That attitude paid off, as Yrene birdied the very next hole.

"That really calmed me down and helped me to stay poised," he said of the birdie. "I played good."

After going double-bogey, birdie, Yrene picked up four more birdies and one bogey to shoot 3-under 69. At 5-under-par, he was tied for seventh, just three shots out of the lead.

"It was huge [bouncing back from the double-bogey with a birdie]," he said.

Finally, there's Traub. Nobody ever said a grinder wasn't susceptible to a little luck. If they did, he wasn't paying attention.

Traub, a 55-year-old from Rochester, Mich., playing in his 24th National Championship -- he won the title in 1980 -- figured he needed to make an eagle on his last hole of the day to make the cut.

The problem, however, was that Traub didn't have a reachable par 5 to finish, which greatly diminished his chances for an eagle. Instead, he had the ninth hole at Shenendoah, a 183-yard par 3. The tee shot is from an elevated tee box, over a wetland area, up to a heavily undulated green -- the kind you'd find at a mini-golf course on a hole requiring a putt through a clown's mouth and under a windmill.

With one swing of a 7-iron, Traub did the unthinkable and aced the hole for, well, an eagle. It was the sixth hole-in-one of his career and his fifth in competition. So apparently it wasn't that big a deal. As it turns out, a par on that hole would have earned him a spot on the weekend. But, telling people you needed an ace -- and got it -- to make the cut is definitely a cooler story.

"I decided to hit a hard 7-iron and hit a really good shot straight at the pin," he said. "It hit the front of the green and rolled right into the cup. I had some pressure throughout the whole round since I knew that I was close to making the cut after this round."

So much for the pressure.

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