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National Championship History
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2007: Sullivan Survives Health Issues, Playoff

Defending Champion: Chip Sullivan, Troutville, Va.
Site: Sunriver Resort, Bend Ore.
Date: June 21-24, 2007
Course: Crosswater Golf Club, Meadows Golf Club
Purse: $550,000
Par: Crosswater, 72; Meadows, 71
Mike Small

By T.J. Auclair, PGA.com Interactive Producer

SUNRIVER, Ore. -- It was a fairytale ending to a tumultuous seven-month period for Chip Sullivan.

After being diagnosed with hemochromatosis and developing a severe case of diabetes in December, the 42-year-old PGA Head Professional from Ashley Plantation in Daleville, Va., wasn't sure he'd ever be able to play competitive golf again. Think again.

On June 24, 2007, he hoisted the Walter Hagen Cup as the winner of the 40th PGA Professional National Championship at the Sunriver Resort and was greeted by emotional embraces from wife Kari, daughters Kalley and Camryn, and son Colby, after the final putt dropped.

"When I was diagnosed with hemochromatosis and diabetes I was just totally, 100 percent focused on that and just trying to get myself healthy," said Sullivan, who shot a 2-under-par 70 in the final round for a 6-under-par 281 total to overcome a one-shot deficit at the start of the day to defeat Ryan Benzel and 2005 champ Mike Small by four shots.

"I didn't touch a club for over three months. I didn't feel like it," he said. "Health-wise, I wasn't up to hitting balls or anything. This spring has been absolutely horrible -- horrible year for me as far as playing. I've just been struggling and this is the first shining moment here. I started hitting the ball well right before I got here and played a couple of nine-hole rounds with the members and played well and started building confidence," he added. "I would have never expected this seven months ago."

Benzel, a PGA Assistant Professional from Seattle Golf Club, entered the final round with a one-shot lead over Sullivan and Sullivan's fellow Virgina professional John O'Leary. Sullivan squashed that lead quickly with birdies on the first two holes to grab a share of the lead that he would never relinquish.

After a curling, downhill birdie putt dropped in at the ninth hole for an outward 4-under-par 32, Sullivan made the turn sporting a healthy three-shot lead. At times, it looked as though he was playing a different, far easier course than the rest of the field as temperatures in the 40s and blustery winds swept through the Crosswater Course, which yielded just six sub-par rounds on Sunday.

Small, the head men's golf coach at the University of Illinois and one of just two PGA Professionals who earned a spot in the 2007 U.S. Open at Oakmont, shot a 1-over 73 in the final round to tie for second with Benzel. In four trips to the PGA Professional National Championship, Small has yet to finish worse than fourth.

"It was tough because for someone who's not used to the altitude -- we were talking about this today -- when you get the wind so strong like this and then you've got to factor in the altitude, too, which is different on every shot, it's tough," Small said. "We're so used to a 165-yard shot being a 7-iron. Here it's 178 yards or something. It was tough to make some birdies."

Along with the Walter Hagen Cup, Sullivan also received a winner's check worth $75,000, a spot on the PGA Cup team, a berth in the PGA Championship at Southern Hills in August (awarded to the top 20 finishers in the PGA Professional National Championship), six PGA TOUR exemptions over a 12-month period and a Rolex watch to ensure he's not late for any of those tee times.

"Chip is a great story. He's a true PGA Professional, he's a great family man, he's inspirational, he's a true champion," said PGA of America President Brian Whitcomb. "I just don't know how we could do any better than that. The people in the Mid-Atlantic Section are as happy as they can be for Chip Sullivan."

2006: Philo Finally Closes the Deal

Defending Champion: Ron Philo, Jr., Westchester, N.Y.
Site: Turningstone Resort & Casino, Verona, N.Y.
Date: June 22-25, 2006
Course: Atunyote, Shenendoah
Purse: $550,000
Par: Atunyote, 72; Shenendoah, 72
Ron Philo

By T.J. Auclair, Junior Editor

VERONA, N.Y. -- It's not often that Ron Philo Jr. is happy about making a bogey. But he'll take this one any day.

Philo bogeyed the third hole of a sudden-death playoff at Atunyote Golf Club, but it was still enough to defeat Alan Schulte and win the 39th PGA Professional National Championship.

"I was in a playoff here two years ago in our Regional Championship [2004 Eastern Regional] and I was not successful, so I was pretty thrilled to just get off the 18th hole the first time because I didn't get beat on the first hole," said the 40-year-old champ. "I'm excited and I'm worn out and ready to sit down and have something to drink."

Both players parred the par-5 18th and the par-4 10th before heading to the 11th, a 210-yard par 3. While Philo was making his bogey after hitting his tee shot into the left rough, Schulte faltered with a double-bogey after finding the right lateral hazard with his tee shot, forcing him to take an untimely one-stroke penalty to get relief.

"In regulation I hit 6-iron and it came up in the bunker," Schulte said. "It's almost the right length. It didn't really feel like the wind was helping that much. I tried to cut a little 5-iron and I really just didn't hit it hard enough. If I had gone ahead and trusted it and hit it and made the swing for a cut, it probably would have turned out just fine. All you're trying to do is get it front left right there. That's a brutal hole location and it just didn't work out."

The victory, Philo's first in the National Championship, was worth $75,000 from the $550,000 purse. Schulte went home with $48,000. Philo also earned the prestigious Walter Hagen Cup, named after the legend who was one of the original 35 founders of the PGA of America.

"I thought that if I shot 67 and got double-digits under par, I could win," said Philo, who wound up shooting a 4-under 68. "If I had [shot 67], I would have avoided the playoff. That was kind of my target, although I wasn't really trying to pick a target score. I was just trying to keep getting birdies."

Schulte, who either led or was tied for the lead after the first three rounds, and Philo finished the regulation 72 holes tied for the lead at 10-under 278. Schulte, the head professional at The Hawthorns in Fishers, Ind., shot a final-round 71. He had the lead to himself with two holes to play, but bogeyed the 467-yard, par-4 17th. Earlier, Philo had the lead to himself on the 16th tee, but went bogey-bogey-par to finish at 10-under.

Philo has now posted four straight top-five finishes in the PGA Professional National Championship. But this one was definitely the best.

Earlier Sunday afternoon, with threatening skies hovering above, one sweet swing put Philo in prime position for his first title in the premier event for PGA club professionals.

The head professional at the Metropolis Country Club in White Plains, N.Y., and brother of LPGA star Laura Diaz, Philo began the day at 6-under, trailing 54-hole co-leaders Schulte and Small by three shots. That quickly changed just three holes into his final round.

Philo picked up a birdie at the second hole, then followed it up with a stunning hole-in-one at the 199-yard par-3 third hole with a 4-iron. Philo's third career hole-in-one temporarily gave him a share of the lead at 9-under.

"The hole-in-one was pretty neat," Philo said. "That was my third in competition and it was the longest one I've had. It's great -- it's where I was aiming. I was feeling pretty good about the fact that it went in. It's a very, very tough hole to get close to. It was early, so we still had a lot of golf to play and I was just trying to stay focused on playing more holes without getting too excited about that."

Diaz had just finished playing in the Wegmans Rochester LPGA earlier in the day in Pittsford, N.Y., where she tied for 17th, and made the nearly two-hour drive to Verona just in time to watch her older brother make par at the 72nd hole for a potential playoff -- Schulte still had to finish the last.

"I heard about the hole-in-one," Diaz said. "I called my mom on the way over here and asked, 'How's he doing? How's he doing'? At the time he had a two-shot lead. She told me he had a hole-in-one this morning and I said, 'No way! ' That was really exciting and then when we got here I watched him putt out on 18 [in regulation], gave him a hug and he said, 'Hey, I had a hole-in-one!' and I said, 'Yeah, how about that!'"

2005: Small Comes Up Big

Defending Champion: Mike Small, Savoy, Ill.
Site:Kiawah Island, S.C.
Date:June 23-26, 2005
Course:The Ocean Course
Purse: $500,000
Par: 72 (7,296 yards)
Mike Small

So, how does a college golf coach get a leg up on recruiting?

You follow the Mike Small plan by first winning a national championship on The Ocean Course, a Pete Dye-a-bolical layout where the wind is your partner and big numbers on scorecards are as commonplace.

Next, you withstand a day's rain delay after you were off to a great start in the third round, then you shake off Sunday morning rust and an opening bogey. Finally, you speed away to a 3-under-par 69 and rest in the clubhouse for over an hour before the verdict is in.

Simple? It was anything but textbook, though the 39-year-old University of Illinois coach made his tour of the 7,355-yard Ocean Course appear that he was well in control.

Small's 72-hole total of 1-over-par 289, the highest winning total in CPC history, earned him $67,000 from a purse of $500,000, and a big dose of satisfaction.

"It's a great feeling to know that I could come here and withstand my emotions in the tournament," said Small, a runner-up by a stroke a year ago. "Like [2002 Champion] Barry Evans said, 'Welcome to the club.' It's kind of nice to join those guys as a Champion."

Travis Long of Henderson, Nev., making his CPC debut, finished two strokes back after a 71. Long led Small by a stroke after cruising to 5-under par through 11 holes. But his chance to overtake Small faded away on the back nine with a pair of bogeys, and was capped by a double-bogey when his 7-iron tee shot found the water on the 17th hole.

"It was a little disappointing coming down there," said Long with a wry grin. "I knew I had to make one more birdie with three holes to go. I was struggling with the cameras around me. I was actually nervous all day. I think I tried to get a little too aggressive, play to the right of the pin and draw it right. I kind of blocked it out to the right."

Scott Spence of Shorewood, Minn., the third-round leader, struggled home with a 75 to finish third at 293. Darrell Kestner, the 1996 PGA Club Professional Champion from Glen Cove, N.Y., was fourth at 294 after a 70, and Ron Philo Jr. of Amelia Island, Fla., was fifth at 295.

Two-time Champion Tim Thelen of Richmond, Texas, two-time runner-up Bob Ford of Oakmont, Pa., and CPC rookie Brett Melton of Monee, Ill., shared sixth at 296. Ford rallied to 4-under-par on his round and within three strokes of the lead before being derailed by a pair of bogeys and a double-bogey to come in at 72.

Suzy Whaley of Farmington, Conn., the lone woman professional in the field and the first to make the cut in CPC history, finished tied for 64th with a 78.

2004: Whistling While He Worked

Defending Champion: Bob Sowards, Columbus, Ohio
Site:Nashport, Ohio
Date:June 24-27, 2004
Course:Longaberger Golf Club
Purse: $450,000
Par: 72 (7,250 yards)
Bob Sowards

In some 23 career rounds at Longaberger Golf Club, Bob Sowards of Columbus, Ohio, had gained enough course knowledge to apply for superintendent. He knew where every putt would break, where every hazard was located and could almost predict every change of direction in the wind.

The only missing piece to a championship puzzle, he said, was when to get aggressive and close out a victory. But Sowards was boosted by his caddie Sunday afternoon along with seven one-putt greens to hold off Mike Small of Champaign, Ill., by one stroke and win The 37th PGA Club Professional Championship.

Sowards' closing 2-under-par 70 gave him a winning total of 12-under-par 276, and bring home a career-high paycheck of $60,000 in the showcase event for PGA Professionals. A hard day's work also helped provide Sowards with a healthy down payment on a new family home in rural Columbus.

This is everything I had expected, said Sowards, the first Southern Ohio PGA member to win the CPC. My goal was to shoot every round in the 60s, but not having done that, I'm still happy."

Small, making his first appearance in the CPC closed with a solid back-nine 32 and a 69 for a 277 total. Chip Sullivan of Troutville, Va., was third at 280 after a 70.

Four players were another stroke back at 281, including Ron Philo, Jr., of Fernandina Beach, Fla., who had a 68; Tim Fleming of Oklahoma City, Okla., who had a 70; and third-round leader Jeff Coston of Blaine, Wash., who struggled home with a 77.

The low 25 scorers earned a berth in the 86th PGA Championship, Aug. 12-15, at Whistling Straits-Straits Course in Kohler, Wisc. For Small, it will be his first PGA Championship appearance.

Thelen, 42, an assistant professional at Bushwood Golf Center in Houston, Texas, finished with a 3-under-par 69 capped by a spectacular recovery for a bogey-5 from a greenside bunker on the 18th hole. His winning total of 6-under-par 282 earned him a first-place prize of $53,000 from a total purse of $400,000 along with exemptions into six PGA Tour events. In addition, the top 25 finishers earn berths in the PGA Championship in August.

Schneiter, the 1995 PGA CPC Champion and an assistant professional at Schneiter's PebbleBrook Golf Links in Sandy, Utah, just missed a 60-foot uphill birdie putt to finish with a 71 and 283.

Thelen, who also won the 2000 CPC, joined Roger Watson (1974-75) and the late Larry Gilbert (1981, '82, '91) as the only multiple winners of the nation's showcase event for PGA Professionals.

"It's awesome," said Thelen, who collected an eagle, three birdies and a bogey on Sunday. "When I got the trophy (The Walter Hagen Cup), I got goose bumps. You're Champion again for another year. And people earn their way to get here, all 156 players. They're all great players and you just got to stick to your game plan and not get disgusted if you hit a bad shot, especially on the golf courses that they have this tournament on each year."

2003: Twin Warriors

Defending Champion: Tim Thelen, Richmond, Texas
Site: Santa Ana Pueblo, N.M.
Date: June 19-22, 2003
Course: Twin Warriors Golf Club
Purse: $400,000
Par: 72 (7,624 yards)
Tim Thelen

Tim Thelen of Richmond, Texas, made a 20-foot eagle putt on the first hole Sunday at Twin Warriors Golf Club to grab a lead he wouldn't relinquish in the 36th PGA Club Professional Championship. And despite a furious rally by Steve Schneiter of Sandy, Utah, Thelen went on to capture a one-stroke victory and his second PGA CPC title in the last four years.

Thelen, 42, an assistant professional at Bushwood Golf Center in Houston, Texas, finished with a 3-under-par 69 capped by a spectacular recovery for a bogey-5 from a greenside bunker on the 18th hole. His winning total of 6-under-par 282 earned him a first-place prize of $53,000 from a total purse of $400,000 along with exemptions into six PGA Tour events. In addition, the top 25 finishers earn berths in the PGA Championship in August.

Schneiter, the 1995 PGA CPC Champion and an assistant professional at Schneiter's PebbleBrook Golf Links in Sandy, Utah, just missed a 60-foot uphill birdie putt to finish with a 71 and 283.

Thelen, who also won the 2000 CPC, joined Roger Watson (1974-75) and the late Larry Gilbert (1981, '82, '91) as the only multiple winners of the nation's showcase event for PGA Professionals.

"It's awesome," said Thelen, who collected an eagle, three birdies and a bogey on Sunday. "When I got the trophy (The Walter Hagen Cup), I got goose bumps. You're Champion again for another year. And people earn their way to get here, all 156 players. They're all great players and you just got to stick to your game plan and not get disgusted if you hit a bad shot, especially on the golf courses that they have this tournament on each year."

2002: Valhalla once again center stage

Defending Champion: Wayne DeFrancesco, Baltimore, Md.
Site: Louisville, Ky.
Date: June 20-23, 2002
Course: Valhalla Golf Club
Purse: $300,000 awarded in 2001
Par: 72 (7,030 yards)

The nation's finest PGA Professionals will determine their national champion for the first time in the Bluegrass State, June 20-23, 2002. The 35th PGA Club Professional Championship becomes the third premier event staged at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville,Ky., site of two of the most dramatic PGA Championship victories.

In 1996, Mark Brooks birdied the 18th hole twice in a span of 30 minutes first to earn a playoff berth opposite Kentuckian Kenny Perry and the second time to win the 78th PGA Championship.

But, perhaps the most memorable major championship in modern history came in 2000 when world No.1-ranked Tiger Woods and Tour journeyman Bob May battled 21 holes on an August Sunday in the 82nd PGA Championship. Woods and May sank birdie putts on the 72nd hole to set up the first three-hole aggregate score playoff in a major championship. Woods birdied the 16th hole, and then scrambled for pars with May to emerge a one-stroke victor.

Valhalla has earned its perch as a center of golf's greatest theater, and the 35th PGA Club Professional Championship which has had its share of thrills over the past three decades is next up on the national stage.

2001: True Grit returns to Crosswater

Champion: Wayne DeFrancesco, Baltimore, Md.
Site: Sunriver, Ore.
Date: June 21-24, 2001
Course: Crosswater Club
Purse: $300,000
Par: 72 (7,470 yards)
Entries: 156, Cut at 145 (70 players advanced)

Wayne DeFrancesco

John Wayne gave his Academy-Award winning performance as Sheriff Rooster Cogburn in "True Grit," a 1969 film that was shot on location at Sunriver (Ore.) Resort and near today's Crosswater Club. Wayne DeFrancesco of Baltimore,Md., who has seen the film has also lived the life of "True Grit." He survived three back operations by 1988, and was told by doctors to give up competitive golf.

Like Rooster Cogburn, DeFrancesco had other ideas how to achieve his dreams. DeFrancesco began the 34th PGA Club Professional Championship with a 7-under-par, course record 65, then added middle rounds of 69 and 72, before battling cold, drizzle and a steady wind at Crosswater Club to finish with a 72. He tapped in for par on the 72nd hole for a winning total of 10-under-par 278, threestrokes better than 2000 Champion Tim Thelen of Richmond,Texas; MarkBrown of Glen Cove, N.Y., John Aber of Pittsburgh, Pa., and Don Berry ofMaple Grove, Minn.

DeFrancesco had back operations in 1983, 1986 and '88. Two vertebrae in his spine were fused in the second operation. But the vertebrae had grown too well and his third operation was to cut away more bone to take pressure off the nerves in his back.

"After the operation I worked to get a real estate license in Virginia in 1989. And,I got married," said DeFrancesco. "I didn't play golf for two years. I got a teaching job at Woodholme in 1991." DeFrancesco came back to the game slowly, and was the low PGA club professional in the 1995 PGA Championship. The past six months, DeFrancesco has worked with a physical therapist, Greg Rose, of Rockville,Md. DeFrancesco has lost 15 pounds and said he is renewed.

"The last six months I have been working out an hour to an hour and a half," he said. "This is the first time I have really felt normal. I walked this place and my back is fine. It's like a new me."

DeFrancesco became the only player in the history of this national championship to hold the lead alone all four days. A field of 156 PGA Professionals representing 39 states competed on the longest layout (7,470 yards) in PGA ofAmerica history that also includes the PGA Championship. The field averaged 73.59 strokes on the demanding Bob Cupp-designed layout.

  Course average Under par At par Over par Round leader Low round Wayne DeFrancesco
Rd. 1 73.58 41 19 96 65 - Wayne DeFrancesco 65 - Wayne DeFrancesco 65 - 1st
Rd. 2 73.05 55 27 73 134 - Wayne DeFrancesco 67 - Robin Wilkin 134 - 1st
Rd. 3 72.50 28 8 34 206 - Wayne DeFrancesco 68 - Tim Fleming, Mark Miekle, Dave Nordeen 206 - 1st
Rd. 4 75.93 3 7 60 278 - Wayne DeFrancesco 70 - Mark Brown, Don Berry 278 - 1st
Totals 73.60 127 61 263      

2000: Oak-la-homa Bound

Tim Thelen
Champion: Tim Thelen, Richmond, Texas
Site: Edmond, Okla.
Date: June 22-25, 2000
Course: Oak Tree Golf Club
Purse: $300,000
Par: 71 (7,015 yards)
Entries: 156, Cut at 154 (78 players advanced)

A spectacular lightning display hovered long enough ... almost seven hours ... near Oak Tree Golf Club on a Sunday morning. Mother Nature's exhibition cancelled the final 18-hole round of the 33rd PGA Club Professional Championship, but it didn't end the dramatics. A contingency plan of a five- hole cumulative score playoff was deployed to decide the winner of the Walter Hagen Cup. Tim Thelen of Richmond,Texas and Mark Brown of Glen Cove, N.Y., who had tied after 54 holes at 1-over-par 214, marched to the 10th tee on a soggy Oak Tree layout to decide the national championship. Thelen, a 39- year-old assistant at Baywood Country Club in Pasadena, Texas, opened the duel by saving par from a greenside bunker. Two holes later, at the 131-yard par-3 13th, Thelen hit a sand wedge to within four feet of the hole. Brown's tee shot sailed wide right into a grassy swale, from where he saved par with a brilliant recovery pitch and made a 10-foot par putt. But Thelen's one-stroke margin held up on the par-4 14th, as he two-putted for par from 35 feet and Brown followed by missing his downhill 20-foot birdie attempt. Thelen had learned much from his CPC appearance one year earlier, when he tied for eighth at Whistling Straits in Kohler,Wis. "I had been there before and gone through the pressure. I felt I was ready. Oak Tree was without question the toughest golf course I've played in my life - by two shots."

  Oak Tree averages Sub-par rounds Par rounds Rounds over par Round leader Tim Thelen
Rd. 1 76.7 2 4 149 69 - Bob Boyd 72 - T7th
Rd. 2 7707 3 1 151 67 - Shawn Kelly 142 - T1st
Rd. 3 75.7 3 5 70 69 - Jeff Freeman 214 - T1st*
Totals 76.9 8 10 3703    

Won five-hole cumulative score playoff