Scott Hebert became the fourth Michigan PGA Section winner to capture the Walter Hagen Cup. (Photo: The PGA of America)
2008: Great Scott! Hebert edges Skinner to claim victory
Scott Hebert of Michigan shot a final-round 68 at Reynolds Plantation's Great Waters course to edge Georgia's Sonny Skinner by a single shot and capture the 2008 PGA Professional National Championship.
By Bob Denney, PGA.com Contributor
LAKE OCONEE, Ga. -- Scott Hebert of Traverse City, Mich., where the legendary Walter Hagen spent his final years, capped a 41st PGA Professional National Championship with a back-nine charge that the Haig would have applauded.
The 39-year-old Hebert, a PGA head professional at Grand Traverse Resort & Spa in Acme, Mich., rallied from a three-stroke deficit with birdies on five of his first seven holes of the back nine. It was the momentum he needed for a closing 4-under-par 68 and a one-stroke victory over Sonny Skinner of Sylvester, Ga., in the showcase event for PGA Professionals.
Hebert, who had endured a personal drama a week earlier with the premature birth of his daughter, was noticeably calm and composed as he crafted a memorable final round for a winning total of 12-under-par 276 on the 7,043-yard Great Waters layout.
Skinner, 47, a cool veteran who had some 300 Tour events under his belt before assuming the PGA director of golf post at River Pointe Golf Club in Albany, Ga., finished with a 69. He saw his potential tying birdie putt run past on the 18th hole.
Hebert, who had pitched from 30 yards behind the green to eight feet past the flagstick, lagged to tap-in range for the victory, making him the fourth Michigan PGA Section member to win this National Championship.
Kyle Flinton of Oklahoma City, Okla., who shared the third-round lead, came home with a 72 to finished third at 280. Ryan Benzel of Bothell, Wash., who tied for runner-up last year, had a 67 to share fourth with two-time Champion Tim Thelen of College Station, Texas, who closed with a 69.
Hebert picked up the Walter Hagen Cup for his work and a check of $75,000 from a total purse of $550,000. He will be leading a delegation of 20 PGA Professionals to the 90th PGA Championship, Aug. 7-10, at Oakland Hills Country Club in Bloomfield Township, Mich.
"This means everything to me, and it's the greatest thing that I've ever won," said Hebert. "To play there [his home state] will be extra special. That atmosphere is going to be incredible and fun to be around."
Hebert said that he took a long look at the crystal, the Walter Hagen Cup, which he hoisted after the round and realizing that his name will be connected to the big prize.
"That's special," he said. "The name Walter Hagen and what he has done with The PGA and for golf ... The guy is a legend, so to have your name on it means a lot."
The final round appeared to be in the steady hands of Skinner, who had built a two-stroke lead over Flinton and by three over Hebert after nine holes. But, it was all Hebert's show after that. He birdied the 10, 11 and 12, then birdied the par-4 15th and added a 20-footer on 16 for insurance. Hebert needed 30 putts, hit 15 greens and had the right tempo for the final nine of what appeared to be a putting exhibition.
Yet, the duel wasn't over until the par-5 final hole, where spectators mounted hills and some were perched in their water craft to watch the final moments.
Skinner had set up the closing dramatics by trimming the deficit to a stroke with an eight-foot birdie on the par-3 17th hole. He then hit his tee shot on the 18th tee just into the first cut of rough on the right side of the fairway. His ensuing approach landed 15 yards to the right of the green. Hebert's approach landed safely behind and above right of the green.
Skinner watched Hebert's pitch and then stepped up and hit a soft pitch that caught the fringe of the green and left him with a 20-foot birdie try.
"I knew that Scott was going to get to the green easily, and I wanted to put a little pressure on him by getting my ball as close to the green as I could," said Skinner. "Somehow I missed that little chip. I did make a good run at that last putt, and wished I could have putted like that earlier in the round."
Hebert graciously praised his opponent.
"Sonny is a terrific golfer and a tremendous gentleman," said Hebert. "He could easily have been standing here instead of me, but that's golf.
Hebert said that he could not wait to contact his wife, Laurie, who had been released from the hospital just a day after he arrived for a practice round at the National Championship.
"My daughter (Susie) wasn't due until July 12, "said Hebert, a six-time Michigan Open champion. "But, she was doing well when I had left to come here, and her health was never in danger. She just needed time to spend time in the hospital to develop a little more. To be honest, I was surprised how well I hit it, but I was happy to be here."
Flinton, the co-leader after 54 holes, failed to keep up with Hebert and Skinner's sizzling duel. Trailing by two strokes after 12 holes, he bogeyed the 13th and never recovered.
"It's hard to be disappointed, this being my first [PGA Professional] National Championship," said Flinton, a three-time TaylorMade-adidas PGA Assistant Professional Champion. "And, I'm looking forward to playing in Michigan."
Established in 1968, The PGA Professional National Championship roster of Champions includes past and present Tour professionals: Sam Snead, Bob Rosburg, Don Massengale, Ed Dougherty, Larry Gilbert and Bruce Fleisher.
The PGA Professional National Championship is presented by Titleist, FootJoy and Cobra; Buick and Club Car. Golf Channel is an exclusive media partner, and the PGA Tour is the Supporting Sponsor of PGA of America Member Championships. The 41 Section Championships and the National Championship offer a combined purse of $1.5 million.
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