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Brett Upper
Brett Upper, the 1990 National Champion, took the scenic route to a 68. (Photo: The PGA of America)

Consistency on challenging day boosts Hebert to the lead

On a cool, windy and sometimes even rainy Sunday, defending champion Scott Hebert got off to the start he wanted with a bogey-free 66 at Santa Ana that was good for a one-shot lead. There's a seven-way tie for second, though only Vince Jewell and Kyle Flinton carded their 67s at Twin Warriors while the other five all did so at Santa Ana.

By Bob Denney, PGA.com Contributor

SANTA ANA PUEBLO, N.M. -- Defending Champion Scott Hebert of Traverse City, Mich., stepped to the podium a night earlier at the Champions Dinner, and told his peers that he hoped “to make a worthy defense” of his PGA Professional Golf Championship title.

The champ was worthy, and also a study in consistency Sunday at Santa Ana Golf Club, in the 42nd edition of the showcase event for PGA Professionals. Hebert posted a bogey-free, 5-under-par 66 on the 7,217-yard, par-71 layout on a day that became a catalog of weather patterns that yielded only 38 total sub-par rounds.

Hebert held his round together by making a pair of sterling par-saves and added a 30-foot birdie putt on the 12th hole to grab a one-stroke advantage over a seven-member group at 67 that included: Kyle Flinton of Oklahoma City, Okla.; Vince Jewell of Euless, Texas; Chip Johnson of Hingham, Mass., Kevin Savage of Oneida, N.Y.; Mark Sheftic of Ambler, Pa., Chris Starkjohann of Cardiff-by-the-Sea, Calif.; and David Von Hoffman of Austin, Texas.

The PGA Professional National Championship, featuring a $550,000 purse and 312 players representing 43 states and 41 PGA Sections, continues through Wednesday. Half of the field competed Sunday at nearby Twin Warriors Golf Club.

Brett Upper of Scottsdale, Ariz., the 1990 National Champion, led a quartet at 68, including Mark Fuller of Edmond, Okla.; Tony Kelley of West Springfield, Mass.; and Charles Meola of Mamaroneck, N.Y.

The low 70 scorers and ties following Monday’s round will conclude play Tuesday and Wednesday at Twin Warriors Golf Club.

Hebert, the PGA head professional at Grand Traverse Resort in Acme, Mich., made the most of his Santa Ana visit by making five birdies, including a 30-footer on the par-3 12th hole that boosted him to match his first-round 5-under-par effort a year ago.

“This is kind of eerie,” said Hebert. “I shot a 5-under first round last year at the opposite course last year. The weather was in and out and I was trying to get through the day. We’re in for a long day tomorrow, too.”

Hebert spent about two hours after the conclusion of his round joining in a taping of Golf Channel’s popular “The Golf Fix,” on the practice range at Twin Warriors Golf Club.

“It’s a lot of fun and I didn’t mind spending some time doing something more than my usual practice,” said Hebert. “I’m a regular watching that show.”

Hebert also is a regular when it comes to handling pressure, and he said that he felt he had handled the 5,052-foot elevation well in his first competitive appearance in New Mexico.

“I got to punch a few more shots. I am not used to playing in this elevation so it was a lot of guessing or educated guessing,” he said. “There wasn’t many holes into the wind. Most of the holes you had to figure with the cross [wind], which is not quite as tough.”

There was plenty of “educated guessing” taking place at Twin Warriors, which also plays to par-71 and measures 7,493 yards.

Jewell, 37, a PGA assistant professional at Brook Hollow Golf Club in Dallas, and Flinton, a PGA head professional at Quail Creek Golf & Country Club in Oklahoma City, shared the lowest rounds at Twin Warriors. Flinton finished third in the Championship last year and Jewell finished tied for 15th.

“This feels like a homecoming for me,” said Jewell, a 1994 graduate of New Mexico State University whose father, Paul, 64, served as his caddie. “I do know something about the weather that you will face here and what you can expect. You can expect it to be changing on your often.”

Jewell had five birdies and a bogey, and was lifted by a wind-aided 15-foot birdie putt on the par-4 third hole that broke from right to left on a plateau and fell into the cup.

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, Bruce Fleisher and Bob Sowards.

The PGA Professional National Championship is presented by Titleist, FootJoy and Cobra; 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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By establishing and elevating the standards of the golf profession through world-class education, career services, marketing and research programs, the Association enables PGA Professionals to maximize their performance in their respective career paths and showcases them as experts in the game and in the multi-billion golf industry.

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