On Cut Day, joy and anguish found at scoreboard
By John Kim, PGA.com Coordinating Producer
SUNRIVER, Ore. -- Just behind the beautiful Crosswater Club clubhouse, overlooking the snowcapped Mt. Bachelor and the Little Deschutes River that meanders around the scenic layout, stands a crowd of golf professionals who are incapable of noticing any of the amazing aesthetics that surround them.
Because they are staring at the largest handwritten scoreboard they've ever seen, hoping and praying that their two-day total will allow them to continue to enjoy this Pacific Northwest paradise for two more days. That’s no small task, considering there are 312 of the top playing PGA Professionals in the field, and the cut will pare them down to the top 70 and ties. (For perspective, most PGA Tour events allow nearly half the field to make the cut. In this event, less than a quarter will get to stick around.)
It is one of the most surreal scenes in golf – a mix of anticipation and nerves, celebrations and raw emotions. This is obviously more than a championship to so many of these players – it is a chance to significantly change their lives. And every hope and dream, every disappointment and every bit of sweat and tears that went into their last year of golf is represented on this scoreboard.
The 40-foot-wide, 8-foot-high board is a mammoth and intricate array of calligraphy filled with names, numbers and colors; each telling a story of triumph or heartbreak. The numbers in red indicate under-par scores (whether by round or two-day total), the numbers in black indicate scores over par. The large summary sheet in the middle of the board places names under a score – and the ever-important cut number is indicated by a large circle that ominously roams all around the board throughout the day, until it settles on the magic number.
As the players gather around, some looking on their phone while simultaneously staring at the board, the tension in the crisp Oregon air is palatable. The magic number would be either +1 or +2, and those that hovered in that area could not draw their attention away as the scored continued to get posted. Most could have monitored the scores remotely, but there is something about the celebration or commiseration of a group that makes watching the final numbers trickle in a little more palatable.
Some players stare at the board for several minutes, almost willing the numbers to change. Others take a quick glance and then huddle with family and friends to discuss their chances.
"I had a number in mind this morning," said Kelly Mitchum, an assistant professional at Pinehurst Resort, "and then I go out double the first hole today. But I said I wanted to get to 2 over and I battled back to get there. Now it's just wait and see. I hope it's enough. I'd definitely be disappointed if it isn't."
No one sees, hears and feels the collective emotions more than Terry Kocon (Ko-SON), a pleasant lady from Albuquerque, N.M., who manages the scoreboard at this event annually (along with almost a dozen other events around the country.) Kocon says that no matter how many events she works, the nerves of cut day never get easier to observe.
"I root for all of them," she says. "Even the ones that have no chance after a big number in the first round, I want to post a good number for them in the second round so they can see a good performance. You can see it in their faces, how much they care. How much it means to their families. I do appreciate it and I want them to do well. But I'm just the messenger. They understand that. They don't get upset with me."
Craig Stevens, a PGA Teaching Professional at Brookstone Golf & Country Club in Acworth, Ga., finished a disappointing PNC for him and still came by for a look at the board after his second round. Stevens, who has played in 16 PGA PNCs and now only missed the cut in three, explained the emotions that go through a professional’s mind as he watches the board and the cut number fluctuate.
"It's part of golf, we all understand that. And your play is what determines whether you're around for the final two rounds – there's no one else to give credit to or blame. But if I were at 1 or 2 over, it'd be a real anxious feeling," Stevens added. "You never root against a player, but if I were there close to the number, I'd certainly be thinking that a good rain couldn't hurt things.
"We don't have big sponsor checks helping defray the costs of travel and meals and hotels. Making the cut means a lot more out here than at many other events. Even more, you can't make that top 20 (to earn a spot in the PGA Championship) or win if you aren't playing."
Ultimately, the cut came in at +2 and 78 players survived to compete for the 20 coveted spots into the PGA Championship and of course, to get their names etched into the Walter Hagen Cup. The final round on Wednesday will showcase as much drama and tension as there is in golf, as it always does. But for the true golf aficionado, the Monday night cut at the PGA PNC shows as much drama and tension as you'll find anywhere.