rod perry

Rod Perry, the 36-hole leader, is a left-hander and the reigning PGA Professional Player of the Year.

Perry takes lead by himself after second round

By Bob Denney, The PGA of America

SUNRIVER, Ore. – The battle for the Walter Hagen Cup took a turn Monday that would delight the legendary namesake on the crystal. Like a fine Italian sauce, there’s a mix of about everything to spice the quest for a title in the 46th PGA Professional National Championship.

Rod Perry of Port Orange, Fla., fresh from a Championship record-tying 63 in Sunday’s opening round that he made look easy at the Meadows Golf Course, needed all his skills less than 24 hours later to craft an even-par 72 at Crosswater Club. 

He owns a one-stroke lead at 8-under-par 135 over Merion Golf Club teaching professional Mark Sheftic of Blue Bell, Pa., and former Champion Chip Sullivan of Troutville, Va., who turned back the clock to 2007 when he spent a magical week at Crosswater. Sheftic and Sullivan each turned in 67s at the Meadows, and stand a stroke better than first-round co-leader Corey Prugh of Spokane, Wash., whose bogey-double bogey finish for a 74 left him at 137.

Sunriver Resort is hosting its third PGA Professional National Championship, which is presented by Club Car, Mercedes-Benz and OMEGA. The 312-player field was trimmed to the low 70 scorers and ties after Monday’s round, with 78 players making the cut at 2-over-par 145. The final 36 holes will be contested at Crosswater Club.

“No lead is safe; that’s for certain,” said Perry, a left-hander and the reigning PGA Professional Player of the Year.

Eleven players are within four strokes of the lead. Rob Labritz of Pound Ridge, N.Y., who posted a 67 at the Meadows, had his thoughts focused on his wife, Kerry, who was in a Bend, Ore., hospital and seven months pregnant. Labritz landed in a tie at 138 along with Jeff Sorenson of Blaine, Minn., who struggled to a 74 at Crosswater.

Three-time National Champion Mike Small of Champaign, Ill., led a five-player group at 139, including left-hander Caine Fitzgerald of Parker, Colo., who shared the lowest round of the day at Crosswater with a 68. Defending Champion Matt Dobyns of Glen Head, N.Y., had a 71, but missed the 36-hole cut by two strokes. 

Perry, the PGA head professional at Crane Lakes Golf Course in Port Orange, Fla., found the much-hyped pitfalls of Crosswater – a combination of swirling wind and demanding approach angles to the flagstick – were no hype at all.

“I got off to a good start on 10, making par, and then made a birdie on 11. I thought, ‘OK, here we go.’ ” said Perry. “Obviously, Crosswater is playing pretty tough. The crosswinds are there, and it’s tough to get the ball close to the hole. It’s tough to get the ball inside eight to 10 feet. We have a lot of golf to play. Thirty-six holes on this golf course a lot can happen.”

Perry’s round featured a birdie at the second hole, offsetting bogeys at 3 and 12. Things were not as sublime for playing partner Prugh, the PGA assistant professional at Manito Golf and Country Club in Spokane, Wash. He temporarily grabbed the lead at 9 under par with a birdie on the 15th hole, but stumbled in with a bogey at the par-3 17th and a double bogey at 18 when his second shot found a hazard. Though he was able to hit out from the hazard, his approach landed in a greenside bunker. He was unable to get up and down from that point.

“I just didn't finish my round off like I wanted to today. I want to forget about those final two holes,” said Prugh. “But I’m still in it. It’s easier coming from behind then being a front-runner sometimes.”

Sullivan, the PGA director of golf at Hanging Rock Golf Club in Salem, Va., began his round by holing a wedge approach over a bunker for eagle on the 10th hole. He capped his round with a 12-foot birdie putt.

“When I played at Meadows in 2007, I was 5 over after eight holes,” said Sullivan. “So, starting out with an eagle today and being 4 under after eight holes was a totally different feeling.

“It is a good feeling to be back here. I feel like I have never left. I feel like I have the wave going. I didn’t hit the ball as well as I’d like, but the putter saved me. I made a lot of two-putts, and am really happy where I stand. I’m trying to relax and see if I can get the ball rolling tomorrow and make some more birdies.”

Sullivan also has dealt with major health issues off the course – diabetes and hemochromatosis (an overload of iron in the blood).

“Diabetes is something that millions of Americans face. It is a struggle and it’s on my mind 24/7,” said Sullivan. “I woke up in the middle of the night with my blood sugar too low and I had to go to the refrigerator and get some food to bring it back up. It’s a constant management of keeping your blood sugar intact. If you can do that, it’s a piece of cake.”

Solid course management and a 12-foot par-saving putt on the ninth hole catapulted Sheftic once again into a contender’s role. In three previous Championship appearances, he tied for runner-up in 2009, was third in 2010 and missed the cut in 2011.

“I think I’m making good decisions with good swings. You never know what’s going to happen. My only agenda is to worry about me,” said Sheftic, who was unable to have normal preparations for the Championship after working an exhaustive schedule as Merion Golf Club hosted the U.S. Open less than two weeks ago. “It (the Open) was a hectic week for us all. Being out here, it’s almost like a vacation. It’s fun to get out here and play some golf. When you work at a U.S. Open, you watch the best players hit golf balls. I worked the range and I just wanted to hit a golf ball. It will be great to go into the final days with some phenomenal players. We play this game to compete. I will really look forward to it.”

Labritz, competing in his sixth PGA Professional National Championship, appeared at ease on the Meadows despite his personal issues.

“This course feels real comfortable to me, because it’s like a Westchester course. It’s tree-lined, tight and framed and the greens are perfect,” said Labritz. “I made four birdies today, but three in the pouring rain. It was just a good, solid take-your-time day. The caddie was giving me right yardages and I was swinging good, so it was good.

“I feel great, but I’m also a little concerned about my wife, Kerry. The night before I teed off, she was rushed to the hospital here in Bend complaining of severe stomach pain. She’s seven months pregnant. My brain is parked on the golf course but also the perspective is different. I’m going to visit her after I finish practice. Her parents are here and that has helped out tremendously.”

The 6,944-yard Meadows yielded a scoring average of 72.8 while nearby Crosswater Club, playing at 7,479 yards, was at 76.6.

The low 20 scorers earn a berth in the 95th PGA Championship, Aug. 8-11, at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, N.Y.