PGA Professional National Championship under way in Myrtle Beach

Dunes Golf & Beach Club
PGA of America
The Dunes Golf & Beach Club in Myrtle Beach, S.C., will pose a stern test for the 312 PGA Professionals this week hoping to earn a berth into the 2014 PGA Championship.
By T.J. Auclair, Senior Interactive Producer
PGA.com
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Series: Golf Buzz

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. -- Under partly cloudy skies, the 47th PGA Professional National Championship presented by Club Car, Mercedes-Benz and OMEGA teed off this morning at The Dunes Golf & Beach Club and Grande Dunes Resort Club.

The first two rounds of the tournament, featuring 312 players, will be played at both courses for the first two rounds before moving to the Dunes Golf & Beach Club exclusively after the 36-hole cut is made.

RELATED: Complete PNC coverage | Preview | Get to know the Dunes | Photos

The PGA Professional National Championship is one of the most special events in all of golf, as the top 20 finishers will earn a berth in the 2014 PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky., in August.

It's not easy to get in any major and this week is no exception.

Twenty players, on the number, earn that coveted spot in the PGA Championship field this week. If there are ties for that 20th spot, a playoff is contested at the conclusion of the PGA Professional National Championship, creating the ultimate "tournament-within-a-tournament" situation.

It doesn't get anymore dramatic for that final spot than it did a year ago when the tournament was played at the Sunriver Resort in Sunriver, Ore. After 72 holes, there was a six-man playoff to decide the final three berths to the PGA Championship.

Two players -- Danny Balin and Bob Gaus -- moved on quickly, both with birdies on the first playoff hole, leaving Rob Labritz, Jason Schmuhl, Chris Black and Corey Prugh to play for the final spot.

Labritz looked to be out of the mix after drawing an awful lie with his tee shot in a fairway bunker on the 457-yard, par-4 11th hole -- the second hole of the playoff. Forced to punch out while the others played onto the green, Labritz proceeded to miraculously hole out for birdie from 95 yards with a 53-degree gap wedge.

Here's the shot:

 

 

After none of the others matched the birdie, the 42-year-old Labritz was in his fourth PGA Championship.

"I don't have many words," Labritz said. "It's been an emotional week, but a great ending to it. What a way to go back to the PGA at Oak Hill."

It will be fun to see what kind of drama is in store this time around at Myrtle Beach. 

T.J. Auclair is a Senior Interactive Producer for PGA.com and has covered professional golf since 1998, traveling to over 60 major championships. You can follow him on Twitter, @tjauclair.