June 25, 2014 - 4:43pm
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T.J. Auclair
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Michael Block
PGA of America
Michael Block became the ninth player in PGA Professional National Championship history to win the tournament in his first attempt.

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. -- The only time Michael Block ever had a share of the lead in the 47th PGA Professional National Championship was when he walked off the 72nd hole.

After watching Jamie Broce make bogey on Wednesday, Block had a beautiful par save from the sand to tie for the lead at 2-under 286.

Two holes later, in a sudden-death playoff, he knocked in a 4-footer for birdie at the par-4 10th hole to become the 2014 Champion in his very first trip to the National Championship.

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"Jamie had the pressure on him," said Block, the 38-year-old PGA head professional at Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club in Mission Viejo, Calif. "I started the day three shots behind. So, if I came back great, but I didn't have any pressure to win it. It's amazing to me, because I wasn't leading that tournament for one second until that final putt dropped on No. 18."

As it turns out, Block's lone sub-par round for the week came in Round 2 when he shot a 3-under 69 at Grande Dunes. His scores at the Dunes Golf & Beach Club looked like this: 73-72-72.

Block became just the ninth player to win the National Championship in his first attempt and the first since Matt Dobyns did so in 2012.

A crucial point on Wednesday came when Block bounced back with a birdie at No. 16 after making bogey at 15. That helped him stay just one shot behind Broce with two holes to play.

Then it came down to a short game contest. Both players found the front left greenside bunker on the 18th hole. Block got up and down. Broce didn't.

"I feel bad for Jamie," Block said. "He had it. That putt for par on the last regulation hole on 18 was perfect. Some grain got it, it hit the lip and lipped out up the hill. It was halfway down the hole. Then all of the sudden, it opened up, here we are tied going into a playoff and honestly it was a win-win for me at that point -- I was going to the PGA Championship, I had a nice check and everything was hunky dory at that point."

Block said he felt no pressure whatsoever in the playoff and it showed when he hit a 56-degree sand wedge from 120 yards out to within a few feet of the hole to set up the winning birdie.

"I was more calm in that playoff than I am playing at home in a Skins match with my boys," he said.

When Block heads to Valhalla in August for the PGA Championship, it will mark his second start in a major. He also qualified for the 2007 U.S. Open at Oakmont.

"It hasn't set in at all yet that I'm the National Champion and I'm going to be representing the 27,000 PGA Professionals at the PGA Championship," Block said. "I've been doing a really good job in the Southern California Section in the last two years. Let's just say I've won a lot of events. It's given me a lot of confidence. When I know that I can win a lot in Southern California, which is pretty big, I know I can compete nationally. My goal this week was to put my name on the national stage and not just in Southern California."

Mission accomplished. 

 

 

Block wins National Championship in first attempt
June 25, 2014 - 4:14pm
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Stuart Deane
PGA of America
Stuart Deane has missed out on the PGA Championship by a single shot on three occasions. On Wednesday, he finally got in.

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. -- Close, but no cigar. That's basically been the story of Stuart Deane's life when it comes to the PGA Professional National Championship and a coveted top-20 spot, which is rewarded with a berth in the PGA Championship.

On three occasions, Deane has missed the PGA Championship by a single shot, including 2012 when he missed out on a spot in a playoff.

But on Wednesday in the final round of the 47th PGA Professional National Championship, Deane would not be denied.

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With a 1-under 71 in the final round at the Dunes Golf & Beach Club -- highlighted by an incredible eagle at the par-4 17th hole (see the video below) -- Deane registered a four-round total of 1-under 287 and finished alone in third. He was one of just three players to end his week with an under par score.

"To walk off that last green and find out I'm in the PGA Championship was special," said the 42-year-old PGA teaching professional at Golf Center of Arlington in Texas by way of Brisbane, Australia. "I've missed by a shot I think three times. I've missed in a playoff to get to the PGA. This year I came over early. I had never done that before. I came here three weeks ago and the guys here at the Dunes Club were just awesome and really took care of me with tee times and helping us get out. It really made a big difference. I played great all week, so it's just an awesome deal."

The icing on the cake was that shot on No. 17 -- a pitching wedge from 134 yards out that was noting but cup.

"I really hit that shot great," Deane said. "I actually hit it great all week and didn't seem to get much out of it. Today it was the same thing. I played great all day, but wasn't getting much out of it. Then finally, I hit that wedge on 17 and as soon as it left the club I said to my caddie, Wes, 'This is really good.' There was a bunker in front of me. I thought I saw it land, but Wes yelled, 'It's in the hole!' Sure enough, it was."

To say Deane is looking forward to Valhalla would be an understatement.

"I've played at every level -- Tour events, Web.com, Section stuff -- but I've never played in the ultimate, a major championship," he said. "It's really cool. It kind of caps off everything you could ever want or dream of as a golfer." 

Close many times, Deane finally earns PGA Championship berth
June 25, 2014 - 3:31pm
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Rod Perry
PGA of America
Rod Perry's goal was to successfully defend his National Championship title this week. While he didn't win, it was still a solid effort.

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. -- Rod Perry had a lofty goal this week at the PGA Professional National Championship: defend the title he won a year ago in Sunriver.

Perry, the 40-year-old PGA head professional at Crane Lakes Golf and Country Club in Port Orange, Fla., fell short, but not by much. The reigning PGA Professional Player of the Year shot a 1-under 71 in Wednesday's final round. With a 72-hole total of 1-over 289, he ended in a tie for fifth place and will make his third consecutive PGA Championship appearance in August.

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"I had a lot of fun," he said. "The golf course set up really well for me with the Bermuda grass, knowing it was going to be hot -- this is my style of golf. You've got to hit it in the middle of the fairway to have any chance. If you're out of position you're probably going to pay a price. I was really looking forward to this week. I played OK. I didn't play great, but I played OK."

And, in this case, "OK" for Perry was more than enough for a trip to Valhalla.

"Going back to another PGA Championship means I can get another week off of work," joked Perry. "I'm just kidding. It brings great excitement. Any time you get to play with the best in the world it's an honor. I'm really looking forward to it.

"I know what to expect having played in the last two," he added. "I feel like I have experience on my side now. I'm not a rookie at this anymore and hopefully I can turn that into a solid performance."

Defending champ Perry earns third straight PGA Championship berth
June 25, 2014 - 3:20pm
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Karen Paolozzi
PGA of America
Karen Paolozzi's four-round total of 10-over 298 tied her for 49th place and gave her the lowest total for a woman professional in National Championship history.

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. -- Karen Paolozzi accomplished her primary goal of making the cut in the PGA Professional National Championship this week -- both of them. She made the 36-hole and 54-hole cuts, joining Suzy Whaley as the only women professionals to make the National Championship cut.

Whaley made her history in 2005, and on Wednesday, Paolozzi made some history of her own. Her four-round total of 10-over 298 tied her for 49th place and gave her the lowest total for a woman professional in National Championship history.

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"That's great," said Paolozzi after a 2-over 74 Wednesday, which was four shots better than Tuesday's 78. "I hope to improve on it in the future. That's quite an honor because Suzy Whaley and Patty Post are great players. I'm happy to have that. This is a huge boost to my confidence. I proved to myself that I can still play at this level. I hope to keep this going and use it as momentum into the championship we'll play in August to try and get into the LPGA Championship. That's my next big thing, it sounds like."

Paolozzi was also hopeful that her play would inspire other woman professionals to play in more Section events with a goal of following in her footsteps and qualifying for the National Championship.

"There aren't many woman professionals in my Section who come out and play in competition," Paolozzi said. "I'm hoping that by me coming out here and playing, a few more ladies will get out there and start playing at least at the Section level and then hopefully up their game and get to this level as well. There are very few women that actually play in the Section. There are plenty of women in the Section, just not a lot of them play.

"This whole experience was way more than I thought it was going to be," she added. "I didn't know what to expect. I didn't know what to expect with media, or the response of being the only female, but it was great. All the guys were great. I played with wonderful people all week. But I'm happy to see it end, because I'm tired. But it was a lot of fun." 

Paolozzi makes more history at National Championship
June 25, 2014 - 3:06pm
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Aaron Krueger
PGA of America
Aaron Krueger was 0-for-4 in making the cut in the PGA Professional National Championship. But in his fifth try, Krueger earned a berth in the PGA Championship.

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. -- Aaron Krueger, the 34-year-old PGA head professional from the Wakonda Club in Des Moines, Iowa, was 0-for-4 in making the cut at the PGA Professional National Championship.

Until this week.

With a four-round, 4-over 292 total, Krueger tied for 12th in the National Championship on Wednesday and is headed to his first PGA Championship.

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"This is my fifth National Championship, but the first time I made the cut," he said. "To get into the PGA Championship means everything to me. I was able to win my Section Championship last year and, as a result, I'm in the John Deere Classic on the PGA Tour in a couple of weeks. For me, that's a hometown event, because it's real close to where I grew up. That's a major to me. But the PGA is the ultimate. I'm so proud to be a PGA member and to now have the opportunity to play in the PGA Championship, I've fulfilled a lifelong dream." 

It wasn't a pretty start for Krueger. Playing his first round on Sunday at Grande Dunes, he began with two bogeys. And when he reached the fourth tee, he noticed the head of his driver was rattling. He tried to tighten the screws, but that didn't work and he was forced to take the club out of play.

With a 3-wood as his longest club in the bag, Krueger double-bogeyed the fifth hole. Four-over par through the first five holes of the National Championship wasn't exactly what he had envisioned.

But, he hung in there and played his remaining 67 holes in even par.

Krueger's even-par 72 wasn't his best score in relation to par this week -- he had a 71 on Monday -- but given the circumstances, he felt it was the best.

"It was awesome to get my best round of the week on the final day," he said. "It feels so good. This week I got off to such a terrible start. I was 4 over through five holes this week. I just did the best I could and played the rest of the tournament in even par, which makes me proud. To play my best today, coming down the stretch and hitting quality shots was pretty special." 

Krueger fulfills lifelong dream
June 25, 2014 - 2:59pm
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Steve Schneiter
PGA of America
After three missed cuts in three years at the National Championship, 1995 winner Steve Schneiter has earned a berth in his 12th PGA Championship.

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. -- When it comes to the PGA Professional National Championship, it had become pretty standard to see 1995 champ Steve Schneiter among the top 20 headed to the PGA Championship each year.

The 50-year-old co-owner of family-owned Schneiter's Pebble Brook in Sandy, Utah, has been to a whopping 11 PGA Championships.

The last three years, however, have been an aberration for Schneiter with three straight missed cuts.

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Schneiter put an end to that unfortunate streak on Wednesday at the Dunes Golf & Beach Club with a final-round 3-under 69. He finished at 3-over 291 to punch his ticket to a 12th PGA Championship this August as he finished the National Championship alone in 11th place.

"I don't know what it is, but I've done well in this tournament for some reason," he said. "Aside from the last few years where I missed the cut -- I hate to say that word -- I've done OK in this tournament. I was injured last year, but this has been a good tournament to me. I seem to get really focused and play well when I come out for this."

Schneiter finished the final round in style, too. After a fantastic up-and-down par save at the eighth hole -- his 17th of the day -- he made birdie on his final hole to cap off the 69.

"I was going along just fine and then hit a couple of stupid shots at the end, but I had a couple of good up and downs to keep me in it with a chance to make it to the PGA Championship and that last birdie really helped," he said.

Schneiter is especially excited about his upcoming trip to Valhalla.

"The goal every year is to make it to the PGA," he said. "And, it'll be nice to go back to Valhalla. I played there in the 1996 PGA Championship and I also played there in the National Championship several years ago. I know the course and I'm excited about that." 

Schneiter headed to 12th PGA Championship