On 49th birthday, Craig Bowden off to fast start at PPC

craig bowden
Montana Pritchard/PGA of America
On his 49th birthday Sunday, Craig Bowden fired a 3-under 69 in the first round of the 2017 PGA Professional Championship at the Sunriver Resort.
By T.J. Auclair
PGA.com
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Published: Sunday, June 18, 2017 | 5:20 p.m.

SUNRIVER, Oregon -- PGA Lifetime Member Craig Bowden celebrated his 49th birthday on Sunday morning with a solid round of 3-under 69 at Crosswater in the first round of the 2017 PGA Professional Championship at Sunriver Resort.

Early on, he was trailing clubhouse leader Loren Personett by two shots.

Bowden, who hails from Bloomington, Ind., is making his second start in the PPC after a T46 in his debut a year ago at Turning Stone.

Bowden said his mantra for the week is to "stay patient." That's precisely what he needed to do early on Sunday.

"I started out a little rusty today early on," he said. "I hit it close several times and didn't convert. Then I short-sided myself on the par-5 seventh and made bogey after missing a 6-footer for par. I birdied 9, birdied 10 and really had it going. I missed a short one for birdie on No. 17, but I'm feeling really good about my game right now."

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Both courses out here at Sunriver demand precision, something that couldn't have been much better for Bowden on Sunday.

"I'm driving it really straight, which you have to do out here," he said. "I feel like I'm in pretty good control of my distances, which is great when you factor in the elevation here and the little wind we have. I feel really good.

"It was nothing crazy out there," he added. "I hit it really good most of the day. It could have been two or three lower, really. I drove it so well. I just managed it and played to my strengths and did the things I needed to do."

Asked about the last time he remembered playing a tournament on his birthday, Bowden said it would have been the 2002 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black. That was one of the 150 PGA Tour events Bowden has played in his career.

His best season on the PGA Tour came in 2004. He made the cut in 12 of his 30 starts with one top-10 and collected $494,568, good for 143rd on that year's money list.

Right now, Bowden said, he's trying to keep his game sharp with hopes of playing next year on the PGA Tour Champions.

The PPC, the premiere event for club professionals, is a terrific place to see where your game is at when the butterflies creep up, he said.

"I love this event," Bowden said. "It's a great event for the club pros to come out and bring their families and get a chance to get their feet wet with some competition and try to play their way into the PGA Championship. You come out here and it's a real golf tournament. The ropes are up, Golf Channel is here, it gets you excited to get out and play and see where you're at with your game and stay patient as long as you can." 

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.