Gaus and Nakamura share first-round lead at Southworth Senior PGA

Kirk Hanefeld
Montana Pritchard/The PGA of America
Defending champion Kirk Hanefeld got off to a strong start, and is one shot off the pace after 18 holes.
By
Bob Denney and Randy Stutzman
The PGA of America

Series: PGA Feature

LEESBURG, Va. -- Bob Gaus of St. Louis and tournament rookie Bruce Nakamura of Vista, Calif., each overcame a near-disastrous tour of the 18th hole at River Creek Club on Thursday to post matching 3-under-par 69s and share the opening-round lead in the 24th Southworth Senior PGA Professional National Championship presented by Mercedes-Benz USA.

The twosome owns a one-stroke lead in a Championship featuring 264 players representing 43 states, who are competing on two uniquely challenging venues in Northern Virginia. Defending Champion Kirk Hanefeld of Acton, Mass., one of 26 players overall to break par on a cool sunny day, heads a 10-member delegation just a stroke back. Seventeen players turned in sub-par rounds at River Creek Club, while the remaining nine battled demanding 6,899-yard Creighton Farms layout in nearby Aldie, Va.

2012 SENIOR PNC

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Creighton Farms yielded a scoring average of 77.50, while River Creek Club competitors averaged 76.32.

Gaus, a PGA teaching professional at Tower Tee Golf Center in St. Louis, made five birdies and a bogey before he stepped to the tee on the par-4 415-yard 18th hole. He then knocked his tee shot into the water and hit his approach to the green, just missing a 60-foot par attempt.

"I thought that I had hit a drive down the middle, but it was too close to the water, it got a funny bounce, and the ball bounced in the water," said Gaus. "I also bogeyed the sixth hole with a wedge in my hand. Overall, I'm pleased. It's a good start. Four days like that, and I would be at Bellerive next year [for the Senior PGA Championship]. I am not trying to put too much added pressure on myself."

The field will be trimmed to the low 70 scorers and ties after Friday's second round, with Creighton Farms hosting the final 36 holes of play. The low 35 scorers after Sunday's final round advance to the 74th Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid next May at historic Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis.

"There is a lot of golf to be played," said Gaus, who has been one of the premier players in St. Louis and the Gateway PGA Section for more than 15 years, and has competed in every PGA of America-sanctioned member championship and the PGA Championship. His only missing ticket is to the Senior PGA Championship, the most historic and prestigious event in senior golf.

Nakamura, who turned 50 in June, began play on the 10th hole and double-bogeyed the 18th when his drive landed in the water, and left his approach into a bunker and failed to get up and down. He also bogeyed the next hole, before making birdies on four of his final six holes.

"It's 72 holes, so I figure on this course you've got 15 and 18 are pretty tough holes and I butchered both of them," said Nakamura, a PGA teaching professional at Aviara Golf Academy in Carlsbad, Calif. "There are more birdies to be made. I figured that I could get it going. I didn't expect to birdie four of the final six holes, but I'll take it."

Defending Champion Hanefeld, who also won the 2008 Championship, waged a late-round rally, while Bill Israelson of Staples, Minn., and Mark Mielke of East Norwich, N.Y., were steady on the greens. The most decorated scorecard in the opening round belonged to Carl Cooper of Humble, Texas. He made eight birdies, three bogeys and a quadruple bogey on his way to a 70, just a stroke off the lead.

Rounding out those a stroke off the lead were Gary Robison of Canton, Ohio; Mike Miles of Huntington Beach, Calif.; Steve Parker of Houston, Texas; Mike Lawrence, of Anderson, S.C.; Eddie Terasa of Waukesha, Wis.; and Rod Nuckolls of Wichita, Kan.

Israelson improved by 10 strokes from his first round performance last year, needing only 24 putts at challenging Creighton Farms in nearby Aldie, Va.

Former Champion Bill Britton of Colts Neck, N.J., led a 14-player group at 71, that included two-time Senior PGA Professional Player of the Year Sonny Skinner of Sylvester, Ga., John Carney of Hoover, Ala., Frank Dobbs of Port St. Lucie, Fla., and Quinn Griffing of Fort Wayne, Ind.

Hanefeld, 58, overcame three consecutive bogeys with three birdies in his final eight holes on the 6,725-yard River Creek Club. With the bulk of its layout sheltered from the wind by housing developments, players are able to attack before facing a demanding quartet of holes adjoining the Potomac River.

"It's a good golf course, the conditions are good; the layout is good and the course setup is good," said Hanefeld, a PGA Life Member. "I hit it close today and missed a bunch of putts. I started out well, then lost it a bit in the middle of the round, and brought it back near the end." Beginning on the 10th hole, Hanefeld birdied the 12th and 16th holes, before he ran into problems with three consecutive bogeys. He picked his round back up with a birdie at the 356-yard second hole and added birdies at 4 and 8 to close his round.

"I played much better than 70," Hanefeld said. "It's a long week, and you have got to be patient. You not going to win or lose a tournament in one round. I'll hang in there, and hopefully, I'll play well the next three days.

Mielke, who turned 50 in July, made two birdies each on both sides of River Creek Club, and had a pair of bogeys.

"We definitely got the best of the draw," said Mielke, PGA  head professional at Mill River Club in Oyster Bay, N.Y. "We played 12 holes with very little wind at all, and then it got a little warmer near the end of the round. I was just holding on the last couple holes."

Israelson collected five birdies to offset a pair of bogeys, atoning for a dismal effort last year at Creighton Farms (80 and 73).

"I played much better at River Creek [Club]," said Israelson, a PGA head professional at Vintage Golf Club in Staples, Minn. "This course just doesn't really fit my eye." Israelson was 4 under par heading to the 17th at Creighton Farms, before finishing with a pair of bogeys.

"It was a matter of time before something was going to slip away, and it happened at 17 and 18," he said. "I had a three-putt on 17 and was lucky to get away with only a bogey at 18. After a round like today, I am pretty happy with a 70."

The day also featured a pair of aces, with Gary Sowinski of Schererville, Ind., and Jeff Whitfield of Weldon Spring, Mo., each making a hole-in-one at Creighton Farms.

Sowinski, the PGA director of golf at Briar Ridge Country Club in Schererville, Ind., used a 5-iron from 199 yards on the par-3 17th hole, while Whitfield, the PGA general manager at Mid-Rivers Golf Complex in Saint Peters, Mo., used a 4-iron from 195 yards on the par-3 ninth hole.

"It was absolutely pure luck," said Sowinski, who registered his sixth competitive ace. "The hole did not look very accessible and at first we couldn't tell if it had rolled off or went in the hole. But I took a look in the hole and there it was."

Whitfield, who finished in a tie for 29th in the 2011 edition of the Championship, made the ace on his final hole of the day.

"The ball hit right in front of the hole and hopped right in," said Whitfield, who posted his first ace in competition. "But we couldn't see it go in unfortunately. There were two guys on the back of the green who reacted pretty strongly so we knew something good had happened."

Sowinski had a 72, while Whitfield turned in a 76.

Begun in 1989, the Senior PGA Professional National Championship is modeled after the PGA Professional National Championship, with a field of 50-and-older senior PGA Professionals who advanced through 41 Section Championships conducted from July through September each year.

The top five finishers earn an exemption into the final stage of the 2012 Champions Tour National Finals. Since its debut, many participants in the Senior PGA Professional National Championship have used their success in the event as a springboard to a Champions Tour career.

First-round scores:
Bob Gaus, St. Louis, Mo.    34-35--69
Bruce Nakamura, Vista, Calif.    36-33--69
Kirk Hanefeld, Acton, Mass.    36-34--70
Bill Israelson, Staples, Minn.    35-35--70
Mark Mielke, East Norwich, N.Y.    36-34--70
Carl Cooper, Humble, Texas    33-37--70
Gary Robison, Canton, Ohio    31-39--70
Mike Miles, Huntington Beach, Calif.    36-34--70
Steve Parker, Houston, Texas    36-34--70
Mike Lawrence, Anderson, S.C.    35-35--70
Eddie Terasa, Waukesha, Wis.    35-35--70
Rod Nuckolls, Wichita, Kan.    33-37--70
Bill Britton, Colts Neck, N.J.    36-35--71
Sonny Skinner, Sylvester, Ga.    34-37--71
John Carney, Hoover, Ala.    36-35--71
Frank Dobbs, Port St. Lucie, Fla.    38-33--71
Quinn Griffing, Fort Wayne, Ind.    37-34--71
Ron Beurmann, Jackson, Mich.    34-37--71
Greg Farrow, Westampton, N.J.    34-37--71
Peter Oakley, Palm City, Fla.    37-34--71
Mitch Adams, Troy, N.C.    36-35--71
Lee Rinker, Jupiter, Fla.    37-34--71
Gary Groh, Highland Park, Ill.    37-34--71
Chris Starkjohann, Oceanside, Calif.    35-36--71
Joe Boros, Saxonburg, Pa.    34-37--71
James Blair, Ogden, Utah    37-34--71
Greg Baker, Boonton, N.J.    34-38--72
Robert Thompson, Huntsville, Texas    36-36--72
Paul Norris, Dallas, Texas    36-36--72
Jim Empey, Boise, Idaho    33-39--72
Rob Phelps, Fayetteville, N.Y.    34-38--72
Billy Rosinia, Indian Head Park, Ill.    35-37--72
Gary Sowinski, Schererville, Ind.    35-37--72
Mike San Filippo, Hobe Sound, Fla.    39-33--72
Charlie Bolling, Glen Cove, N.Y.    39-33--72
Freddy Gibson, Orlando, Fla.    39-33--72
Bud Lintelman, Purcellville, Va.    38-35--73
Mike Caporale, Manhasset, N.Y.    38-35--73
Cleve Coldwater, Clarks Summit, Pa.    34-39--73
Joe Butler, Burlington, Iowa    39-34--73
Tim Parun, San Diego, Calif.    38-35--73
Paul Trittler, Scottsdale, Ariz.    36-37--73
Pat Stephens, Richmond, Ky.    37-36--73
Bob Wolcott, Tunica Resorts, Miss.    38-35--73
Audie Johnson, Lebanon, Tenn.    33-40--73
Stuart Smith, Reno, Nev.    38-35--73
John Paesani, Mattapiosett, Mass.    35-38--73
Don Sweeting, Pinehurst, N.C.    36-38--74
Scott Spence, Galena, Ohio    36-38--74
David Young, Scarborough, N.Y.    37-37--74
Shawn McEntee, Petaluma, Calif.    34-40--74
Mark Faulkner, Marion, Ill.    36-38--74
Perry Holmes, Denver, Colo.    37-37--74
Steve Veriato, San Marcos, Texas    37-37--74
Fred Haney, Tigard, Ore.    38-36--74
Troy Schleicher, The Woodlands, Texas    41-33--74
Joey Carranza, Fall City, Wash.    39-35--74
Bill Loeffler, Littleton, Colo.    37-37--74
David Thore, Wilmington, N.C.    37-37--74
Jeff Coston, Blaine, Wash.    38-36--74
Roy Vucinich, Moon Township, Pa.    40-34--74
Ron Skayhan, Huntington Beach, Calif.    36-38--74
Rick Karbowski, Worcester, Mass.    36-38--74
Michael Mitchell, Rancho Mirage, Calif.    37-37--74
Gene Fieger, Naples, Fla.    38-36--74
Rick Morton, Jacksonville, N.C.    35-39--74
Jon Corliss, Virginia Beach, Va.    38-36--74
Dal Daily, Albuquerque, N.M.    35-39--74
Ralph Salito, Sherman, Conn.    35-39--74
Leigh Brannan, Canton, Miss.    39-36--75
Tom Sullivan, Sheffield, Mass.    38-37--75
Pat McTigue, Tulsa, Okla.    39-36--75
Craig Stevens, Dallas, Ga.    39-36--75
Jim White, Lincoln, Neb.    38-37--75
Bob Ford, Oakmont, Pa.    39-36--75
Darrell Kestner, Glen Cove, N.Y.    36-39--75
Don Allan, Cherry Hill, N.J.    41-34--75
Mike Smith, Titusville, Fla.    35-40--75
Bill Sautter, Ocean City, N.J.    38-37--75
Fran Marrello, Plymouth, Conn.    36-39--75
Tom Atchison, Stow, Ohio    37-38--75
Rea Schuessler, Gulf Shores, Ala.    39-36--75
Rob Wilkin, Lenexa, Kan.    38-37--75
Tommy Brannen, Augusta, Ga.    38-37--75
Rick Lewallen, Kannapolis, N.C.    40-35--75
Chris Tucker, Fort Mill, S.C.    38-37--75
Bobby Heins, Purchase, N.Y.    39-36--75
Bill King, Spring Lake, N.J.    39-36--75
James Kane, Edmond, Okla.    34-41--75
George Forster, Villanova, Pa.    39-36--75
Ed Sabo, Tequesta, Fla.    38-37--75
Jeff Thomsen, Boise, Idaho    38-37--75
Ken Martin, Wellington, Fla.    37-38--75
Robert Linville, Greensboro, N.C.    37-38--75
Chris Dachisen, Warren, N.J.    38-37--75
Bill Stines, Columbus, Ohio    37-38--75
Shawn Kelly, Auburn, Calif.    37-38--75
Bob Ackerman, W. Bloomfield, Mich.    39-36--75
Mark Houser, Kingsport, Tenn.    35-40--75
Mike Nokes, San Diego, Calif.    39-36--75
Philip Miranda, Austin, Texas    40-35--75
Brad Apple, Perrysburg, Ohio    38-37--75
David DeSantis, Salt Lake City, Utah    39-37--76
Denny Ford, Indianapolis, Ind.    39-37--76
Craig Campo, Alexandria, La.    40-36--76
Michael Cook, Sonora, Calif.    38-38--76
Steve Brady, Oakland Township, Mich.    40-36--76
Tim White, Midlothian, Va.    38-38--76
Ty Roush, Mason, W. Va.    36-40--76
Stu Nelson, Herriman, Utah    38-38--76
Dale Jones, Eagan, Minn.    36-40--76
Doug Rohrbaugh, Carbondale, Colo.    39-37--76
Tom Dolby, Berlin, Wis.    37-39--76
Glen Stubblefield, Valley Springs, Calif.    36-40--76
Tom Sutter, Mount Vernon, N.Y.    38-38--76
Dave Kendall, Saline, Mich.    39-37--76
Nash Haxel, St. Louis, Mo.    39-37--76
Mike Burke, Towaco, N.J.    37-39--76
Mark Sherman, Martinez, Calif.    39-37--76
Randy Erskine, Lake Orion, Mich.    35-41--76
Jeff Smith, Oskaloosa, Iowa    35-41--76
Rodney Blair, Hamburg, N.Y.    39-37--76
Perry Arthur, Plano, Texas    39-37--76
Jim Sobb, Barrington, Ill.    39-37--76
Barry Evans, Charleston, W. Va.    39-37--76
Jeff Whitfield, Weldon Spring, Mo.    39-37--76
Doug Perry, Fort Collins, Colo.    38-38--76
Billy Sitton, Houston, Texas    36-40--76
Mike Zinni, North Mankato, Minn.    39-38--77
Bill Mory, Haslett, Mich.    39-38--77
Rick Neal, Springfield, Mo.    38-39--77
John Nelson, Coral Springs, Fla.    40-37--77
Daniel Thore, Reidsville, N.C.    37-40--77
Ken Krieger, Cheyenne, Wyo.    37-40--77
Chuck Young, Duncanville, Texas    36-41--77
John Graham, Idaho Falls, Idaho    39-38--77
Tom Joyce, Huntington, N.Y.    39-38--77
William Dodd, Jr., Phoenix, Ariz.    37-40--77
Kim Dolan, Las Vegas, Nev.    39-38--77
Gary Knapp, Boca Raton, Fla.    36-41--77
Kevin Hayashi, Hilo, Hawaii    38-39--77
Tony Malatesta, Huntley, Ill.    36-41--77
Jerry Tucker, Stuart, Fla.    38-39--77
Jim Slattery, Clearwater, Fla.    38-39--77
Kris Moe, Santa Rosa, Calif.    40-37--77
Gary Trivisonno, Aurora, Ohio    39-38--77
Mike Antonio, Omaha, Neb.    40-37--77
John Calabria, Naples, Fla.    40-37--77
JC Anderson, O'Fallon, Mo.    43-34--77
Kim Thompson, Salt Lake City, Utah    38-39--77
Paul Parajeckas, Woburn, Mass.    39-38--77
Kevin DeNike, Davenport, Iowa    39-38--77
Bobby Hogan, Tonawanda, N.Y.    40-37--77
Mark Gardner, Spokane, Wash.    36-42--78
Bill Sakas, Northbrook, Ill.    40-38--78
Steve Bosdosh, Clarksburg, Md.    38-40--78
Ron Castillo, Lihue, Hawaii    40-38--78
Don Berry, Brooklyn Park, Minn.    40-38--78
Fred Holton, Phenix City, Ala.    39-39--78
Rob Horak, Fairport, N.Y.    41-37--78
Daniel Hornig, San Jacinto, Calif.    43-35--78
David Carich, Noblesville, Ind.    39-39--78
Bill Andrews, Greenland, N.H.    38-40--78
David Levine, O'Fallon, Mo.    40-38--78
Jeff Marsh, Vancouver, Wash.    39-39--78
Phil Taylor, Atlanta, Ga.    39-39--78
Ralph West, Surprise, Ariz.    39-39--78
Roger Gunn, Oak Park, Calif.    40-38--78
Steve Groves, Columbus, Ohio    40-38--78
Rodney Wilson, Burlingame, Calif.    40-38--78
Pete Busch, Kenilworth, N.J.    38-40--78
Donald Hurter, Castle Rock, Colo.    40-38--78
Jim Woodward, Edmond, Okla.    41-37--78
Willie Smith, Locust Grove, Ga.    37-41--78
Mick DeKorver, Grand Rapids, Mich.    38-40--78
Daniel Wilkins, Laconia, N.H.    42-36--78
Skip Tredway, Omaha, Neb.    37-41--78
Peter Serafimoff, New Smyrna Beach, Fla.    42-36--78
Eddie Mudd, Louisville, Ky.    37-41--78
Danny Elkins, Roswell, Ga.    39-39--78
Larry Mackin, Queen Creek, Ariz.    38-40--78
Ken Corliss, Columbus, Ohio    36-42--78
Scott Sommers, Frederick, Colo.    40-38--78
Michael Zaremba, Pueblo West, Colo.    40-39--79
Jay Taise, Waikoloa, Hawaii    40-39--79
Rob Gibbons, Molalla, Ore.    39-40--79
Butch Sheehan, Rancho Mirage, Calif.    41-38--79
Mark Ruthey, Port Byron, Ill.    40-39--79
Stu Ingraham, Newtown Square, Pa.    41-38--79
Steven Gotsche, Great Bend, Kan.    40-39--79
Carlton Blewett, Roswell, N.M.    39-40--79
Jim Pike, Sammamish, Wash.    40-39--79
John Kerins, Hermitage, Pa.    39-40--79
Lance Taketa, Hilo, Hawaii    40-39--79
Rick Cole, Eaton, Colo.    39-40--79
Randy Helton, Shelbyville, Tenn.    38-41--79
Chris Black, Lancaster, Ohio    44-35--79
Edward Whitman, Blairstown, N.J.    38-41--79
Ken McDonald, Houston, Texas    41-38--79
Wayne DeFrancesco, Columbia, Md.    38-41--79
Walt Chapman, Knoxville, Tenn.    36-43--79
Stanley Cooke, Homosassa, Fla.    38-41--79
Jim Karr, Palm Beach, Fla.    40-39--79
Gerry James, Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.    43-36--79
Mark Kirk, East Aurora, N.Y.    39-40--79
John Lee, Naples, Fla.    41-39--80
Chuck Milne, Vancouver, Wash.    37-43--80
John Francisco, Westminster, Md.    39-41--80
Don Germer, Omaha, Neb.    41-39--80
Jim Gaugert, Lake Geneva, Wis.    42-38--80
Jim Cichra, Pittsburgh, Pa.    41-39--80
Bruce Zabriski, Rye, N.Y.    36-44--80
Bill Sellers, Orlando, Fla.    40-40--80
Kevin Muir, Birmingham, Mich.    44-36--80
John Bermel, Cedar Falls, Iowa    39-41--80
Russ Davis, Acworth, Ga.    41-39--80
John Aubrey, Butler, Pa.    39-41--80
Lee Houtteman, Glen Arbor, Mich.    41-39--80
Roger Mack, Marietta, Ga.    40-40--80
Dean Sumner, Callao, Va.    37-43--80
Thomas Herzan, Findlay, Ohio    43-38--81
Richard Prange, Mount Prospect, Ill.    40-41--81
Doug Bauman, N. Barrington, Ill.    39-42--81
Michael Brooks, Naples, Fla.    42-39--81
Mo Guttman, Sarasota, Fla.    41-40--81
Daniel Koesters, Las Cruces, N.M.    41-40--81
Mick Soli, San Carlos, Calif.    44-37--81
Dick Wagley, Winnetka, Ill.    38-43--81
Danny Loken, Fifty Lakes, Minn.    39-42--81
Kevin Syring, Demarest, N.J.    40-41--81
Frank Mellet, Voorheesville, N.Y.    43-38--81
Ronny Glanton, Richardson, Texas    40-41--81
Steve Munson, Greeneville, Tenn.    40-42--82
Don DeAngelis, Norristown, Pa.    41-41--82
John Schneider, Mount Pleasant, Wis.    45-37--82
Paul Jaycox, Cobleskill, N.Y.    41-41--82
Dennis Myrick, Glenshaw, Pa.    40-42--82
Michael Baker, Hermon, Maine    42-40--82
Mike Borich, Salt Lake City, Utah    40-43--83
Jimmy Hamilton, Knightdale, N.C.    42-41--83
Rick Bronson, Mexico, N.Y.    40-43--83
Mike Parrish, Madison, Ala.    41-42--83
Lawrence Auer, Mobile, Ala.    42-42--84
John Godwin, Pine Mountain, Ga.    42-42--84
Pat Delaney, Springfield, Ohio    37-47--84
Matt Vandelac, Hayward, Wis.    43-41--84
Mike Hamblin, Twin Falls, Idaho    38-46--84
Steve Cox, Hodgenville, Ky.    42-42--84
Doug Dunbar, Columbus, Neb.    42-42--84
Ted Perez, Westfield, Mass.    43-42--85
Bob Lendzion, Las Vegas, Nev.    42-43--85
David Nolan, Ray Township, Mich.    43-42--85
Scott Steger, Anderson, Ind.    42-43--85
Matt Stireman, Jackson Hole, Wyo.    41-45--86
Gavin Darbyshire, Venice, Fla.    41-45--86
Stephen Diemoz, Portsmouth, R.I.    47-39--86
Garry Nelson, Florence, Ky.    47-40--87
Russell Schreiber, Fayetteville, N.Y.    47-41--88
Jim Phenicie, Houston, Texas    47-41--88
Jeffrey Shaw, Seattle, Wash.    47-42--89
John Sikes, Frankston, Texas    44-46--90
Ray Lamb, Crawford, Texas    46-44--90
Rob Shuey, Mechanicsburg, Pa.    NC
Dennis Winters, Bishopville, Md.    DQ