By Barry Pump, Special to PGA.com
KOHLER, Wisc. (PGA.com) -- PGA Head Professional Chip Sullivan overcame a double bogey on the par-4 fourth hole and a lot of emotions Sunday as he became the first club professional to finish under par at the PGA Championship since 1969. Sullivan turned in a 1-under par 71 in the final round and finished at a 1-under 287 for the tournament.
"I’m choked up,” Sullivan said. "It’s been a fun week. It’s been a hard week. It’s been an emotional week. Somehow, I don’t know how I found it today, but I played great golf.”
Sullivan has had to put out of his mind thoughts of his ailing sister, Kerry Sullivan, who surpassed doctors’ expectations to see her brother play at the weekend in his second PGA.
Kerry, 44, suffers from fatal liver disease and was near death on Thursday but has survived to see her brother finish in the top 40 at Whistling Straits, just as she wished when she urged him to use the berth he earned by finishing third at the 37th Club Professional Championship last June in Ohio.
Sullivan has also had to put off thoughts of his wife, Kari, who is days away from giving birth to a son back home in Troutville, Va., where Sullivan is the head professional at Ashley Plantation Country Club in nearby Daleville.
"I just had to keep my emotions in check and focus on what I was doing,” Sullivan said. "I had a lot of emotions flying out there, and I had to stay focused on what I was doing and just play golf.”
One of three club professionals to make the cut at the 86th PGA Championship -- the most since 1996 -- Sullivan said he had one goal coming into the tournament: make the cut and finish in red numbers.
He did both.
"Making a cut in a major and the reception I received all week from fans, it’s been tremendous,” he said. "I’ll cherish the moment for the rest of my life. I pulled off a slew of so many good shots in my round today, even though I was only 1-under, I felt like I was 8-under or 10-under for the day.”
Sullivan started Sunday at even par for the tournament after carding rounds of 72-71-73 at the challenging Straits Course. But his goal of finishing under par nearly slipped away on the 493-yard fourth hole, where he left a 9-iron approach short and skulled a wedge over the green, leaving a 50-foot chip for an up-and-down double bogey.
But the former Tour professional rebounded with back-to-back birdies on Nos. 6 and 7 to make the turn at even par and then recorded birdies on the 618-yard par-5 11th hole and the par-4 13th. Only a 3-putt on 17 kept him from finishing at 2-under.
"I messed up on four with a double bogey and I had a 3-putt on 17, but other than those I wouldn’t change a thing,” Sullivan said, "I really played well.
"In golf, it might go down as my highlight.”
Sullivan is the lowest-scoring club professional at the PGA since 1969 when Jimmy Wright posted a 5-under par 279 at NCR Country Club in Dayton, Ohio, and Don Bies fired a 1-under par 283 at the same event. He’s the best finishing club professional since 1994 when Bob Boyd tied for 30th.
Despite the solid play and the large payday, Sullivan said that his performance does not make him want to return to the Tour, where he last played in 1997 and made 11 cuts in 27 events.
"I enjoy going home every night and being with my kids,” he said. "I’m just glad it’s over and glad I’m in the red.”
Roy Biancalana, a PGA Teaching Professional at St. Andrews Golf and Country Club in West Chicago, Ill., on the other hand, is turning his winnings into a down payment on his 12th attempt to qualify for the PGA Tour.
Biancalana finished at 11-over for the tournament after a 7-over finish on Sunday, where he recorded back-to-back double bogeys on Nos. 11 and 12 – fighting battles with two of Whistling Straits 1,400 bunkers.
Nevertheless, Biancalana is still geared to compete in the first stage of the Q School on Oct. 19 and return to the Tour after a 15-year hiatus – a final completion of his childhood dream to play professionally.
"Since I was 12 years old, that was what I was going to do,” he said. "I still remember where I was: it was in January and I had just finished my first summer of golf, and I was watching the AT&T Pebble Beach, the old Bing Crosby tournament. I saw the waves crashing in on the 18th and I said, ‘That’s what I want to do for a living.’
"It’s always been my dream, and that’s why I want to go back. I want another shot at it.”
Biancalana made his first cut ever in a major at the 86th PGA, and he will bring in almost $12,000 for his 71st-place finish.
"It’s been a huge positive,” he said. "I’m too competitive to not want more out of it, but once I step back -- I haven’t made the cut in a major before, and I made a boatload of money.”
Jeff Coston, a 48-year-old PGA Teaching Professional at Semiahmoo Golf Resort in Blaine, Wash., finished at 72nd for the tournament with a 13-over 301. Coston fired a second-round 68 -- tying for the second-best round on Friday -- but couldn’t string together any birdies at the weekend.
"I did not play my best,” he said. "I had a wonderful round on Friday, but I did not play my best.”
Coston had putting trouble Sunday, with three 3-putts and a near 2-putt average for the final round. But the teaching professional, who specializes in assisting other competitive players, was still happy to be at Whistling Straits.
"I liked it,” he said. "I was happy to be here, and I’m thankful for the opportunity to be here.”
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