By Matt Marsom, PGA Championship Journal
When you flip on the TV on a Sunday afternoon to watch the final round of the week's PGA Tour stop, you probably won't be watching the likes of PGA Club Professionals Ron Philo Jr., Alan Schulte and Jeffrey Cranford. They wake up early on Sundays and go to work at their respective golf facilities in New York, Indiana and California.
While they are superb players, they actually get paid to give lessons, sell golf shirts, plan tournaments, and cater to members and guests. Plus, they perform dozens of other daily tasks -- the life of your typical PGA club professional, an occupation that includes plenty of behind-the-scenes work and is shared by more than 28,000 members and apprentices.
But this week, Philo, Schulte, Cranford and 17 other PGA club professionals take a much-deserved break from their day jobs to participate in the 88th PGA Championship -- earning the chance to be playing right alongside Championship favorites named Tiger, Phil and Vijay.
Each year, the top finishers in The PGA of America's PGA Professional National Championship qualify to play in the PGA Championship.
"To play in the PGA Championship is a dream come true. For any club professional to be able to play in a major is really special," says Greg Bisconti, a PGA assistant professional at St. Andrews Golf Club in Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y.
Bisconti finished in a seven-way tie for 16th in the 2006 PGA Professional National Championship -- conducted at Turning Stone Resort & Casino in Verona, N.Y., in late June -- and won a playoff to earn a berth in the PGA Championship.
Philo, the PGA head professional at Metropolis Country Club in White Plains, N.Y., won the 2006 PGA Professional National Championship in a three-hole, sudden-death playoff over Schulte, the PGA head professional at The Hawthorns Golf & Country Club in Fishers, Ind.
Four PGA club professionals made the cut at the 2005 PGA Championship at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, N.J., including Philo, Steve Schneiter and Mike Small -- all of whom also have qualified for the 88th PGA Championship. Schneiter is a PGA assistant professional at his family's Schneiter's Pebblebrook Golf Links in Sandy, Utah, while Small -- the only PGA club professional representing the Illinois PGA Section in the 2006 PGA Championship -- is the men's golf coach at the University of Illinois.
While Schneiter will be appearing in his ninth PGA Championship, Philo his seventh and Small his third, Cranford is making his PGA Championship debut.
"You know what, it's hard to describe," says the PGA director of instruction at The Palms Golf Club in La Quinta, Calif. "Everybody wants to play in it. It will be my first time in a major."
And while you may have never seen Cranford and his fellow PGA club professionals play, it won't take you long to discover that -- despite much less practice time -- they are superb players who do indeed belong on the same course as Tiger, Phil and Vijay.
Matt Marsom is the editorial director of the 2006 PGA Championship Journal, and PGA Magazine.
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