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Though they didn't post the scores they had hoped for, Brad Dean and his caddie Korey Mahoney seemed to enjoy their experience at the 90th PGA Championship. (Photo: The PGA of America)

'Monster' makes sure no PGA Club Professionals make cut

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Thanks to a brutal test of golf called Oakland Hills Country Club, for the first time since 2003 not a single PGA Club Professional will be playing on the weekend in the PGA Championship.

BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. - The "Monster" that is Oakland Hills Country Club bared its teeth on Friday and took a bite out of the dreams of the 20 PGA Club Professionals in the field at the 90th PGA Championship. Thus, for the first time since 2003, there will be no club professionals playing on the weekend at the PGA Championship.

"It was a great experience - the hardest golf course I've ever played," said Tim Thelen, the PGA Director of Instruction at Traditions Golf Club at Texas A&M University in Bryan, Texas. "I can't remember the last two times that I've played two rounds of golf and I had four double bogeys."

Thelen, who has now played in eight PGA Championships, finished at 81-76 to miss the cut by nine shots.

"The hole locations are very difficult," said Thelen, a two-time PGA Professional National Champion. "The rough is rough, and you know, I hit the ball, except for two shots today, very well and shot 76. So that explains the golf course."

For most of the day, it appeared that Frank Esposito, Jr., the PGA Head Professional at Brooklake Country Club in Florham Park, N.J., was going to fulfill his dream and make it to the weekend. But a disappointing back nine - punctuated by a double bogey on the final hole - kept Esposito from weekend play by one shot.

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"You do things under pressure that you normally wouldn't do if you were just out there playing," Esposito said after his round. "Your mind starts to wander a little bit and you just don't trust yourself. But overall, I think I played okay."

Despite his disappointing finish, Esposito did finish as the low PGA Club Professional - an achievement made even more impressive considering he survived a five-man playoff for the last remaining spot in the PGA Championship at the 2008 PGA Professional National Championship earlier this summer.

Other club professionals echoed the same sentiment, that a major championship test offers a challenge that they simply don't see too much.

"Man, just it's very penalizing, very penal when you miss the shot," said a weary David Long, the PGA Director of Golf at The Country Club at Woodmore in Bowie, Md., after his second-round 82 put him at 22 over for the tournament. "Whether it's from the fairway or from the rough off the tee, you miss it a little bit and you pay for it."

Long, who was competing in his first PGA Championship, expressed great enthusiasm for the opportunity to tee it up in such an extreme test - and is eager for another opportunity to test his skills against the world's best players.

"Well, it's amazing to have even gotten a chance to play in this in the first place," Long noted. "There's a lot of qualifying, as you know, to get to this point. So the whole ride has been great, and everybody that I ran into has always said, just enjoy the moment. I don't do this for a living; these guys do. I still have a job to go home to, I hope.

"But everybody, the players I played with every day, practice rounds, tournament rounds, all said that they were well aware of how hard and how we have to qualify to get to this point. We definitely have game, too, in a different way. It was a great experience, emotionally, physically, still a great experience and something that I'll never forget."

Kyle Flinton, the PGA Head Professional at Quail Creek Golf & Country Club in Oklahoma City, Okla., minced no words when talking about the stern test of Oakland Hills.

"I have never played a course this demanding, ever," Flinton said. "I felt like I hit maybe four loose shots yesterday and never caught a break and never made a putt and got anything going."

One of the most impressive and courageous performances on the day was turned in by Eric Dugas, a PGA Assistant Professional at Old Sandwich Golf Club in Plymouth, Mass.

Dugas, who shot an opening-round 87, returned to shoot a 4-over 74 in the second round, quite incredible considering the more difficult scoring conditions on Friday.

"I take a lot of positive things away this week, I held it together," Dugas said modestly. "It did not come unraveled today."

Vince Jewell, a PGA Assistant Professional at Brook Hollow Golf Club in Dallas, Texas, shot 85-78 and though not the scores he had hoped, summed up his time as a great success.

"It's just another learning experience for me," he said. "Despite my story, I still had fun. A lot of guys don't get to be here - and there are a lot of golf professionals. I am one of the lucky ones."

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