Greg Bisconti acknowledges the crowd after finishing his final round at the 91st PGA Championship. (Photo: courtesy Edward M. Pio Roda, PGA.com)
Greg Bisconti takes low PGA Club Professional honors
Greg Bisconti, PGA Assistant Professional from The St. Andrew's Golf Club in Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y. played one-under par in his final six holes to earn low club professional honors.
By Bob Denney, The PGA of America
CHASKA, Minn. - PGA Professional Greg Bisconti had spent a year awaiting another opportunity at claiming a "Kodak" moment in his golf career.
His stars were aligned properly, along with his short game, Sunday at Hazeltine National Golf Club.
The 36-year PGA assistant professional at The St. Andrew's Golf Club in Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y., turned in a 4-over-par 76 for a 72-hole total of 301, earning him Low Club Professional honors in the 91st PGA Championship. Though the final score was not what Bisconti had anticipated, it was his preparation that catapulted him to gain the honor of stepping on to the 18th green during Sunday's award ceremony and share in a national spotlight.
It was the third PGA Championship appearance for Bisconti, and first since 2007. It was the first time that he had made a 36-hole cut. He finished two strokes better than Oakmont (Pa.) Country Club assistant professional Grant Sturgeon of Ambler, Pa., who closed with a 79 and 303 total.
"I told Mike [Loughlin, his caddie] walking up 16 how I appreciated the second round a lot more, the 72 that I shot to make the cut," said Bisconti. "And, I'll probably appreciate this all a bit more in the next couple of days when I have a chance to settle down and think about it a little bit more. It feels good. Finished off nicely today which feels better."
Bisconti birdied the fifth and 14th holes, offsetting an opening-hole double bogey and four additional bogeys. He finished in style, with four methodical pars. He said that he received a short game lesson prior to Thursday's opening round from renowned PGA Teaching Professional Stan Utley, who has been an MVP for many Tour professionals.
"I got a short lesson from - a real quick lesson - from Stan Utley during a practice round, which I would say that's part of the reason why I made the cut. Because I got up and down a bunch out of this really thick rough. That's something I can bring back to my members."
Sturgeon, who had a one-stroke edge over Bisconti heading into the final round, saw his chances for the crystal trophy fade with a bogeyed the 13th hole and double bogeyed the par-4 16th hole.
As a rocky weekend of scoring came to a close - with rounds of 80 and 79 - Sturgeon kept a smile on his face.
"You know, there are a few things I've learned," he said. "I've got to go try them out on myself first before I try to scare somebody else with them. But yeah, I was able to learn a lot. Time will tell if I'm able to improve because of it."
For Bisconti, the learning process was well-defined when he first competed in a PGA Championship in 2006. He witnessed the gap between competing for a living and splitting time working for a club and practicing for a major.
"We work 50, 60 hours a week teaching golf all day and running tournaments at the club, and we don't get to fine-tune our games on a golf-specific level," said Bisconti. "Their physical fitness is off the charts. They are real athletes out here. And their short games are very tight and I think that's more because of their ability to practice a lot. There's a lot of great club professionals in the country, and you know, we just don't get to practice as much as we would want to.
"But this is awesome. Made the cut in the PGA and wouldn't trade it for anything."
Having prepared for Hazeltine National by playing his home course, Oakmont Country Club, made Sturgeon believe that he had the right game plan.
But, his short game continued to give him fits, capped by a double bogey at 16.
"I just hit another bad chip followed by another bad chip," said Sturgeon. "Unfortunately, I do that a lot. It's nothing really new. I just have to figure out how to chip the ball better.
"I putted really poorly yesterday [Saturday's third round]. I putted well today. My pitching and chipping of the golf ball let me down this weekend."
But Sturgeon said that he would not let himself lose any sleep.
"This is the best weekend of golf I've ever had," said Sturgeon. "The weekend was incredibly disappointing to finish with the two rounds that I did. But just to put myself in position to have some success on the weekend was awesome."
As the weekend drew to a close for Bisconti was philosophical on advice that he can return home to his members.
"Obviously, you've got to have fun, because most of this game is between our ears," said Bisconti. "So you got to go out and have fun and just relax. We always try to tell our members to work on our short game. The short game creates a nice score at the end of the day. If you can put an 80 on your card instead of an 89, it always makes you feel better. Really, just to go work on their short games and trust that really is the important thing."
On Sunday in the 91st PGA Championship, Bisconti trusted what he had in his game and enjoyed a special finish to a major.
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