Setting course for Hazeltine National
By T.J. Auclair, Interactive Producer- PGA.com
Editor's note: Each week leading into the PGA Championship at Hazeltine National Golf Club, PGA.com will profile some of the 20 PGA Professionals who qualified based on their respective top-20 finish at the 42nd PGA Professional National Championship in Santa Ana Pueblo, N.M. This is the second installment of the Drive to the PGA Championship presented by Mercedes-Benz.
DON'T TAKE IT FOR GRANTED: At 53 years old, Chris Starkjohann considers himself lucky to be playing in what will be his fourth PGA Championship this August.
Fact is, the PGA Professional who is an event coordinator for Torrey Pines Gold Club & Golf Outings in Encinitas, Calif., just doesn't know how many chances he has like this ahead of him.
"I am just going to enjoy the week at Hazeltine because at 53 my opportunities to play at that level are limited," he said.
Starkjohann made headlines back in May at Canterbury in the Senior PGA Championship when he finished alone in fifth to take Low Club Professional honors. That gave him plenty of confidence, but it sure didn't make the route to Hazeltine any easier. He still needed to finish in the top 20 at the PGA Professional National Championship.
Starkjohann took care of business with a 2-under 282 in the National Championship, which was good enough to tie for 16th. However, since only 20 players can qualify for the PGA Championship, Starkjohann had to join the seven other players he tied with in an eight-man playoff for five PGA Championship spots.
Starkjohann, no doubt one of the more experienced players among the group, took care of business and moved on. Since then, he's wasted no time preparing, having already gone to scout out Hazeltine.
"It will be fun, but I can't say that I am excited to play a 7,678-yard golf course," Starkjohann admitted. "I played the course the last three days and it will be tough. The Golf Channel just did a piece on my family here at Hazeltine, so there has been more attention because of qualifying."
TAKING IT ALL IN: Like Starkjohann, Roswell, Ga., resident Kevin Roman had to go the extra mile to earn his spot at Hazeltine.
Roman, the PGA Assistant Professional at Cherokee Town and Country Club in Atlanta, Ga., also emerged from the eight-man playoff at the National Championship. Unlike Starkjohann, however, this will be the 41-year-old Roman's very first PGA Championship appearance.
Roman paved his path to Hazeltine thanks largely to a 5-under 66 in the second round of the National Championship. He followed that with two 1-over 72 rounds over the final two days and left New Mexico slightly disappointed. That disappointment didn't last too long, though.
"Since the let down at the National Championship is waning, my level of excitement is growing every day," he said. "I have some idea of what to expect since I played in the 1993 U.S. Open."
So what's it like for Roman juggling his duties as a PGA Professional while also trying to put in sufficient practice time for Hazeltine?
"There's been no change in my duties or practice time," he said. "I just try and use my time more wisely and take advantage of any free moments. I'm mindful of not over-practicing and just staying as close to my normal routine as possible. I play every weekend with the members and that is the extent of my on-course time.
"Since qualifying I've received support from the members beyond what anyone could possibly expect from the members," Roman added. "You hope that they would be excited, but the excitement level from them is unbelievable. It's not just me playing in the PGA, it's also all of the members of Cherokee Town and Country Club. With each passing day the anticipation of the tournament gets stronger."
All in all, Roman said he has high expectations for Hazeltine.
"I'm looking forward to testing my game against the best," he said. "I expect to play well."
MR. TIMELY: When it counted most at the 42nd PGA Professional National Championship, 37-year-old Sam Arnold got the job done.
Arnold, the PGA Head Professional at The Vineyard Golf Course in Cincinnati, Ohio, was just one shot inside the cut line in New Mexico at 1-over 143 after 36 holes. He rallied in the final two rounds with scores of 1-under 70 and 3-under 68 to tie for 13th and to qualify for his third PGA Championship overall and second in as many years.
"I played at Medinah in 2006 and last year at Oakland Hills," Arnold said. "I'm very excited for this year. I've been very blessed to have the opportunity to play in three majors. I'm also blessed to work for a great organization in the Hamilton County Park District and to have such a great staff at the Vineyard Golf Course. When I leave for tournaments, I feel very confident in my staff. The dedication they have towards the facility is incredible. I really enjoy working with them and we have a great time. "
Arnold is hoping to make the cut at Hazeltine for the first in any of his PGA Championship appearances.
"I really don't do anything different in preparation for a major," Arnold said. "My goal is to stick to my normal routine. Now that we're in the long summer hours (10 to 12 hours of work per day), it's challenging to get motivated to practice, especially when you're dog tired. But qualifying for the PGA Championship and having the opportunity to play with the best players in the world is a good motivator. I'm looking forward to representing the Hamilton County Park District and The Vineyard Golf Course in the year's final major."