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Scott Hebert, PGA Club Professional from Traverse City, Mich., shot an even par 72 in the opening round. (Photo: Edward M. Pio Roda, PGA.com)

PGA Club Professionals make grand entry

For 20 PGA Club Professionals, their inclusion into the 91st PGA Championship is both the fulfillment of a dream and the beginning of a great challenge.

John Kim, Coordinating Producer, PGA.com

CHASKA, Minn. - For PGA Club Professionals, making their debut in a major championship has to be pretty special. But how many PGA Club Professionals play in their first PGA Championship and list that as their second major championship of the summer?

Thus is the peculiar situation for PGA Professional Mike Miles - a PGA Assistant Professional at Virginia Country Club in Long Beach, Calif. - who qualified earlier this year to play in the U.S. Open at Bethpage Black. Miles then followed that appearance up with a top 20 finish at the PGA Professional National Championship in Albuquerque, New Mexico which earned him a trip to Hazeltine and the 91st PGA Championship.  

"It feels really good," Miles said in reaction to shooting an even par 72 in his opening round. "I've been playing that way, so I kind of expected something.  I thought three under was a pretty good score today.  That was kind of my target score.  But I'll take even par.  Yeah, I'm pretty happy."

Miles, who missed the cut at rain-drenched U.S. Open, is tied for the low PGA Club Professional score with Scott Hebert, who won the 2008 PGA Professional National Championship, and Keith Dicciani.

For Dicciani, a PGA Assistant Professional at Metropolis Country Club in White Plains, N.Y., shooting even par while playing in his first PGA Championship might not be the most nerve-wracking part of his week.

"My family is up here and my fiancee's family is up here," he told reporters after his round. "This is actually the first meeting.  They officially met Monday night.  There was a lot going on so it was fun.  It's been a great week so far."

Miles, Hebert and Dicciani are among the 20 PGA Club Professionals that qualified for their association's crown jewel event. For each of them, the 91st PGA Championship is a great week - one that presents both a challenge and a reward.  By virtue of their appearance, it is a great testament to the talent and hard work they have put into the game. Simply put, they have earned the right to tee it up at the season's final major. But in and of itself, that is as much a challenge as it is a reward.

For Mike Small, the coach of the Univ. of Illinois Men's Golf team and winner of the 2009 PGA Professional National Championship, his fifth attempt at the PGA Championship did not get off to the start he anticipated.

"I struggled," Small said bluntly after his round.  "It was a struggle most of the day and stayed relatively pain free until my 13th hole, then I made a triple bogey.  So I played the first 12 holes solid and then the wheels came off."

Small, who has made two cuts at the PGA Championship and was the low PGA Club Professional in the PGA Championship field in 2007, assessed his plans for Friday's second round after an opening-round 78.

"I've got to strike the ball better," he said. "I didn't make a birdie today.  I didn't hit it close."

Todd Lancaster, a PGA Assistant Professional at Westwood Country Club in Rocky River, Ohio, his opening-round 75 was rewarding and still held promise for a better score to come.

"Of course it was nerve racking my first PGA -- first couple of holes," Lancaster noted.  "But I got through it okay.  Hit the ball really well.  Hit one bad shot on 7    actually No. 8, the par 3 that went into the water.  Made double bogey there.  Other than that I hit a lot of good shots and just couldn't make any putts.  I don't know how many putts I ended up with, but it was a lot."

The 20 PGA Club Professionals are vying to make the cut for weekend play.  The cut is determined after two rounds as being the top 70 scores and ties. Currently four PGA Club Professionals are in the top 70.
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