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Danny Balin's Diary

PGA Club Professional Danny Balin of Burning Tree Country Club in Greenwich, Conn., made his PGA Championship debut this week and kept a diary for us. Here are his thoughts and observations on his first major.

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Danny Balin and caddie Marc Mondelblatt enjoyed their week at Whistling Straits, despite the often-challenging conditions. (Montana Pritchard/The PGA of America)

Editor's Note: Danny Balin, 28, of Greenwich, Conn., kept a diary of his week at the 92nd PGA Championship for us as he marked his first appearance in a major championship. Balin, a graduate of Penn State University, is a PGA assistant professional at Burning Tree Country Club in Greenwich. He is part of a 20-member PGA Club Professional contingent in the 156-member field at Whistling Straits.

Balin, who made the most of his debut in the 2010 PGA Professional National Championship by finishing fourth, is the second PGA Professional Golf Management graduate to compete in a PGA Championship. He was preceded by close friend and fellow Penn State alumnus (2000), John Guyton of Briar Cliff Manor, N.Y., a PGA assistant professional at Trump National Golf Club in Briar Cliff Manor, who competed in the 2003 PGA Championship.


Friday
As one of the 78 players who could not finish last night due to darkness, I was up at 5:15 a.m. We again expected fog, and again we were right.

I hit a few putts and then hit the range, which was packed. I inched my way in between Mike Weir and Kevin Sutherland. I looked over my shoulder while I was hitting, and saw who was patiently waiting to get a spot -- Steve Stricker, who happens to be the No. 4-ranked player in the world.

U.S. Open Champion Graeme McDowell and Ernie Els walked by, which was pretty neat. I'm watching how the best players in the world warm up and go about their business. It's a great learning process for me.

I’m anxious to get back out there and play golf. I feel that I can make up for the front nine. Just have to get this fog out of the way.

We started play 2 hours and 40 minutes behind schedule. I played 27 holes today, finishing my first round with a back-nine 37. I hit it OK and again caught a couple of bad breaks. I could not get anything to drop.

They gave us a 15-minute break between our first and second rounds. I had just enough time to head to the locker room and grab a sandwich.

My turning point in the second round came after I birdied the third hole. I hit a great putt on the par 3, and thought that I was on my way to good things. I was just 2 over for the Championship.

That ended quickly, when I drove it right on No. 4 into a bunch of fescue. I had an awful lie in the fescue and tried to hack it out. I eventually lipped out a chip for bogey and two-putted from there for a triple-bogey 7. That took the steam out of me.

With a bogey on No. 5, a birdie on 6 and a three-putt bogey on 7, I was just in the mood to enjoy the rest of the round and not get angry with myself. I looked at the crowd, and also enjoyed the scenic course. You have to enjoy the moment, and my friends and family in the gallery were cheering me every step of the way.

My playing partners, Sean O’Hair and Robert Karlsson, really handled themselves so well, and that was something that I picked up on.

By the time we got to the 15th hole, I made it a point to look for kids and give them some souvenir golf balls. When I was young, I wanted to have something to take home from a big event, no matter how small. I identified with those kids I met today and throughout the week.

I finished with a 77 and standing at 152 after 36 holes, I know that I can look back upon this week as one of the best golf experiences of my life. It wasn’t the way I wanted to finish, but I really learned a lot about what it takes to get back here.

Playing in the PGA Championship underscores for me what it takes to make golf your career. I will work hard to make a playing career. If that does not work out, I want to teach golf.

Tonight, my family, girlfriend, caddie and close friends have gathered for a barbeque at one of the houses we are renting. It’s a great chance to reminisce with friends whom I rarely get to see due to our busy lives.

It was quite a journey getting to the PGA Championship. On Saturday, I plan to go out and cheer on the other PGA Professionals still in the Championship. My friend, Rob Labritz, is still in the hunt to make the cut [after this entry was filed, Labritz beame the only PGA Professional to make the cut].

Seven years ago I had no idea of competing, let alone committing myself to professional golf. Now, I have experienced what any PGA of America professional would love to do – to play among the best and represent your Association in a major championship.

Thursday
I had to force myself to sleep in longer today. My tee time was not until 1:55 p.m., and we had anticipated that there would be a fog delay. I got out of bed at 10:30 a.m. A club professional's routine is typically being up by 6:30 and hard at work. This day, it was a different story.

My girlfriend and I headed to Harry's Diner in Sheboygan and had a relaxing breakfast. After breakfast, we headed back to the house. I took a little nap. All my friends from Maryland -- nine of them -- have come to follow me at the PGA Championship. They got in around 1 a.m. Wednesday. It is so great to have them here.

The occupants of the two homes we rented this week: Me, my girlfriend and my caddie are in one home located in Sheboygan near a Walmart, and 5 1/2 miles from Whistling Straits. The other home has my parents, brothers, three cousins and one of my closest friends, Glenn Younes of Rockville, Md., who works for Sirius XM Radio.

The fog delay was announced, and lasted 3 hours and 10 minutes!

I headed to the course, arrived 2 1/2 hours early. I was set to tee off now at 5:05 p.m.

I went to the putting green, then hit balls on the range. I met my playing partners, Sean O' Hair and Robert Karlsson, outside the locker room. They couldn't have been nicer to me. They asked how I got into the Championship and we had nice small talk before we headed to the 10th tee.

Our official starter was Ron Dunham [PGA District 9 Director from Jackson, Wyo.], who has known me from PGA Tournament Series events over the winter in South Florida, greeted me and gave me a hug on the first tee. I got a big roar from my gallery, which was pretty special.

I hit my first tee shot right down the middle. I thought I would be more nervous, but it felt good until I got to my ball and saw that it was in the middle of a divot. That's golf.

I chunked my second shot from 67 yards, pitched up and left my par putt on the edge of the hole.

I was hitting it pretty solid, and just didn't get a few breaks. I bogeyed 12, then hit 3-wood on 13 and put my approach to four feet and made that for birdie. I parred 14, bogeyed 15 after hitting from a tough lie in the rough, and made par at 16.

Coming to 17, a really great par 3, I hit a 4-iron to 15 feet, which people near the green told me was the best shot of the day. I drained that putt for birdie.

I had been playing 18 well all week in practice but pulled me tee shot left. It landed in a flat lie in the valley. I chipped back to the fairway and was left with 134 yards to the hole.

I hit my approach to four feet. The horns blew just after that at 7:54 p.m., and we all had the option of either marking our balls, or finishing the hole. Sean O'Hair elected to finish, and Robert Karlsson marked his ball. I felt I didn't want to return early for that one putt and stepped up and it lipped in and out of the hole. There were a lot of spike marks late in the day, but it is the same for all golfers.

So, I had three lip-outs and one ball in a divot. That's the game of golf, right?

I thought that I had hit the ball beautifully, and a 38 is not the end of the world. I feel that I can come back once play resumes in a positive frame of mind.

What a great golf course! It is in magnificent shape.

I was surprised the scores were not better than they were today. My expectations are high.

Wednesday
All my family and friends arrived, and I was exhausted by the end of the day.

We were planning to go out for a practice round today at 8 a.m., but the course was shut down due to a heavy rain storm. But I did get in six holes with Rob Labritz, Tour professional Steve Marino and former Open Champion Ben Curtis in the morning before the rain.

After the rain ended, the sun returned and I went out on the Straits to play nine holes by myself around 3 p.m. My brothers walked inside the ropes with me and I signed lots of autographs while on the course.

It was time for bed by the time I arrived home. A big day coming up. I’m off the No. 10 tee at 1:55 p.m. (CDT), and playing with Sean O’Hair and Robert Karlsson.

Tuesday
I thought that I had a game with Angel Cabrera, but he couldn’t wait for me due to my being in a historic PGA Club Professional photo session on the 18th fairway that went overtime.

We arrived at 6:30 a.m., headed to the photo at 7:20 and Angel was already on the course. He could not wait, and I understand. That’s OK. He’s a professional and has to be in his routine. I understand, and I will see him later this week.

Angel did a lot for my confidence in December 2009. I got a sponsor’s exemption into the Argentine Open, courtesy of one of the members at my club. I ended up making the cut, and was in fifth place after 36 holes. I finished tied for 15th and learned a lot about the distractions of playing in front of large crowds and in front of cameras. I hope that it helped me for this week.

My friend, Rob Labritz of GlenArbor Golf Club in Bedford Hills, N.Y., is one of the 20 PGA Club Professionals in the Championship and joins me in representing the Metropolitan PGA Section this week. Rob is making his third PGA Championship appearance, having competed in 2002 and 2003.

We went out as a twosome this morning and went about the business of getting to feel comfortable with The Straits Course. We’re getting a good look at all of the guys we see on TV about every weekend.

We’re working on our goals of hitting a lot of extra shots, relaxing and talking to the crowd and thanking the volunteers. You can never thank the volunteers too much. They are the lifeblood of any event in golf.

There were tons of kids out here today, and that is good to see. One of the parents told me that they had seen me in the CBS special “Road to the PGA Championship” [on July 25] and wanted to congratulate me. That was pretty special coming from a stranger.

I signed as many autographs as possible. I remember as a young boy how important it was to me to get all the autographs I could. It helped me appreciate the players in the game that much more.

Monday
We have rented two houses this week, 5 1/2 miles from the course in Sheboygan. My brothers Jason, 30, and Andy, 26, and my caddie, and my girlfriend are in one house, and my parents in another.

My caddie, Marc Mondelblatt, is a fraternity brother from Beta Sigma Beta. He has caddied for me in the Metropolitan PGA Section Championship and the PGA Professional National Championship.

I got to play the Straits a week earlier and I think it’s just great. It suits my eye. I am keeping to just a couple swing thoughts and sticking to that this week.

Sunday
It is indescribable to be a part of a major championship. Any professional would want to be in my position, and I feel very humbled. This week, I have my girlfriend, Lindsay Wenger, my parents, brothers, uncles and nine to 10 close friends in the gallery this week cheering me on.

What makes this week so special -- beyond the fact that I’m playing in my first major -- is that my mom and dad will get to see me play 18 holes of golf for the first time. Ever.

My dad did get to see me play nine holes once, about 10 years ago. But that was it. He’s played golf once in his life, I think. He’s a Certified Public Accountant for the Department of Labor. Mom works for the National Institute of Health. They are busy and never got the chance to be out there with me. That all will change this week.


BACKGROUND ON DANNY BALIN:
PGA Championship Experience: Debut
Residence: Greenwich, Conn.
Age: 28 Ht.: 6-foot-0  Wt.: 185
Birth Date: April 9, 1982
Birthplace: Rockville, Md.
College: Penn State University
Home Club/Affiliation: Burning Tree Country Club, Greenwich, Conn.
PGA Classification: A-8
Turned Professional: 2004
PGA Membership: 2007
PGA Section: Metropolitan
Player Notes: PGA assistant professional at Burning Tree Country Club in Greenwich, Conn ... Finished fourth in the 2010 PGA Professional National Championship, his debut in the National Championship ... Was a graduate of the PGA Professional Golf Management Program at Penn State University ... Tied for ninth in 2008 Metropolitan Open and tied for eighth in 2007 ... Finished 25th in 2009 Argentine Open … Two-time Squire Cup Member (2008 & 2009) … Runner-up, 2010 PGA Winter Stroke Play Championship … Co-hosted a Golf Academy Live episode before the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot with The Golf Fix’s Michael Breed … Has recorded one hole-in-one
Personal: Single
Hobbies/Special Interests: Fishing, snowboarding, traveling, movies, all sports