Professionals' pride

As always in the PGA Championship, several PGA Club Professionals have outplayed many PGA Tour stars through two rounds. Their performance, says John Kim, is as impressive as it is important for the tournament.


The 20 PGA Club Professionals in the field must prepare to play while also maintaining their full-time jobs. (Montana Pritchard/The PGA of America)

By John Kim, Coordinating Producer

JOHNS CREEK, Ga. -- Without looking at the leaderboard, who do you think finished higher after two rounds at this 93rd PGA Championship? PGA Club Professional Steve Schneiter, an assistant pro out of Sandy, Utah, or former U.S. Open champions Lucas Glover and Graeme McDowell? PGA Club Professional Mike Northern, Head Professional at Valley Hi Golf Course in Colorado Springs or this year's Open Championship winner Darren Clarke?  Jeff Coston, a 55-year-old PGA teaching professional at Semiahmoo Golf Resort in Blaine, Wash., or 14-time major winner Tiger Woods?

Of course, the answers in these scenarios are all the PGA Club Professionals. They’re certainly surprising in these specific instances, but reflective of a larger truth that golf insiders understand -- actually, two larger truths.

One is that golf is hard. On a per-week basis, the best players in the world make it look so easy. But under the glare of a major championship, the courses and the pressure magnify every imperfect swing, chip or putt. On any given hole, round or week, the best players in the world can look quite ordinary. That's golf -- something we all forget from time to time. 

As Lord Robertson famously stated, "My favorite shots are the practice swing and the conceded putt. The rest can never be mastered."  This week was quite the illustration of that.

Secondly, the 20 PGA Club Professionals in the field this week can play some pretty good golf. Great golf, in fact. Mike Small, the PGA Professional whose main job is serving as the men's golf coach at the University of Illinois, has played in seven PGA Championships and, including this year, made the cut in three of them. Bob Sowards, a PGA teaching professional from New Albany (Ohio) Country Club, played extremely well for two days before a final-hole triple bogey cost him a spot in the weekend. Still, he finished ahead of pre-tournament favorites Ernie Els, Geoff Ogilvy or Dustin Johnson. 

Not one of the 20 PGA Club Professionals will offer a caveat or excuse that they don’t have the time, access or means to work on their games as regularly as their brethren on the PGA Tour. And though this group collectively spends the majority of their time teaching, running tournaments and selling merchandise, the pride they take in their playing ability is not only justified, it's probably understated.

Their practice is often a bucket or two of balls on the range in between a group clinic and filling out payroll sheets. Many can count their full 18-hole rounds in a given year on their fingers and toes, many able to leave one shoe on. Rarely do they have trainers, equipment experts or sponsorship money, but they show up and they play. And they play well. And at every PGA Championship, a number of them finish in better shape than many superstars of golf.

And they won’t crow about it, they won’t gloat, they won’t make mention of any name they beat. To a man, they express the same sentiment: “I’m grateful for the chance to be here.”

The PGA of America is an association of 27,000 men and women professionals who represent the very best in golf -- experts in the game and business, as they say.  The PGA Championship, as the championship of the association, is proud to have members represent and compete in the season's final major championship. By virture of their performance this week, their presence is not only important, it is impressive.