By Bob Denney, The PGA of America
JOHNS CREEK, Ga. -- They come from a variety of career paths but remain committed to one goal -- promoting the game of golf while enjoying a reward for their hard work -- a berth in the Season's Final Major. They are 20 PGA Club Professionals, representing 19 states and 17 PGA Sections. On Thursday at Atlanta Athletic Club, they will be part of a field of a 156-member international field at the 93rd PGA Championship.
"We are all coming from a variety of jobs back home, but we are all here to play well and to enjoy being part of a major championship," said reigning PGA Professional National Champion David Hutsell of Baltimore, Md., following a group photo opportunity with his peers on the 18th green Tuesday morning. "It's my second straight PGA Championship., and I learned that you have to pace yourself. The course is great; the fairways are great and the greens are great. You can't ask for more."
The 20 earned a berth through the 44th PGA Professional National Championship, June 29, at Hershey (Pa.) Country Club. Hutsell leads a contingent averaging 40 years of age, and he is one of 11 who have tasted the ambience of the season's final major at least once in their career. They range in job description from Mike Small, the Big Ten Conference Coach of the Year from Champaign, Ill., who owns three National Championships; to Marty Jertson of Reno, Nev., a senior design engineer for PING, making his debut in a major championship.
First-time competitor Scott Erdmann of Tigard, Ore., 34, holds joint citizenship in New Zealand and the United States. Only one, 50-year-old Craig Stevens of Dallas, Ga., knows the nuances of Atlanta Athletic Club's Highlands Course better than his club professional peers. He's played the course at least 20 times, including his major debut in the 2001 PGA Championship.
"I'm looking forward to a great week, and just enjoying it and representing the Georgia PGA Section," said Stevens, PGA teaching professional at Steel Canyon Golf Club in Sandy Springs, Ga. "It was 10 years ago when I last competed here, and the course has just gotten better and tougher. It will be a great test for a major."