Jeff Coston Alan Morin pace PGA Professionals

At 56, Jeff Coston says he's getting better with age.

Coston and Morin pace PGA Professionals

By Bob Denney, The PGA of America

KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. – PGA Professional Jeff Coston said that there is something you should remember about playing The Ocean Course.

“You have to know that no two days are alike out here,” said Coston, the 56-year-old owner-operator of the Jeff Coston Golf Academy in Blaine, Wash, who posted a 2-over-par 74 to share the low round among 20 PGA club professionals in Thursday’s opening round of the 94th PGA Championship. “I’m happy I get to tee it up here. I’m almost 57 years old. I’m Benjamin Button, so I’m getting better with age. But I’m disappointed, because I made 6 on the last hole.”

Coston shares Low PGA Club Professional honors with Alan Morin, a PGA assistant professional at The Falls Country Club in Lake Worth, Fla.

This is Coston’s fourth PGA Championship appearance and ninth competitive round at The Ocean Course, which yielded a 73.33 stroke average and set up at 7,676 yards – the longest layout in major championship history.

In 2005, Coston finished 17th in the PGA Professional National Championship on the island and in 2007 tied for 19th as the Low PGA Club Professional in the Senior PGA Championship.

“I like this golf course and the people from South Carolina are some of my favorite people,” said Coston. “It’s just a great venue. When I played here in 2005 and ’07, it wasn’t set up like this. The greens were different. The layout is the same, though it’s longer. I can remember on 17, where I hit a 5-wood in 2007, and at the Senior PGA I hit a 5-iron. I’m at least as long as I was then. That’s crazy, right? I hit a 5-wood second shot on 18 today, and I remember the last round I hit a 7-iron. I need to get in and do a few more pushups. I’ve only done 1,000 today. I need another 500, I think.”

Morin, 43, registered his lowest 18-hole score in nine PGA Championship rounds dating back to 2002. But, it was not among his best reviews.

“Frustrating, that’s the word that comes to mind, just frustrating,” said Morin. “I hit it really well and had a nice game plan going into the holes. I hit my marks. I hit a couple of loose shots, which went kind of sideways, and I just missed some putts. It’s really a round that should have been four shots better.”

One of Morin’s playing partners Thursday was Joost Luiten of The Netherlands, who posted a 68, two strokes behind leader Carl Pettersson. Morin said that he got caught up in the attention afforded Luiten.

“It was a fabulous experience; Joost played well,” said Morin. “Getting paired with him, you know, when he catches fire and starts playing great ... then the cameras are around, how can you beat it?”

Morin said that as a PGA club professional, he has always taken pride in the opportunity to compete in a major championship.

“It means everything,” he said. “It shows me that we not only can work at our golf courses and take care of our members, and teach our members, but we also find time to work on our games and just show that we can also play golf. We are just not sitting inside answering the phones. It’s nice to represent [the Association], and let everybody else know that we can play golf, too.”

The low 70 scorers and ties after Friday’s second round will advance to the weekend’s final 36 holes. The bid to make the 36-hole cut also included a series of struggles among the 20 PGA club professional delegation.

Darrell Kestner of Glen Cove, N.Y., the oldest player in the field at 58, led a five-player group at 75, which included Brian Cairns of Walled Lake, Mich., Bob Sowards of Dublin, Ohio; Rod Perry of Port Orange, Fla., and Paul Scaletta of Jupiter, Fla.

Kestner was making an appearance in his 18th major, covering five decades. His first major appearance was in the 1979 U.S. Open. He is competing in his 10th PGA Championship, but said he still felt first-tee “jitters.”

“It’s like what Jack Nicklaus once said, 'If you're not nervous on the first tee of a major you must not really care about it,’ ” said Kestner. “Well, I must have really cared about this because I was as nervous as I was in my very first major.”

Reigning PGA Professional National Champion Matt Dobyns of Sea Cliff, N.Y., slumped to an 81; and three-time National Champion Mike Small of Champaign, Ill., was at 76.