PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- The field in the 24th Southworth Senior PGA Professional National Championship presented by Mercedes-Benz USA is perhaps the strongest assembled in the history of the popular PGA of America member event.
The 264-player contingent that converges Oct. 10-14 at Creighton Farms in Aldie, Va., and River Creek Club in Leesburg, Va., features representatives from 43 states, including 11 past National Champions: Tom Joyce, Huntington, N.Y. (1990, '91); Pete Oakley, Palm City, Fla. (1999); Ed Sabo, Tequesta, Fla. (2000, '01); Mike San Filippo, Hobe Sound, Fla. (2002, '05); Jeff Thomsen, Boise, Idaho (2003); Jim White, Lincoln, Neb. (2004); Jeff Coston, Blaine, Wash. (2006); Bill Loeffler, Littleton, Colo. (2007); Kirk Hanefeld, Acton, Mass (2008, '11); Bill Britton, Colts Neck, N.J. (2009); and Robert Thompson, Huntsville, Texas (2010).
Oakley, a 63-year-old PGA Life Member, is the only member of the field to claim a professional major. Oakley won the 2004 Senior British Open at Royal Portrush Golf Club in Northern Ireland in style, making a 10-foot par putt on the 18th green to avoid a playoff with Tom Kite and Eduardo Romero. Oakley became the 10th Open qualifier to win a Champions Tour event.
Five members of the field own a PGA Professional National Championship: Darrell Kestner, Glen Cove, N.Y. (1996); Bruce Zabriski, Jupiter, Fla. (1997); Mike Burke Jr., Towaco, N.J. (1998); Wayne DeFrancesco, Columbia, Md. (2001); and Barry Evans, Charleston, W.Va. (2002).
Six members of the field are past PGA Assistant Professional Champions: Kestner (1982, '87); Robert Thompson, Huntsville, Texas (1986); Steve Gotsche, Great Bend, Kan. (1990); Bill Loeffler, Littleton, Colo. (1992); Zabriski (1995); and Frank Dobbs, Port St. Lucie, Fla. (2001).
There are seven past PGA Senior Professional Players of the Year competing this week: Steve Veriato, San Marcos, Texas (1996); Roy Vucinich, Moon Township, Pa. (1997, '98); Sabo, Tequesta, Fla. (2000); Kestner (2004, '05); Chris Starkjohann, Oceanside, Calif. (2006, '07, '09), and Sonny Skinner, Sylvester, Ga. (2010, '11), who is the only PGA of America member to win both a PGA Professional Player of the Year (2008) and Senior PGA Professional Player of the Year award.
Five-time recipient Bruce Zabriski, a PGA assistant professional at Westchester Country Club in Rye, N.Y., heads six past PGA Professional Players of the Year in the field. Zabriski, 55, earned the national award in 1991, '94, '96, '97, and '98. Joining him are the other national award recipients: Bob Ford, Oakmont, Pa. (1988); San Filippo (1993); Rick Hartmann, Sag Harbor, N.Y. (2000); Don Berry, Brooklyn Park, Minn. (2002); and Skinner (2008).
The 264-player field features PGA Professionals at least 50 years of age, as of the Championship, who have qualified through one of the 41 PGA Sections. The low 70 scorers and ties after Friday's second round advance to the weekend's final 36 holes at Creighton Farms.
The low 35 finishers will qualify for the 2013 Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid at Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis, Mo.
The top eight finishers, including ties, will receive exemptions into the 2013 Senior PGA Professional National Championship.
In addition, the top five finishers will be exempt into the Champions Tour National Finals at TPC Eagle Trace in Coral Springs, Fla., provided they have submitted an entry by the entry deadline.