T.J. Auclair is a Senior Interactive Producer for PGA.com and has covered professional golf since 1998, traveling to over 60 major championships. You can follow him on Twitter, @tjauclair .
MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. -- Close, but no cigar. That's basically been the story of Stuart Deane's life when it comes to the PGA Professional National Championship and a coveted top-20 spot, which is rewarded with a berth in the PGA Championship.
On three occasions, Deane has missed the PGA Championship by a single shot, including 2012 when he missed out on a spot in a playoff.
But on Wednesday in the final round of the 47th PGA Professional National Championship, Deane would not be denied.
With a 1-under 71 in the final round at the Dunes Golf & Beach Club -- highlighted by an incredible eagle at the par-4 17th hole (see the video below) -- Deane registered a four-round total of 1-under 287 and finished alone in third. He was one of just three players to end his week with an under par score.
"To walk off that last green and find out I'm in the PGA Championship was special," said the 42-year-old PGA teaching professional at Golf Center of Arlington in Texas by way of Brisbane, Australia. "I've missed by a shot I think three times. I've missed in a playoff to get to the PGA. This year I came over early. I had never done that before. I came here three weeks ago and the guys here at the Dunes Club were just awesome and really took care of me with tee times and helping us get out. It really made a big difference. I played great all week, so it's just an awesome deal."
The icing on the cake was that shot on No. 17 -- a pitching wedge from 134 yards out that was noting but cup.
"I really hit that shot great," Deane said. "I actually hit it great all week and didn't seem to get much out of it. Today it was the same thing. I played great all day, but wasn't getting much out of it. Then finally, I hit that wedge on 17 and as soon as it left the club I said to my caddie, Wes, 'This is really good.' There was a bunker in front of me. I thought I saw it land, but Wes yelled, 'It's in the hole!' Sure enough, it was."
To say Deane is looking forward to Valhalla would be an understatement.
"I've played at every level -- Tour events, Web.com, Section stuff -- but I've never played in the ultimate, a major championship," he said. "It's really cool. It kind of caps off everything you could ever want or dream of as a golfer."