ben polland

Bill Loeffler was pleased that he and two of his employees all qualified for the National Championship, even though it meant they all were off work at the same time.

Monday Notebook: Ben Polland could set National Championship age record

By John Dever, PGA of America

FLOURTOWN, Pa. – At 24 years, 11 months, one day of age, second-round leader Ben Polland (68–67, -7) of Manhasset, New York, is the third-youngest contestant in the 311-player field and is vying to become the youngest champion in the PGA Professional National Championship's 48-year history. Howell Fraser, who won the inaugural National Championship in 1968 at the age of 28, currently holds the distinction. 

Polland finished off a 3-under par front side with three consecutive birdies. His 3-under 67 Monday at Wissahickon matched the low round of the Championship. 

BEN’S A GEM: While Ben Polland is two rounds into his National Championship debut, he is no stranger to the PGA of America. Polland is a graduate of Campbell (N.C.) University’s PGA Golf Management University Program. In 2012, he played a vital role as his Campbell squad won the PGA Jones Cup, an annual 36-hole Championship featuring PGA Golf Management University programs from around the country, by 17 strokes.

TWO SUB-PAR ROUNDS: Through the initial two rounds, only two players have posted a pair of sub-par rounds: leader Ben Polland (68/Militia Hill, 67/Wissahickon) and Grant Sturgeon (70/MH, 69/W), who is tied for second place. Wissahickon is a par-70 layout, while nearby Militia Hill plays to a par of 72.   

SCOTT IS IN THE HUNT: Steve Scott of New City, New York, best remembered for taking Tiger Woods to the brink before losing the 1996 U.S. Amateur Championship, is enjoying his first PGA Professional National Championship. He posted a 69 Monday at the Wissahickon Course for a 36-hole total of 1-under-par 141. 

Now 37 years old and a PGA Head Professional at Paramount Country Club, Scott required only 25 putts on Monday and is tied for ninth place after two complete rounds. He said that The Philadelphia Cricket Club makes him feel at home. 

"I love these golf courses, and feel really relaxed out here," said Scott, who has already competed in one half of the Grand Slam events – the Masters and U.S. Open. "I just want to keep playing solid. Trying not to stress myself."

The classic 1996 U.S. Amateur final, when Scott battled Woods for 38 holes, has virtually become a daily reminder for Scott, but also a positive one. "It's something, better or worse, I'm well-known for," he sad. "Other than not winning that match, I won. I won a lot of things that day. That match really helped set my career in motion. I was very proud what I did that day. I like to drawn upon things like playing well on television and in front of people. I can really draw on that and it can only help me as I get to the last two rounds."

THE STRAITS ARE ON THE HORIZON: Wisconsin native Joe Leonard won the 1999 State Championship as a senior at La Follette High School in Madison, which was his biggest feat yet in golf. On Monday, Leonard took a giant step forward to landing a berth in the PGA Championship being contested Aug. 13-16, at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wisconsin. 

Leonard’s even-par 70 on the Wissahickon Course moved him to 2-under-par 140 after 36 holes. The low 20 scorers after Wednesday’s final round gain a PGA Championship berth. 

"I wanted to be in the mix and not shoot myself out of the tournament with a bad early round," said Leonard, a PGA Director of Golf at Bulls Eye Country Club in Wisconsin Rapids. "It would be a dream come true (to make the PGA Championship), so I try not to think about it. It has been a goal since last fall."

Leonard lives 2½ hours southwest of the Straits Course, which he has yet to play. Born in Madison, Leonard has played the Irish Course at Whistling Straits complex. He has PGA Professional Ryan Wagner of Watertown, Wisconsin, as his caddie in Flourtown.       

SKINNER TURNS THE PAGE: It was a long week for Sonny Skinner (72-72, +2). He began last week at the U.S. Senior Open at Del Paso Country Club in Sacramento, where he was in good position to play on the weekend, but three bogeys in his final three holes on Friday rendered a missed cut. So, he gladly flew east to Philadelphia and jumped into the fray at what he describes as the "best tournament for a club pro." 

Upon arrival, however, Skinner’s rental car was stolen. Shortly thereafter, after getting the police involved, his car was found unscathed with the keys still in the vehicle. 

Undaunted, Skinner is currently tied for 33rd after posting twin 72s Monday at Militia Hill and Sunday at Wissahickon. The 2014 Senior PGA Professional of the Year, Skinner played in the 2010 PGA Championship and a top 20 here at Philadelphia Cricket Club would stamp a return ticket to Whistling Straits. 

"To get to the PGA (Championship) would be really cool," he said. "If I can shoot under par the next couple of days, I think I’d have a chance."

ONE WEEK AT A TIME: Russell Harbold, a PGA Assistant Professional at Lancaster (Pennsylvania) Country Club, posted a 3-under-par 67 at Wissahickon Monday, matching the lowest 18-hole round of the Championship. Harbold is getting in plenty of work away from the Championship, as his home club is set to host next week’s U.S. Women’s Open.

LOEFFLER’S IDEAL: Kyle Voska (Assistant Professional), Rob Hunt (Head Professional) and Bill Loeffler (Owner, President) – all from The Links Golf Course in Highlands Ranch, Colorado – competed this week. This is believed to be the first time three contestants from the same facility are playing together in the same field of the National Championship, which began in 1968. 

Loeffler’s satisfaction with the scenario was evident. "I believe that golf pros should be good players because people gravitate toward them and want to be taught by them," he said. "It’s great. I’m so happy for (Kyle and Rob)."

Loeffler also mentioned that Jason Brandt, the PGA Director of Golf at The Links, is picking up the slack in their collective absence and Brandt is "just as talented" as Voska and Hunt.