By Bob Denney, PGA of America
LIGONIER, Pa. -- For the second straight year, D.A. Weibring brings a bag full of momentum to the Senior PGA Championship. This time, however, he hopes it pays off.
The winner of last weekend's Bruno's Memorial Classic in Hoover, Ala., Weibring joins a field of 156 in the 66th Senior PGA Championship, the oldest and most prestigious event in senior golf that begins Thursday at Laurel Valley Golf Club, in Ligonier, Pa. The Western Pennsylvania layout, just eight miles from the home of Arnold Palmer, is the setting for the strongest field for players 50 and older.
Only two players have won the Senior PGA Championship coming off a win the week before -- legends Jack Nicklaus (1991) and Lee Trevino (1992). Weibring, who tied for 17th last year at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville after winning the week before at the 2004 Allianz Championship in Des Moines, Iowa, hopes to become the third.
"The PGA Championship has always been very important to me for a lot of reasons," said Weibring, a five-time winner on the PGA Tour who joined the Champions Tour in 2003. "And I had a couple of good chances at winning it on the regular tour (finishing tied for third in 1987 and fourth in 1986). Now, as a senior, I really look forward to this Championship. The last two years I didn't play well. I want to change that."
The 66th Senior PGA Championship, the first to be contested in Pennsylvania, features 18 players who have combined for 51 major Championships and 32 players representing 10 countries. Defending Champion Hale Irwin is one of 10 Senior PGA Champions in the field.
For Weibring, the chance to win his first major on a course with which he's familiar gives him added confidence.
"My goal is to stay focused, to be more consistent, and plan my percentages," said Weibring. "I've played Laurel Valley before in the Family House Pro-Am and in events for Alcoa. It's a good, old traditional course that you see in the Midwest, with a lot of definition to it."
The affinity Weibring retains for the Championship goes back to his struggle to earn a PGA Tour card. He needed three trips to the PGA Tour Qualifying School to accomplish the feat in 1977.
"While I was trying to earn a spot as a Tour professional, I became a PGA apprentice," said Weibring. "I was befriended by PGA Professional Lynn Rosely (now retired) in my hometown, at Quincy (Ill.) Country Club. He supported me and recommended me for a position in Michigan. And I was able to support my wife while I was going through all of this. I attended PGA Business School I, been through all facets of what it means to be a club professional, and have a great appreciation for what they do for golf.
"So, you can see what it would mean to me to do well in the Senior PGA Championship."