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Chris Starkjohann of Cardiff by the Sea, Calif. was the 2006 Senior PGA Professional Player of the Year. (PGA of America)
Chris Starkjohann of Cardiff by the Sea, Calif. was the 2006 Senior PGA Professional Player of the Year. (PGA of America)

Exciting Times For PGA Club Professionals In Field

There are 38 PGA Club Professionals vying to win the 68th Senior PGA Championship at The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Resort. And the important thing isn't how they arrived, it's that they are here now and here to win.

By Bob Denney, PGA of America

KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. - The strongest field in senior golf has converged on Kiawah Island. Twenty major champions who have accounted for 51 major titles are ready to be tested by the elements and a Pete Dye-designed masterpiece along the Atlantic shore in this week's 68th Senior PGA Championship.

The final preparations made by many of the premier players for the Championship, May 22-27, on The Ocean Course, also are foremost in the minds of 37 Senior PGA Professionals and 37 international players, representing 14 countries, who are part of the 156-player field.

This week the field will face a 7,201-yard layout that continues to provide the ultimate challenge thanks to changing wind direction that can play havoc in making precise approaches to demanding hole locations.

The final preparations made by many of the premier players for the Championship, May 22-27, also are foremost in the minds of 38 Senior PGA Professionals who make up the 156-player field on The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island (S.C.) Golf Resort.

This week, players will face a 7,201-yard layout that continues to provide the ultimate challenge based on changing wind direction that can play havoc in making precision approaches to demanding hole locations.

"A major championship is such an exciting atmosphere and for those of us who have the responsibilities of jobs back home, it is a great reward to be able to take part in an event like this," said Darrell Kestner, the PGA head professional at Deepdale Golf Club in Manhasset, N.Y., who is making his fourth overall appearance. "When you get to interact with the best players in the game, play great courses like we are playing this week, it really makes everything you do in your job worthwhile. You have a chance to take your game to another level and it truly is fun and makes the long hours we spend at our home clubs worth it."

Kestner, winner of the 1996 PGA Professional National Championship and the 2004 and '05 Senior PGA Professional Player of the Year said the attention PGA Professionals receive this week is magnified back at their home clubs.

"The whole club is watching and they are keeping track on the Internet hole-by-hole," said Kestner, whose best finish in the Championship was a tie for 31st in 2005. The whole membership is watching and you want to have a good showing."

When Kestner competed here in the 2005 PGA Professional National Championship, the tees were set at 7,355 yards, and the weather was wet and rugged.
 
"I finished fourth here two years ago, and I like to think that I know the course a bit better for having been through the tough weather we had that year," said Kestner.

The task of making an impact in this Championship is daunting for Kestner, someone who comes off a spring season in which he said "was the worst spring weather in the Northeast I can remember." But, he does have memory of some positive rounds at The Ocean Course.

"I can't forget how I managed my way around the course in 2005," said Kestner. "We had bad weather that pushed us back a day, and I came back with a good final round (70). I know the course, at least, and can be better prepared."

Kestner is joined in the senior PGA Professional delegation by the man who defeated him in the 2005 Callaway Golf Senior PGA Professional National Championship - PGA Life Member Mike San Filippo of Hobe Sound, Fla.

San Filippo, like Kestner, has been on the cusp of breaking out in a senior major championship. In 2004, San Filippo began the Championship at Aronimink Golf Club in Newtown Square, Pa., with rounds of 68 and 70, to land among the top five. He struggled with weekend rounds of 78 and 73. In 2004, he finished tied for 31st, which was his best showing in four overall appearances.

San Filippo and Kirk Hanefeld of Acton, Mass., were invited to join the field based on their past performances and had not attained full-time Tour status. Hanefeld is a former director of golf for The International Golf Club in Bolton, Mass., and designated as the club's "touring professional." Hanefeld is making his second consecutive appearance, having tied for 19th last year.

Together, they will join 35 of their colleagues this week at The Ocean Course, who earned a berth last fall in the Callaway Golf Senior PGA Professional National Championship at The PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie, Fla.

"I am very appreciative of The PGA of America inviting me to be in the field this week," said San Filippo. "It's absolutely a great thrill to be in this Championship and to play what I believe is one of the best golf courses in the country. I've had some good moments in this Championship, and look forward to keeping them closer together."

There are 38 PGA Club Professionals competing in the 68th Senior PGA Championship this week.

Bob Ackerman - West Bloomfield Michigan
Thomas Anderson - Laurel, Montana
Perry Arthur - Dallas, Texas
Bill Britton - Rumson, New Jersey
Mike Burke, Jr. - Towaco, New Jersey
John Calabria - Naples, Florida
Jeff Coston - Blaine, Washington
Jon Fiedler - Camarillo, California
George Forster - Blue Bell, Pennsylvania
John Godwin - Pine Mountain, Georgia

Steve Groves - Worthington, Ohio
Kirk Hanefeld - Acton, Massachusetts
Bobby Heins - White Plains, New York
Thomas Herzan - Findlay, Ohio
Reed Hughes - Senatobia, Mississippi
Jerry Impellittiere - Palm City, Florida
Darrell Kestner - Glen Cove, New York
Mike Lawrence - Easley, South Carolina
David Lundstrom - Houston, Texas
Larry Mackin - Mesa, Arizona

John Mazza - Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania
Lindy Miller - Fort Worth, Texas
Eddie Mudd - Louisville, Kentucky
Rick Neal - Springfield, Missouri
Bob Ralston - Little Rock, Arkansas
Gary Robison - Canton, Ohio
Mike San Filippo - Hobe Sound, Florida
Bill Schumaker - Columbia City, Indiana
Steven Snyder - San Rafael, California
Mick Soli - San Carlos, California

Chris Starkjohann - Cardiff by the Sea, California
Ron Stelten - Palm Desert, California
Wheeler Stewart - Royal Palm Beach, Florida
Stan Stopa - Metairie, Louisiana
Kim Thompson - Salt Lake City, Utah
Jerry Tucker - Stuart, Florida
Roy Vucinich - Moon Township, Pennsylvania
Billy Ziobro - Palm Beach Gardens, Florida

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