PGA Professional Michael Kernicki: "I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to be at Canterbury; my roots are in the Midwest and this is a great place to live." (The PGA of America)
PGA head professional Kernicki thrilled to return to roots
By Bob Denney, The PGA of America
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- Canterbury Golf Club, one of this country's honored homes of championship golf and site of the 70th Senior PGA Championship in May, also has a membership that does its due diligence in selecting those to serve as the host PGA Professional.
Evidence Michael Kernicki.
Kernicki, 57, served from 1998-2001 as a District 5 Director on The PGA of America's Board of Directors and in January 2009 became the sixth PGA head professional at Canterbury, which is only the second Ohio course to host the Senior PGA Championship.
Growing up in Grand Rapids, Mich., Kernicki earned a golf scholarship and remained in his hometown to attend Aquinas College. He turned professional upon graduation in 1973 and was elected to PGA membership in 1977. Now, he makes his home some two hours from the Michigan border.
"I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to be at Canterbury; my roots are in the Midwest and this is a great place to live, where we share the same values," said Kernicki. "Canterbury has a great tradition in golf history, but also has seen some shifting in membership to bring more young people into the club and into the game.
"We couldn't be more pleased to have the Senior PGA Championship making its appearance here. We now become the second club in the country (following Oak Hill Country Club of Rochester, N.Y.) to host the rotating men's premier championships -- the U.S. Amateur, U.S. Open, U.S. Senior Open, PGA Championship and Senior PGA Championship."
Kernicki was hired by Canterbury Golf Club in January of this year, joining a roster of PGA head professionals that includes World Golf Hall of Fame member Henry Picard, who won the 1938 Masters and 1939 PGA Championship. Picard's memorabilia, including his Masters jacket, hangs in a display case in the newly renovated Canterbury clubhouse. Picard served as Canterbury's head professional from 1945-64, and was the instructor for such golf luminaries as Sam Snead, Ben Hogan and Jack Grout, who went on to be the teacher for Jack Nicklaus.
"You get a special feeling when you walk into the clubhouse," said Kernicki. "The club went to the expense of duplicating all the trophies for the major championships played at the course. It is an example of the pride the members have for this club and its history."
Canterbury Golf Club follows Firestone Country Club of Akron (2002) as the only Ohio courses to host the most prestigious and historic event in senior golf. This year, Kernicki has the distinction of becoming one of the few PGA Professionals to oversee a major championship that has made a rare complete rerouting of its layout.
Spectators attending the 70th Senior PGA Championship will find unfettered access to the contestants over the final 12 holes, including a trio that have been deemed among the most difficult finishing holes in golf.
The rerouting plan for the 6,895-yard, par-70 layout begins with players beginning play on what is the current No. 10 hole and continuing play through No. 15, after which players will wind back to the current No. 1 tee and complete the regular front nine holes.
Players will complete their rounds on the regular final three holes, which all play uphill, beginning with the 616-yard, par-5 16th, which is followed by the 229-yard 17th and the 439-yard, par-4 18th where many significant championships have been decided.
"I haven't seen it happen before to this extent in a major championship, but it makes all the sense in the world from a spectator standpoint," said Kernicki. "NBC, which does such a tremendous job of covering golf, is excited about it. We had a men's member-guest event play on the rerouting and everyone enjoyed it. It will have a positive impact for TV."
Under the rerouting plan, no point on the golf course is more than 600 yards from the epicenter of the action -- a clubhouse that underwent a $3 million renovation prior to the Championship.
"I believe that you will find the Championship determined over the final three holes," said Kernicki. "They are demanding and just what you would expect in a major championship."
Kernicki spent his longest term of service, from 1980-95, at Bloomfield Hills (Mich.) Country Club. He also served as general manager and PGA director of golf at Wuskowhan Players Club in West Olive, Mich., as head professional and general manager at The Golf Club of Georgia in Alpharetta, Ga., until April 2003; as PGA head professional from 2003-07 at Indian Creek Country Club in Indian Creek Village, Fla., and was PGA head professional at Old Palm Golf Club in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., from 2007-08, before arriving at Canterbury Golf Club.
Kernicki and his wife, Teri, live in Solon, Ohio, and have a son, Cooper, 2.
Begun in 1937, the Senior PGA Championship is the oldest major championship in senior golf. It was born on the grounds of another of golf's majors at the invitation of one of the game's greatest players. At the suggestion of renowned amateur Bobby Jones, the inaugural Senior PGA Championship was conducted at Augusta National Golf Club three years after the first Masters Tournament.
Today, the Senior PGA Championship brings together both the legends of the game and the newest members of senior professional golf to new audiences throughout the United States.
Many of the game's greatest players have won the Championship's Alfred S. Bourne Trophy,among them Gene Sarazen, Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Lee Trevino, Jack Nicklaus, Raymond Floyd, Hale Irwin, Tom Watson and Jay Haas.
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