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Bill Britton
After rounds of 75 and 76, Bill Britton will be seeking to improve his position over the next two rounds. (Montana Pritchard/The PGA of America)

Eight PGA Club Professionals make it to the weekend

Most of the 42 PGA Club Professionals who teed it up this week are heading home with memories of an unforgettable week. For an elite eight, however, the fun has just begun.

By John Kim, PGA.com Coordinating Producer

PARKER, Colo. – It wasn’t until late in the day Friday, very late, when the number of PGA Club Professionals who were asked to stay for the weekend was determined. And once it was settled, with stronger winds making the final few holes even more challenging, the final number of PGA Professionals making the cut at the 71st Senior PGA Championship doubled from four to eight.

“I haven’t been happy all week with how I’ve hit the ball,” said Bill Britton, a PGA Teaching Professional at Trump National Golf Club Colts Neck in Colts Neck, N.J. “Especially today, I was pretty down with the way I played. And then you spend a good part of the day feeling like it maybe it wasn’t enough, but anytime you have a chance to play on the weekend, you’re still hopeful. 

“I’ve been in this situation enough to know that as long as there’s a chance, you hold out hope,” he explained. “And now, I’m excited about the opportunity to hopefully play some good golf before I leave here.”

Lindy Miller and James Blair III were two PGA Club Professionals who played a great deal of good golf over the past two days. Both head into the weekend at 2 over par, tied for 22nd, and tied for low score among their peers in the field. 

Miller, a PGA Teaching Professional at Shady Oaks Country Club in Westworth Village, Texas, feels as if his best golf for the week could still be ahead of him.

"Today was a bit more of a struggle,” he commented. Miller opened with a 1-under 71 and followed up Friday with a 3-over 75.  “I just did not hit it in the right places. I did make a couple of birdies coming in to make things a bit better.”

This is Miller’s second appearance at the Senior PGA and he has now made the cut at both appearances. “I feel I have a couple more good rounds left in me and hope that it comes out this weekend,” he said.

Blair, a PGA Life Member, opened with a 74 and then followed that up with a 72. That even-par 72 is more impressive considering the start Blair had.

“I went out and double-bogeyed the second hole and it was an uphill battle after that,” he said. “I'm fortunate to be in the running after that start.”

Blair never got down, though, and battled back strong.

“I did make four birdies after that, three of them on long putts -- a 30-footer at three, a 25-footer on 10 and a 50-foot bomb at 18.”

This is Blair’s fifth appearance at the Senior PGA and his second cut made.

PGA Life Member Mike San Filippo, from Hobe Sound, Fla., was another PGA Club Professional to earn the right to play on the weekend – despite his constant struggles with finding the proper club to hit in the high altitudes.

“What I’m really having a problem with is distance control,” he explained after his round of 73. “The atmosphere, living in and playing in South Florida, coming up here and playing in this atmosphere, I don’t know what club to hit. I keep hitting the wrong club.” 

But San Filippo still has two more days to make the adjustment, whereas 34 PGA Club Professionals will be heading home – still relishing their time at this major championship.

“Oh, it’s just fun to come and play,” Kim Thompson, a PGA Teaching Professional at Willow Creek Country Club in Sandy, Utah, said following his round.  Thompson, who struggled with an 85 on Thursday, bounced back strong with an impressive 74 on Friday.  “I’m just a club pro, so when I get an opportunity like this, it’s fun.”

Added famed PGA Teaching Professional Mike Malaska, “If you’re not playing all the time, which most of us aren’t that aren’t on the Tour, it [the course] was tough. But it was fun. It’s always fun to be here.”

Gary Sowinski, a PGA Professional from San Diego, Calif., missed the cut after rounds of 79 and 80, but still took home some incredible memories including a spectacular eagle on the par-5 seventh hole.

“That was the only highlight of my day,” he laughed. “I hit it basically at the same place I’ve tried to hit it every day here. And it just had, I don’t know, we hit it right where we needed to, to the right and it took the hill. And I was very fortunate. Curt (Byrum) had a putt on a similar line and I thought the putt was going to break to the right and I watched him hit it and it never broke. So I took it straight in and it stayed straight and went in and I said, ‘Shazam, there it goes.’”

PGA Club Professional Jimmy Hamilton, a Teaching Professional at Capitol Tee in Raleigh, N.C., summed up his week.

“Well, the goal was to try to make the cut and to have some fun and have my son with me caddying, and that would make it a great week, no matter what was going to happen.”

Hamilton, who was playing in his first Senior PGA Championship, had nothing but enthusiasm and kind words despite missing the cut after shooting 76-82.

“As a club pro, PGA member, and now a senior, to have this opportunity is just one of a kind,” he said. “It's amazing.”

Jim Woodward, a PGA Teaching Professional at Oak Tree Golf Club in Edmond, Okla., perhaps summed up the feelings of the 42 PGA Club Professionals the best.

“If you ever get tired of playing majors, there’s something wrong with you,” he said. “It’s always a challenge, it’s always hard, but it’s always fun. I enjoy it.”

At the conclusion of play on Sunday, the low PGA Club Professional will take part in a special presentation along with the tournament champion.
 

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