Bill Loeffler carded four birdies and one bogey Thursday morning to card a stellar 69. (Montana Pritchard/The PGA of America)
PGA Club Professionals taking advantage of opportunity to tee it up in a major championship
Local favorite Bill Loeffler teed off first, and ended up the best of the 42 PGA Club Professionals in the field at the end of Round 1. Later in the day, Doug Perry raced down from Fort Collins to join some famous partners.
By John Kim, PGA.com Coordinating Producer
PARKER, Colo. – Much had been made prior to the start of the 71st Senior PGA Championship about Colorado native and favorite son Bill Loeffler and the local support he would receive at the nation’s most historic and prestigious event in senior golf. After Thursday’s first round, he somehow has managed to outdo the hype.
Loeffler recorded four birdies and only one bogey to post a 3-under par 69, and sits only three shots off the lead. Loeffler leads the group of 42 PGA Club Professionals in the field.
“It was very special. It was fun to be the first ball out, being from Colorado, kind of starting the whole event here,” Loeffler said. “I played above my expectations today, obviously. I'm very grateful that it happened that way. The course was great. Beautiful.”
Being the first to tee off and posting such a remarkable score were not totally unrelated. Mostly benign conditions in the morning soon gave way to blustery winds in the afternoon.
“I'm glad that I got my round, a good round in this morning,” Loeffler admitted, “because if I would have shot 75 or something or 73 this morning, then I'm looking at starting at 1 o'clock or 12:50 tomorrow with possibly 40 mile-an-hour winds. It's kind of hard to shoot 68 in 40-mile-an-hour winds out here.”
Another strong performance came from Lindy Miller, the PGA Teaching Professional at Shady Oaks Country Club in Westworth Village, Texas. Miller shot a 1-under 71.
“I was real fortunate,” Miller stated after his round. “I hit a lot of greens and [though] I didn’t hit it real close all the time, when I did hit the green I was able to two-putt. And then when I did hit it close, I made I guess three birdies. Three birdies and two bogeys.”
Miller’s consistency was even more remarkable when he explained the different variable involved in hitting his shots.
“It’s a little bit different here because you got altitude first or maybe not even first, but you got elevation change and then you got the altitude and then you got the wind,” he explained. “So you've got to make a lot of determinations on how much the ball's going to be affected, especially with the wind and the elevation change and the altitude all in one.”
Joe Bostic, the PGA Head Professional at Turtle Creek Club in Tequesta, Fla., and one of many PGA Club Professionals making their debut in the Senior PGA Championship, spoke glowingly of his first experience in a major championship.
“It's very exciting. Standing on the tee, you get a whole different feeling. I can't wait to do it tomorrow. It was great.”
The last entry into the field was a PGA Club Professional. Doug Perry of Fort Collins, Colo., was actually in the midst of giving a lesson Thursday morning when his phone rang, and he was informed that due to a last-minute withdrawal, a spot had opened up for him if he could make it. He sped down to Parker, an hour-forty-five-minute trek, arrived at the range in time to hit seven practice balls and then went to greet his playing partners, none other than Tom Lehman and Nick Price, on the first tee.
There are 42 PGA Club Professionals in the field this week. Top PGA Club Professionals from year’s past include Chris Starkjohann, who tied for fifth in 2009; Bill Britton, who tied for 16th in 2008; and Jeff Coston, who tied for 19th in 2007. The low PGA Club Professional will take part in a special presentation along with the tournament champion at the conclusion of play.