The Fab Four

Despite spending far more time working and less time practicing than their touring pro counterparts, PGA Club Professionals Bill Britton, Sonny Skinner, Jeff Coston and Tom Atchison overcame the odds and made the cut on Friday.


Rather than feeling the pressure of major championship golf, Bill Britton views this week as a "quiet time" away from the norm of his hectic teaching schedule. (Montana Pritchard/The PGA of America)

By John Kim, Coordinating Producer

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. -- Perhaps better than any player in the Senior PGA Championship field, Bill Britton knows the different lives that touring professionals lead in contrast to PGA Club Professionals lead.

Britton, the PGA Director of Instruction at Trump National Golf Club in Colts Neck, N.J., played 15 seasons on the PGA Tour starting in 1980, and played in numerous other PGA Tour and Champions Tour events. In fact, he won the 1989 Centel Classic on the PGA Tour, and other career highlights include tying for seventh in the 1990 Masters and finishing fourth in the 1990 PGA Championship.

But in the last few years, Britton's golf time has spent focusing on other people's golf game.  And his Tour card gave way to his PGA of America card, an association he now proudly represents.

"There is a certain camaraderie among us club pro guys; we root for each other because we understand that it's not so easy for us to be here," Britton said on Friday.  "It's hard.  It's hard for all of us to come out and play in these conditions, these course set-ups, back in front of people (galleries) -- things we don't see in section events." 

But rather than feeling the pressure of major championship golf, Britton explained that he views his sixth appearance at the Senior PGA Championship as a "quiet time," a time to enjoy a break from the norm of his hectic teaching schedule.

Perhaps that relaxed mindset helps explain his consistent 73-71 play over the first two rounds as he leads a foursome of PGA Club Professionals to make the cut here at Harbor Shores. Britton, who tied for 16th at the 2008 Senior PGA Championship at Oak Hill Golf Club, enters the weekend tied for 30th at +2.

Also in the group of PGA Club Professionals who will be playing this weekend is Sonny Skinner, the PGA Head Professional at River Pointe Golf Club in Albany, Ga. Skinner seemed a like a longshot to play the weekend based on the last few holes of his round Thursday.

"I finished like a 15 handicap yesterday," he lamented, "bogey, triple bogey and bogey. I'll tell you, I didn't sleep very well last night."

But rather than let his first round (and lack of sleep) frustrate him, Skinner regained his focus to fire a 1-under par 70 on Friday to get to +5 and make the cut on the number.

"I'm real proud of myself," he admitted. "To come back today, hit the ball well and make a bunch of pars, give myself a lot of good looks at birdie, I didn't give up.  That I'm really proud of."

Skinner, who has conditional status on the Champions Tour based on his strong performance at Q-School, is still a strong voice for the impressive double duty that the PGA Club Professionals in the field are able to perform.

"95 percent of the Club Professionals here in the field work 50 hours a week.  And so yes, of course, those guys are intimidated, already knowing you're going up against a stronger competitor,” he said. “The golf courses you play in a major are so tough; we don't play this at a section level or at a senior section level, so all of that is extremely intimidating.

"You know, we look to alot of these guys, like a Hale Irwin, a Jeff Sluman, a David Frost, when teaching people, we use these guys as models. And then all of a sudden, you're here competing against them.  But we have to play the way that we teach.  Play one shot at a time, focus on your game, don't worry about what anyone else is doing.  And the club pros that are able to do that will be the ones that have the chance to play well in these type of events."

Rounding out the group of PGA Club Professionals making the cut are Jeff Coston (+5), a PGA Teaching Professional at Semiahmoo Golf Resort in Blaine, Wash., and Tom Atchison (+5), the PGA Head Professional at Congress Lake Club in Hartville, Ohio.

From this group, the low PGA Club Professional will be honored with a special presentation and trophy at the end of play on Sunday.