PGA Professionals hold steady in third round
By Bob Denney, The PGA of America
TOWN & COUNTRY, Mo. – Mark Mielke and Sonny Skinner did not arrive at Bellerive Country Club this week with the competitive résumés of their tour peers, but they navigated their way over 54 holes well enough to find themselves among the leaders of the 74th Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid.
Hey, these guys can play, too.
Mielke, 50, the PGA head professional at Mill River Club in Oyster Bay, N.Y., and Skinner, 52, the PGA head professional at River Pointe Golf Club in Albany, Ga., each posted an even-par 71 Saturday. They share 15th place at 2-under-par 211 in the most historic and prestigious event in senior golf.
Mielke is making his debut, while Skinner is competing in his third consecutive Senior PGA Championship. They were joined by three other PGA club professionals – Jeff Coston of Blaine, Wash., scrambled to a 72 thanks to 10 one-putt greens to land at 212; while Championship “rookies” Don Berry of Rogers, Minn., had a 73 for a 214 and Bob Gaus of St. Louis, came in with a 72 to land at 217.
The reigning Senior PGA Professional Player of the Year, Skinner was more at ease after his round, which featured three birdies and three bogeys, along with a week-high 30 putts.
“This is only my fourth senior major, and it’s the best one I’ve ever had, so I can’t be too disappointed,” said Skinner, who has made the cut in all three of his appearances in the Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid. “It is my 17th Champions Tour event and it’s the best I’ve ever done. So even though I would love to be a little closer to the top, I’m not too terribly disappointed. I’m realistic and hopefully, I can have a magical round tomorrow.”
Mielke had a strong opening nine with three birdies, but struggled coming home with three bogeys, including one on the 18th hole.
“I hit a couple of weak drives on the back nine. It got me into trouble,” said Mielke. “I got right up against a tree root on 14, and I had to chip it out. I made bogey. I knew that I had the tough holes to play after that. I hit two good shots on 18 and made bogey. But that’s what the golf course is like. It’s easy to make a bogey.”
Coston, 57, the Low PGA Club Professional in the 2007 Senior PGA Championship, is the PGA teaching professional at Semiahmoo Golf Resort in Blaine, Wash. He has commonly referred to his goal as “playing Jeff Coston Golf.” He said that he is still searching for that standard.
“It wasn’t what I wanted it to be today,” Coston said. “It was crazy. Things were fine and then they had the rain delay (2 hours, 12 minutes). I was in the fairway on No. 4 and the group behind me, Tom Watson and [Kohki Idoki] were like right there. So, it’s like we all kind of got behind. I felt like it was a track meet out there until we reached 14 or 15. I couldn’t get the rhythm I wanted.”
Berry, the PGA head professional at Edinburgh USA Golf Club in Brooklyn Park, Minn., has his father-in-law, Bill Homeyer of Edina, Minn., serving as caddie this week. Homeyer has caddied for Berry several times in the past, but never in a major championship.
“I started pretty well today, and then I got a little rain delay and didn’t play very well coming out of it,” said Berry, who had four bogeys and two birdies. “I made a bad bogey on 18, but overall it was fun. I played with Steve Pate. He played great. I got to watch that, so that was worth it.”
For Bob Gaus, a PGA teaching professional at Tower Tee Golf Center in St. Louis, the week has been an opportunity to connect with many of his friends in the gallery. That camaraderie helped ease the sting of four bogeys and three birdies today.
“Making the cut and playing the weekend with the best guys over 50 was my goal going in,” said Gaus. “I’ve been dreaming about it for a year, since I knew I was in this Championship. So, it means everything. It’s nice to be in on the weekend in front of my fans, family, whatever. Yeah, it’s a dream I’ll keep for a long time. This is pretty cool. A lot of guys were following me around. Sandy Lyle had 20 people following him, and he’s a Masters Champion (and Open Champion). So go figure that one out.”
“I feel pretty comfortable about tomorrow. My goal is to shoot 4 under, try to finish even-par for this tournament. That would be good enough.”