Back-nine rally lifts PGA Professional champion Omar Uresti at Quail Hollow

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Back-nine rally lifts PGA Professional champion Omar Uresti at Quail Hollow

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Inspired by a timely putting tip from two-time PGA Champion Dave Stockton and thoughts of an ailing childhood friend close to his heart, Omar Uresti will be playing the weekend in the 99th PGA Championship .

Uresti, the 49-year-old reigning PGA Professional Champion from Austin, Texas, rallied to deliver four back-nine birdies. He capped his run by rolling home a 12-footer on the 18th hole Friday at Quail Hollow Club for a 1-under-par 70. The second round was suspended due to rain and then darkness Friday, and concluded early Saturday morning.

His 2-over-par 144 total was three strokes above the cut line, and ensured Uresti was the first PGA Club Professional to advance to the weekend in the Championship since Brian Gaffney of Darien, Connecticut, in 2015.

Uresti is grouped with two-time PGA Champion Rory McIlroy and James Hahn in the third round.

Prospects looked dim for Uresti after a trio of bogeys on the front nine moved him to 6-over-par.

“I tried to tell myself to stay positive, keep my emotions in check, and I was able to do that,” he said. “I was able to make some putts on the back nine.

“This is very satisfying. I am dedicating this cut for my friend, Marco (Martinez), who has Stage 4 colon cancer. I’ve been thinking about him a lot this week. Marco and I have known each other since I was 3. He’s been one of my best friends for a long time.”

Uresti happened upon Stockton, the game’s modern-day putting master, on the putting green Friday morning. They had worked together in the past, but didn’t reconnect for some time until two nights earlier when Uresti was a guest at the Champions Dinner.

Uresti also is a friend of Stockton’s oldest son, Dave Jr.

“Omar asked me to take a look at what he was doing, and I saw he was moving his knees on the stroke,” said Stockton. “He needed to stay quiet. He had his left foot turned outward, and when he moved his left toe back in, he was feeling good right off the bat. You have to be comfortable under pressure on those greens, which are so fast.”

Said Uresti of Stockton’s advice, “It was a pointer that got me making some solid putts.”

It was a tale of two different nines for Uresti, who missed the fairway often enough to make bogeys at Nos. 3, 5 and 7. “The front nine was a struggle with the driver, which was kind of rare for me. That’s why I made some bogeys.

“I feel a little bit better on tree-lined golf course. I know that Baltusrol (at the 2016 PGA Championship) was tree-lined, but it felt longer than this one. Some of these fairways are little more generous than Baltusrol. I was able to stay within myself, keep my focus and keep my emotions in check.”

Uresti opened the back nine with a birdie at No. 10, and then knocked home birdie putts at 14 and 15. As he marched on to No. 18, the last “leg” of the “Green Mile” at Quail Hollow Club, Uresti walked with confidence. A day earlier, Uresti had missed the green to the left and his ball found a water hazard.

“This time, I was in a zone,” he said. “I just focused on hitting it in the fairway, hitting it on the green and see what we can do,” he said. “I had 225 yards to the hole from the fairway, and I pulled out a 2-hybrid, and wanted to fade it in. I hit it pretty good, and it started to hook a bit. But the wind got it and it rolled up the ridge and released toward the hole. It ended up 12 feet away.”

Uresti’s parents, Lupe and Minnie, followed their son in the gallery. His younger brother, Rusty, served as caddie.

“It was a great day and it was so special to have family members and friends here to cheer me on,” said Uresti. “It is good to know that I’ve still got more work ahead this weekend.”

PGA Club Professionals in the 99th PGA Championship


Player Round 1  Round 2

Omar Uresti

Austin, Texas

74 70

Kenny Pigman

Norco, Calif.

76 *

Matt Dobyns

Glen Head, N.Y. 

76 78

Greg Gregory

Burleson, Texas

77 *

Brian Smock

Coronado, Calif.

77 WD

David McNabb

Newark, Del. 

78 78

JJ Wood

Houston, Texas

78 78

Alex Beach

Summit, N.J.

79 80

Jamie Broce, 

Indianapolis, Ind.

79 78

Rich Berberian, Jr.

Hookset, N.H. 

79 74

Mike Small

Champaign, Ill. 

80 79

Chris Moody

Provo, Utah

81 78

Adam Rainaud

Chester, Conn.

81 78

Rod Perry

Port Orange, Fla.

82 81

Ryan Vermeer

Omaha, Neb.

82 *

Paul Claxton

Claxton, Ga.

82 83

Scott Hebert

Traverse City, Mich.

83 74

Jaysen Hansen

Solon, Ohio

84 70

David Muttitt

Albuquerque, N.M.

84 83

Stuart Deane

Arlington, Texas

84 81


* = round suspended due to darkness Friday; to be completed Saturday