FARMINGDALE, N.Y. — Jason Caron and Ryan Vermeer each accomplished the first leg of their personal goals Thursday on one of golf’s grandest stages, posting respective even-par 70s to lead a delegation of 20 PGA Club Professionals in Thursday’s opening round of the 2019 PGA Championship at Bethpage Black Course.
Caron, the PGA Head Professional at Mill River Club in Oyster Bay, New York, competed in his first PGA Championship and second major overall. Vermeer, the 2018 PGA Professional Champion and the PGA Director of Instruction at Happy Hollow Club in Omaha, Nebraska, made his third consecutive PGA Championship appearance.
Tyler Hall, the PGA Director of Instruction at Upper Montclair Country Club, and Marty Jertson of Phoenix, Arizona, the Vice President of Fitting and Performance at PING, shared third with 72s among a roster of their peers who had earned a berth through the PGA Professional Championship, April 28 -May 1, at Belfair in Bluffton, South Carolina.
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The PGA Club Professional delegation at Bethpage Black featured players representing 13 PGA Sections and 12 states.
For Caron, he rekindled steadiness at Bethpage Black – where he estimated he’s played more than 30 times. This is the same layout where he tied for 30th in the 2002 U.S. Open. Those special memories about navigating the course rolled back in waves. His three-birdie, three-bogey performance was capped in a highlight moment on the 488-yard, par-4 No. 16, where he hacked out of the rough short of the green. He then stroked a 50-foot birdie putt that hit the flagstick and fell in the hole.
Caron had earned a berth in the PGA Championship by sharing sixth place in the PGA Professional Championship. Then, a week before arriving at Bethpage, he won the Metropolitan PGA Head Professional Championship and posted a 64 in the Local U.S. Open Qualifying Tournament.
The roll he’s on may be easily explained.
“Last year, before our New York State Open here at Bethpage, my wife gave me a tip,” said Caron. “She told me to keep my hands a little more in front of me, near my toe line. It’s clicked; it’s working great and is carrying over.”
Caron’s wife, who runs Mill River Club’s women’s and junior programs, is the former Liz Janangelo, a legend in Connecticut State Golf Association history. She was a member of the victorious 2004 U.S. Curtis Cup Team alongside Michelle Wie, Paula Creamer and Brittany Lang.
“My wife has played in 11 majors,” said Caron. “You really should be talking to her.”
While Caron dodged the big mistakes in the morning wave, it was a relatively smooth afternoon for Vermeer, the reigning PGA Professional Player of the Year. He had two birdies along with two bogeys in his bid to make his first cut in the PGA Championship.
“It would have been really special to keep it under par,” said Vermeer, who tied for eighth in the PGA Professional Championship. “I hit enough good shots, but I didn’t make enough putts. The way I hit the ball was pretty good. I don’t know how many fairways I hit (it was 8 of 14), but I kept it out of the heavy rough. If I can keep doing that, I can definitely play this golf course."
Vermeer made a solid up and down to save par on Nos. 2 and 18. Those moments have helped him contend for Friday’s second round and the chase to make the 36-hole cut of the low 70 scorers and ties.
“The fact that I’ve played some big events has got my confidence up,” said Vermeer “I got to play a practice round with Gary Woodland, and last year I played with John Daly in St. Louis (at Bellerive), and he had a serious fan following. It all has helped me get adjusted to the atmosphere and the crowds.”
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