PORT ST. LUCIE – Danny Balin has traveled around the world playing golf the last four years, but he returned to a familiar spot Thursday: Atop the leader board of Event No. 1 of the PGA Tournament Series at PGA Golf Club.
Balin made seven birdies while shooting a 4-under 68 on the Dye Course to lead by one over Kyle Higgins and Alex Beach.
“I played solid,” said Balin, a PGA Assistant/Teaching Professional at Westchester Country Club. “I hit a lot of fairways and greens and when I missed, I hit it in spots where I could get up and down.”
Since 2013, Balin played 55 events on the PGA Tour Latinomerica, winning once, and entered 10 events on PGA Tour Canada. He was ineligible to play in PGA of America events until June – a year after he entered his last tour event as a member. His presence in first is not a surprise.
“I have a lot of experience playing all over the world in all types of conditions and all types of courses,” said Balin, who won this year’s Metropolitan Professional Championship. “It has made me more consistent and allowed me to really understand how the game is played.”
Higgins, the first PGA Assistant Professional at Inwood Country Club in New York, lost in a playoff to Omar Uresti in Event No. 6 last year. Higgins believes he’s ready to win after placing himself in contention again.
“I’m mentally stronger than I have ever been,” Higgins said. “I’m looking forward to it.”
Beach, a PGA Assistant Professional at Baltusrol Golf Club, took advantage of the par-5s with three birdies during his 69.
“I think I figured out how I need to play it, which is usually aggressive,” Beach said. “I hit driver everywhere and just chase it. I made some putts, but I left a lot out there.”
Reigning PGA Professional of the Year Rich Berberian shot 70 and is tied for fourth with Rushi Oza of Palm Beach Gardens.
Roy Vucinich of Moon Township, Pa., just missed shooting his age – the 70-year-old had a 71. He’s tied for sixth with Ben Polland and Scott Berliner.
The PGA Tournament Series is presented by Golf Advisor.
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