First-alternate Ryan Benzel waits all day, but name never gets called

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SEASIDE, Calif. -- Ryan Benzel had an early wake-up call on Sunday.

The Director of Instruction at Sahalee Country Club in Sammamish, Wash., learned on Saturday evening that he was the first alternate in the 312-player field at the 51st PGA Professional Championship.

What that meant for Benzel was lots of waiting around throughout Round 1, waiting to see if anyone would fail to show up for their tee time -- or withdraw before teeing off -- opening up a spot for him for the first time since 2014.

Benzel was at Bayonet Black Horse for a warm-up at 6:20 a.m. Sunday after having played two practice rounds previously. 

And, the rest of the day, he bounced around from the first tee, to the clubhouse, where he killed time watching the U.S. Open on TV, to the practice green, to the range.

Finally, when the last groups teed off at 2:45, Benzel realized he was out and headed to the parking lot to sling his golf bag into the trunk.

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Total bummer for the man who tied for second in his PPC debut in 2007, which was the start of four consecutive top-11 finishes and trips to the PGA Championship. 

"Waiting around is not a lot of fun," Benzel said as he packed his car. "That's for sure. I would have rather had a tee time. But this is a big event. It's our National Championship. It's a tournament I've had a bit of success in and one I always want to get in to. I was close, but I didn't get the job done in my Section Championship to actually qualify, but through opportunities, you get a little closer and being relatively close to Seattle, I figured I might as well take the chance and be here."

Benzel hasn't qualified for the PPC since 2014, when he missed the cut in Myrtle Beach. 

But he's been playing great golf lately, including a recent victory in the Washington State Open.

He figured getting into the PPC field as an alternate was a longshot, but admitted, "My spirits perked up Saturday night when I found out I was the first alternate."

Alas, it never panned out.  

"I basically just watched everybody tee off today," he said.

Benzel was no doubt disappointed, but had a great attitude about the situation. 

"I treated my preparation for the tournament like I was in the tournament," he said. "I prepared at home like I was playing, came down and played two practice rounds. I didn't fake my way through the practice rounds. I played them like I was in the tournament. I was prepared to play the tournament. I just needed a tee time. There might have been a little scramble to get going, but at that point I just wanted to play and I wanted a tee time so I could just go."

Benzel will head home now to prepare for the Oregon Open. And, in September, he'll return to his Section Championship to try and earn his spot for the 2019 PPC. 

He admits there's more motivation than ever right now. For starters, at age 39 he isn't getting any younger. His children are now ages 9 and 6. 

Early success in the PPC earned Benzel appearances in four PGA Championships. He wants to get back there so his children can experience all that comes with it. 

"I think they'd have a lot of fun experiencing one of those weeks if I got in," he said. "But that all starts with getting in the PPC. And that's why I was here as an alternate. You can't get in if you're not here when your name is called."

With all the golf tournaments Benzel has played in his life, he believes this is the first in which he's been an alternate.

"And hopefully the last," he said.