BEMIDJI -- Mitchell Mackedanz has played in plenty of big tournaments during his golf career, but when he heads to Oregon this Sunday, June 18, to play in the 2017 PGA Professional Championship, it will be like nothing he's ever experienced.
"I played in some college events that were good Division II tournaments, like super regionals and things like that," said Mackedanz, the former Bemidji State golfer who is now the assistant professional at Bemidji Town & Country Club. "I played in the state open and the tournament last year, but this will by far be the biggest I've played in."
Mackedanz, 29, qualified for this year's PGA Professional Championship by virtue of winning the 2016 Minnesota PGA Professional Championship, which was hosted last summer at Bemidji Town & Country Club. He's expecting a big-time tournament, but he's ready for it.
"I've never been there before, but everyone that I've talked to that has been there before said it's an awesome experience," he said. "It's run like a major championship. Golf Channel will be there. It's the real deal."
Mackedanz, a member of the BSU golf team from 2006-2009, won the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference title in 2009. After graduating from BSU he had a brief stint at Saint Cloud Country Club before moving back to Bemidji. He's been an assistant pro at BTCC for six years.
Mackedanz's reward was a trip to Sunriver Resort in Sunriver, Ore., for the PGA Professional Championship, which is scheduled to start Sunday, June 18, and goes until Wednesday, June 21.
Mackedanz, a Paynesville, Minn., native, said he spent even more time practicing than he normally does in anticipation of the tournament this month.
"I go down to Naples, Fla., in the wintertime, so I played a little bit more in the winter knowing this was coming up," he said. "But some of the weather this spring wasn't the greatest up here, so I didn't get outside as much as I'd like to and play, but the past couple weeks it's been nice so I've been gearing up for it."
With 312 golfers, Mackedanz said this is the largest field he's played against. And because there are so many players, the tournament will use two courses at the resort and have two different cuts. Mackedanz and the rest of the golfers will play once on each course in the first two days before cuts are made. The top 90 golfers, plus ties, after the first two rounds advance to the third round Tuesday.
Then, the final round will feature the top 70 golfers, plus ties, battling it out for the title on Wednesday.
Mackedanz said he's never played the course so he doesn't have any first-hand experience, but he's been able to get some advance from his friends in the golf community.
Mitchell Mackedanz, club pro at Bemidji Town and Country Club, practices his short game last week at BTCC.
"I know the course, from what I've seen, is long, so I'm trying to work on hitting those fairway woods, fairway long irons and things like that," he said. "And putting and chipping of course. If you don't have a short game it doesn't matter where the course is or what the course is like, you have to make some putts."
The course, located in central Oregon at the base of the Cascade Mountains, is at a slightly higher elevation but Mackedanz said he didn't expect any dramatic elevation changes on the course itself.
Mackedanz, who was scheduled to leave for Oregon Wednesday, will have some company with him on the course: Current BSU golfer and former Bemidji High School standout Matt Gregg is caddying for him.
"That will be fun to have him there on the bag," Mackedanz said. "We've known each other for all six years that I've been here together, and we've played together many times, so it will be nice to have a caddy who's a friend and a good player, someone who knows what's going on."
The winner of the 2017 PGA Professional Championship gets a solid prize: a $600,000 purse, along with exemptions for the the 2017 PGA Championship and six PGA Tour events over a 12-month period.
In addition, the top 20 golfers will also earn a berth in the 2017 PGA Championship, which will be held Aug. 10-13, at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, N.C.
"(Playing in the PGA Championship) is the ultimate goal, but we're just thinking making the cut at this point," Mackedanz said. "If you don't make the cut you can't get top 20 after that."
This article is written by Jack Hittinger from The Bemidji Pioneer and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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