PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Not many PGA Professionals in their 60s shoot less than their age in competition.
Certainly not when they hit two balls into the hazard and start the round with a three-putt.
But that’s what Mike San Filippo of Hobe Sound accomplished Wednesday. The 66-year-old shot a bogey-free 65 to take the first-round lead in the 65-and-older division of the PGA Quarter Century Championship at PGA Golf Club.
“That might be only the second time I’ve done that in competition,” San Filippo said. “But I wasn’t thinking about shooting my age; I was more interested in finishing off the round and giving myself a chance to win the tournament.
“If you live long enough, you can do it. The key is to live long enough.”
Sonny Skinner, the 2008 PGA Professional Player of the Year, and Gary Robison of North Canton, Ohio, shot 67s to share the lead in the 50-64 division. They lead by one over Chip Johnson.
Johnson also had an amazing round, overcoming a triple bogey on the second hole with seven birdies for a 68. Johnson found two bushes and whiffed a shot on the par-4 second hole on the Ryder Course, but he birdied three of the next four holes and shot a 32 on the back nine.
“I was kind of stunned after the second hole,” said Johnson, PGA Head Professional at Hatherly Country Club in Scituate, Mass. “I said, ‘Let’s just try and enjoy things.’ I had nothing to lose at that point.
“It’s safe to say I’ve never shot a 68 in competition with a triple early in the round.”
San Filippo, who has won four PGA Winter Championships, started his round with a three-putt par on the first hole of the Wanamaker Course. He hit into hazards on the eighth and 16th holes, but saved par each time. He leads by three over Bobby Heins of White Plains, N.Y., and Bob Bilbo of Port St. Lucie.
“I eked out pars on those holes, but I also made a couple 30- and 40-footers, which you don’t expect to do,” San Filippo said. “I putted really well. The greens are in great shape and I hit a lot of good putts.”
Johnson won the 2002 PGA Stroke Play Championship, but said he’s not thinking about earning another PGA Winter Championship.
“My goal is to have as much fun as I did today,” Johnson said. “But I don’t need to make a triple early in the round to do that.”
Lynn Rosely of Port St. Lucie leads the Half Century Championship with a 74, a shot ahead of defending champion Nunzio Ciampi and Tom Joyce.
The PGA Winter Championships are presented by GolfAdvisor.com and PrimeSport.