PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - The 2018 Senior PGA Professional Championship is set to begin this Thursday, October 25, at PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie, Florida. The four-day, 72-hole event is supported by GolfAdvisor.com and John Deere.
A full field of 264 players will compete in the National Championship with several key exemptions at stake. The low 35 scorers will earn a berth into the 2019 KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, New York, May 23-26. The top five finishers will earn an exemption into the final stage of the 2018 PGA Tour Champions National Finals. And those who finish in the top eight, including ties, will automatically qualify for next year’s Championship, to be held October 3-6 at Omni Barton Creek Resort & Spa in Austin, Texas.
For the first time in Championship history, the entire field will be featured via live stream. Each player will be shown on the Wanamaker Course's signature par-3 6th hole Thursday and Friday. Programming is scheduled for 8:45 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. (all times approximate based on play). David Marr III, host of SiriusXM's "PGA of America Radio" and a former Golf Channel talent, and Jerry Tucker, a PGA Master Professional from Stuart, Florida, will serve as the broadcast team. The live coverage can be accessed from the PGA of America's Facebook and YouTube pages.
Thirty-nine states are represented in the field, led by 26 Floridians, 20 Californians, and 18 New Yorkers. Among those in the field is the 2017 winner and two-time champion, Frank Esposito Jr., of Old Bridge, New Jersey. Esposito returns to the site of his 2014 victory with high expectations.
"It's a very strong field," said Esposito, who captured last year's Championship at Desert Mountain in Scottsdale, Arizona. "The biggest confidence boost is knowing that I have done it twice against the strongest players. Recently, my game has been just OK. I'm hoping going down to Port St. Lucie where the courses are familiar and I have played well will change that."
All 264 players will compete on the Ryder and Wanamaker Courses Thursday and Friday, to be followed by a cut to the low 90 scorers and ties. Following Saturday’s round, a second cut will be made to the low 70 scorers and ties. The third and final rounds will be played on the Wanamaker Course. In addition to the Leo Fraser Trophy, named after the 16th president of the PGA of America, players are competing for the $300,000 purse including the winner’s share of $21,500.
Joining Esposito in the field are 11 past champions, including fellow two-time winners Kirk Hanefeld of South Hamilton, Massachusetts (2008, ’11), Mike San Filippo of Hobe Sound, Florida (2002, ’05), and Tom Joyce of Huntington, New York (1990, ’91). Joyce, a PGA Life Member, is the oldest player in the field at 77.
Eight past PGA Professional champions are in the field, including three-time winner Mike Small of Champaign, Illinois (2005, ’09, ’10). In addition, a pair of three-time National Car Rental Assistant PGA Professional Championship winners lead a contingent of 10 past champions: Frank Bensel of Jupiter, Florida (2010, ’11, ’13) and Kyle Flinton of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (2002, ’03, ’05).
Sherry Andonian of Centennial, Colorado, will become the Championship's first woman competitor. Also represented are the Low Club Professionals from the past two KitchenAid Senior PGA Championships, Jim Estes of Germantown, Maryland (2017) and Mark Mielke of Atlantis, Florida (2018).
PGA Golf Club will host the Championship for the 11th time, the most recent occurring in 2016 when Steve Schneiter, of Sandy, Utah, holed a 15-foot putt to secure a one-stroke victory over Rick Schuller of Chester, Virginia. Both will be in this week’s field.