What it's like to be first alternate

Daniel Korytoski
T.J. Auclair/PGA.com
Daniel Korytoski, PGA Head Professional at Orchard Hills Golf Course in Newnan, Ga., was at the Dunes Club Sunday playing the waiting game and hoping for his first start in the PGA Professional National Championship.
By T.J. Auclair
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Series: Golf Buzz

Published: Sunday, June 22, 2014 | 3:33 p.m.

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. -- Daniel Korytoski was living a lonely, anxious life Sunday on the driving range at the Dunes Club.

Korytoski, PGA Head Professional at Orchard Hills Golf Course in Newnan, Ga., you see, was the first alternate at the Dunes Club in the 47th PGA Professional National Championship.

Should anyone withdraw, Korytoski needed to be ready to run over to the first or 10th tee to take their place and make his National Championship debut.

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"Obviously you don't want anyone to get injured or anything like that," said Korytoski, who had been by the Dunes Club driving range for roughly six hours already when we spoke. "It's been a long day. I got here nice and early, had a big breakfast after the morning wave finished teeing off. I initially went over to Grand Dunes, but there were two other alternates over there, so I said, 'well, I'm going to go over to Dunes Club then' and I'm the first alternate over here. The first alternate already got in over there."

That's right -- Justin Stelzer, an assistant professional from Rancho La Quinta Country Club, snuck into the field at Grand Dunes when 2001 National Champion Wayne DeFrancesco withdrew due to back problems.

"If I'm able to get in it would mean a lot," Korytoski said. "It's what we all play for. It would be very special. I've got a lot of support back home. It would be good to get in. It would be fun."

There was a withdrawal at the Dunes Club -- 1980 National Champion John Traub pulled out after hitting his opening tee shot. However, since Traub hit a shot, no one was eligible to replace him.

Korytoski said he left his home in Georgia at 3 a.m. on Friday to make the 6 1/2-hour trek to Myrtle Beach. Immediately upon arrival, he went out for a practice round.

"I was pretty tired after having driven 6 1/2 hours and then walking 18," he said. "But I slept good Friday night."

So what does an alternate do while hoping for that spot in the field?

A sweat-covered Korytoski explained.

"I've gotten in lots of practice today," he said. "Lots of practice and drinking lots of water just in case. Occasionally I've walked over to the first tee to find out what the situation is, but I told the officials, 'Listen, I'm right here at the end of the range. If someone's late, just wave your hand and I'll walk over there to see what happens.'"

And when he wasn't practicing, or checking in with officials, Korytoski was mingling with fellow Georgia Section member Sonny Skinner, who recently became the Senior PGA Professional Player of the Year Award winner for the fourth year in a row.

"I know Sonny Skinner very well," Korytoski said. "He beats me to death whenever we play. Actually, I think I beat him one time for 18 holes, but that's about it. What a phenomenal player he is. His work ethic is second to none. He's the Senior Player of the Year and a good friend of mine. I'm glad we have him in the Section, but it's tough to be in the Section with him because he's so good. But, it makes everybody else better. We strive to get better because of Sonny."

On Sunday, Korytoski wasn't worried about Skinner -- he just wanted a spot in the field.

T.J. Auclair is a Senior Interactive Producer for PGA.com and has covered professional golf since 1998, traveling to over 60 major championships. You can follow him on Twitter, @tjauclair.