70th PGA Winter Championships Start Wednesday at PGA Golf Club
By Craig Dolch
Scenic view of the 18th hole at PGA Golf Club on April 27, 2021 in Port St. Lucie, Florida. (Photo by Montana Pritchard/PGA of America)
The PGA Winter Championships kick off this week, providing PGA of America members with the combination of competing at golf at a high level while also enjoying the camaraderie of playing in a pair of team events at PGA Golf Club.
The 70th PGA Winter Championships open Wednesday with the Quarter Century Championship and Half Century Championship. It takes more than skill to play in the opening events; it also takes decades of service to the game. Contestants must be a member of the PGA of America for 25 or 50 years, respectively, to compete.
Last year’s Quarter Century Champions were Bill Breen of Nashville, Ten., (ages 50-64) and Gary Robison of Port St. Lucie (65 and older). Roy Vucinich of Port St. Lucie won the Half Century Championship. The 36-hole event will be held Wednesday and Thursday on the Wanamaker and Ryder courses.
There are five other championships held during the next six weeks, with a break allowed for the PGA Merchandise Show on Jan. 24-27. Here are the other five championships along with the defending champions, dates and courses:
The Senior Stroke Play Championship, Jan. 15-17, on the Wanamaker and Ryder courses (Bob Sowards, 50-59, and James Mason, 60-and-older).
The Senior-Junior Team Championship, Jan. 30-Feb. 2, on the Ryder, Wanamaker and Dye courses (Ben Kern and Sowards).
The Four-Ball Stableford Team Championship, Feb. 5-7, on the Ryder and Dye courses (Kern and Sowards).
The Stroke Play Championship, Feb. 12-14, Wanamaker and Ryder courses (Dylan Newman).
The Women’s Stroke Play Championship, Feb. 19-21, on the Wanamaker and Ryder courses (Sandra Changkija, who won her first Women’s PGA Professional Player of the Year Award in 2022).
With Sowards winning three times in last year’s Winter Championships, it was easy to see how he earned the Senior PGA Professional of the Year Award for the fourth time in the last five years. The 54-year-old Sowards is the PGA Director of Instruction at Kinsale Golf and Fitness Club in Powell, Ohio.
“It’s great the PGA gives us this opportunity to play in the Winter Championships because it gives us a chance to play when most of our clubs are closed up North,” Sowards said Monday while making the drive from Ohio to Florida. “It’s when I can get really good because I can play every day instead of maybe playing once a week. Being able to come to Port St. Lucie and compete against some of the best players in the country is something I relish.”
The PGA Winter Championships began in 1954 at PGA National Golf Club in Dunedin, Fla., to provide additional playing opportunities for PGA Professionals. It has been held at PGA Golf Club since 2000.
The PGA Winter Championships are presented by GolfPass, On Location.