Category - Member Events
Bob Sowards, Ben Kern Win Third PGA Senior-Junior Team Championship in Last Four Years
By Craig Dolch
The Ben Kern, PGA, and Bob Sowards, PGA, duo.
It didn’t matter that the formidable team of Bob Sowards and Ben Kern started the final round five shots out of the lead in the PGA Senior-Junior Team Championship at PGA Golf Club.
They still believed they were the ones to beat, and probably so did the rest of the field.
And they were correct. Like a racehorse that hangs off the lead before kicking it into overdrive in the stretch, Sowards and Kern combined to shoot a 12-under 60 Thursday to win by two shots over the team of PGA Tour caddie Brennan Little and Kent Graham.
“That was the definition of the tournament,” Kern (below) said of the racing analogy. “We hung back, looked up and took off.”
It was the third Senior-Junior title for Kern and Sowards in the last four years as they finished at 30-under 257. They also won the 2022 Four-Ball Stableford Team Championship.
Fittingly, both players contributed equally Thursday with six birdies on the Dye Course to split the $10,000 first prize. They closed in style with a back-nine 29, making birdies on all but the two par-3 holes.
“We could have made eight birdies each because we picked up after the other guy made his,” said Sowards, the reigning Senior PGA Professional Player of the Year. “I feel like he’s the best junior in the field and I can hold my own with the seniors. I can pick good partners.”
Sowards and Kern agreed the biggest reason they play well together is they are best friends and they share the same aggressive personality. But friendship only means so much on the golf course until the putts start to fall.
“I told Bob before the round, ‘I’ve had fun with you the last three days, but I want to have a lot of fun today.’ And today was so much fun,” said Kern of Georgetown, Texas. “I birdied. He birdied. I birdied. He birdied. We just threw it back and forth like a winning team should.”
A key moment in the round came on the par-3 16th hole when both Sowards and Kern, leading by a shot, missed the green. After Kern hit his chip over the green, the ball rolling just a foot from Sowards’ ball, his partner responded with a delicate chip over a ridge to 4 feet and made the clutch par putt.
“Once he chipped it over the green, I knew I had to be aggressive, so I tried to spin it as much as I could,” Sowards said. “I hit it a little past (the hole), but made the putt.”
Sowards and Kern followed with birdies on the last two holes to stretch the lead to three over Little and Graham, who birdied the 17th to finish second alone after a 67. Little is a member at Gleneagles Country Club in Plano, Texas, where Graham is the PGA Director of Golf.
It was still a great week for Little, who usually spends his time on the course caddying for Gary Woodland. Little has caddied for two major champions (Mike Weir, 2003 Masters and Woodland, 2019 U.S. Open), but had this week off because Woodland wasn’t in the field in this week’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
“I was on the fence about coming here until Gary didn’t get in, and then we missed the cut at Torrey Pines, so I was able to make it,” said Little, who has an A-24 classification for PGA of America members who are primarily employed in the golf industry.
“I play some Section events back home, but this is probably my first four-day tournament in 25 years. The pressures are different between caddying and playing. You don’t control as much when you’re caddying. I definitely get a little nervous when I’m playing.”
The teams of Gus Ulrich-Jon Mayer (65) and Patrick Wilkes-Krier and Mike Stone (64) tied for third place at 27-under 260. Chad Proehl and Jay Giannetto (69) were fifth at 25-under 262.
The PGA Winter Championships are presented by GolfPass, On Location. Sowards and Kern will again be the ones to beat in the PGA Four-Ball Stableford Team Championship that starts Sunday.