Bayonet Black Horse, the 36-hole public golf complex that once was the site of Fort Ord, has an unofficial “alumni regiment” in the 51st PGA Professional Championship presented by Club Car and OMEGA.
They battle Sunday through Wednesday in the largest all-professional national championship. Nearly 90 players among the 312-member field competed in 2012 when the PGA of America first conducted a national championship on the Monterey Peninsula.
Among the contingent is Rob Labritz of Pound Ridge, New York, who has a mission in mind. In 2012, Labritz remembers all too well missing his only cut in 10 career Championship appearances.
“I figure that I have something to prove to myself,” said Labritz, the PGA Director of Golf at GlenArbor Golf Club in Bedford Hills, New York. “I want to come out better this time on that baby.”
The differences between the partner courses, said Labritz, is clear to those who have toured the property. “At Black Horse, you have to hit it in the right sections of the green due to the undulation,” he said. “At Bayonet, you need to hit it high into the greens. For both courses, you simply have to drive it well. They are excellent courses and it’s great to be back.”
The Championship, which runs through Wednesday, features a dozen players age 50-and-older who can say they battled for two national crowns here. In 2015, the Senior PGA Professional Championship visited Bayonet Black Horse.
“Bayonet Black Horse has the same grasses that we have up north,” said Brian Cairns, 54, a PGA Teaching Professional at Fox Hills Learning Center in Plymouth, Michigan. “It’s fair; it’s tough and par is a premium.”
When asked if there’s anything different a third time around, Cairns quipped, “Yeah, I’m not hitting it as far.”
Cairns, the 2015 Senior PGA Professional Player of the Year, said he has not seen two similar and challenging public courses side-by-side as what is presented by Bayonet Black Horse. “There’s nothing even close,” he said. “There’s no cupcakes here.”
Steve Schneiter, the PGA Assistant Professional at Schneiter’s Pebblebrook Golf Course in Sandy, Utah, first played Bayonet Black Horse in 1987 and estimates that he’s had “more than 75 rounds” under his belt.
He first walked the property after entering kindergarten. “I used to come here when I was six years old, following my grandpa (the late PGA Hall of Famer George Henry Schneiter) and my uncle (the late Ernie Schneiter)," said Schneiter, 54, the 1995 PGA Professional Champion. “In the old days, before the trimming and removal of trees here, a lot of guys would come to Bayonet to get ready to play at Pebble Beach. Why? Because if you could hit the fairways here, you could play anywhere.”
Schneiter Survives Near-Tragic Accident
Schneiter is making his 21st appearance in the Championship, but came within inches – literally – of perhaps ending his golf career. On April 19, while cleaning a top-dressing machine on the family-owned course, he suffered a near-tragic loss of his right index finger.
“I just flipped some sand to the side and didn’t think that the blades were still spinning on the machine,” said Schneiter. “The next thing I know I was in a car with my niece, who is driving me to our nearby hospital (Intermountain Alta View).”
The drama didn’t end there. Doctors told him to save his finger he needed to get directly to the University of Utah Medical Center in Salt Lake City, more than 18 minutes away without heavy traffic.
Schneiter arrived in the emergency room, where for the next five hours, he waited with his hand wrapped in ice and unsure whether he would ever swing a golf club again.
Sometime after midnight, a hand and plastic surgeon specialist completed an operation to restore torn tendons.
“It’s been eight weeks now, and I’ve got limited mobility of the joint in my finger. I’m doing all I can to hit the ball,” said Schneiter, who will wear a plastic protector on the restored finger. “I’m not as strong, having gone through this. It will be tough. But, I want to give it a go.”
Schneiter said the allure of Bayonet Black Horse kept him coming back. He has played all courses on the Monterey Peninsula except Cypress Point.
“These courses are as good as any of them,” said Schneiter. “I’ve always loved coming here. The ocean plays a big part in what happens on this course. It’s always a great test.”