It’s been a tale of two nines for Jeffrey Schmid through his first couple rounds of the 32nd Senior PGA Professional Championship.
A pair of 67s by Schmid at PGA Golf Club has him at 9-under 134 for the Championship, enough for a one-stroke lead at his halfway point. The second round did not conclude on Friday due to a 72-minute weather delay. Twenty-nine players will finish Saturday morning with a restart at 7:45 a.m. ET.
Schmid made the turn at even-par during both rounds before making his move. Thursday’s back nine on the par-72 Wanamaker Course was highlighted by a birdie and two eagles. After blocking his tee shot behind a group of trees on the par-4 14th, Schmid pulled off a 30-yard slice into the green from 161 yards out and found the bottom of the cup. His second eagle was more traditional, reaching the par-5 16th in two before rolling in a 10-footer.
Schmid’s closing stretch on Friday featured four birdies on Nos. 3, 4, 6 and 9 on the par-71 Ryder Course.
“When you’re in the beginning of a tournament, everything feels like the front nine, so there’s no pressure yet,” said Schmid, who’s the PGA Teaching Professional at Brown Deer Golf Club in Coralville, Iowa. “I wish I could say I do that all the time.”
The Iowa City resident has competed at PGA Golf Club dating back to the early 2000s when the Golden Bear (later known as Gateway) Tour held tournaments there.
“I’ve played these courses a lot,” said Schmid. “I’ve won a couple times here and also had some pretty bad defeats. Despite some of the bad memories, it’s pretty relaxing and comfortable to be here.”
A stroke behind Schmid at 8-under 135 is Frank Bensel, who was one of four players to make an ace on Friday. Bensel pulled an 8-iron on the 177-yard 6th hole, highlighting a bogey-free, 7-under 65 on the Wanamaker. It marked the second-career hole in one for Bensel on the Wanamaker’s 6th hole. His first came during the first round of the 2017 National Car Rental Assistant PGA Professional Championship.
“It was a similar pin position and I used the same club (as 2017),“ said Bensel, a PGA Assistant Professional at Century Country Club. “I couldn’t really tell if it went down, but the other guys saw it go in.”
Bensel, who held the 54-hole lead in this Championship in 2019, plans to lean on previous experience over the next couple of days. “You can always draw on the experience from being in contention. There’s no comparison to being in that spot when you have a chance to win a tournament. Can’t replicate it.”
Joining Bensel with aces of their own were Mark Anderson (Ryder No. 16, 8-iron, 166 yards), J.D. Brake (Ryder No. 5, 7-iron, 164 yards) and Steve Parker (Wanamaker No. 4, 6-iron, 188 yards).
Walt Chapman is alone in third place at 7-under 136, while Henrik Simonsen and Chris Starkjohann (6-under 137) trail Schmid by three, while Brad Lardon, Dave McNabb and Paul Stankowski (5-under 138) are four back.
Eighteen-hole leader Dick Mast struggled on Friday with a 4-over 76 on the Wanamaker. He’s presently in a tie for 20th.
Following the second round, the field will be cut to the low 90 scores, including ties. A second cut will occur following the third round to the low 70 and ties.
The top 35 finishers following Sunday’s final round will earn spots in the 2021 KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship field. The Championship is scheduled to be contested May 25-30 at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Oklahoma.