It was wet and a bit colder than usual on Florida’s Treasure Coast early Friday. The start of the second round of the National Car Rental Assistant PGA Professional Championship supported by Srixon/Cleveland Golf/XXIO/Asic was pushed back one hour.
None of those factors ー not the conditions, not the delay, not even the daunting Wanamaker Course at PGA Golf Club ー could slow down Jin Chung, who has quickly established himself as a force among the Assistant PGA Professional ranks.
Chung, a self-employed teaching Professional that works out of Chateau Elan Golf Club in Braselton, Georgia, posted a 7-under-par 65 on Friday morning to climb to the top of the leaderboard with a two-day total of 132.
Due to the aforementioned delay, 21 players were unable to finish the second round on Friday and will do so on Saturday morning. From there, the 132-player field will be cut to the low 70 scorers and ties for the rounds 3 and 4.
In close pursuit of the 33-year-old Chung are Eric Steger (69-66, 135) from the Indiana PGA Section and the South Central PGA Section’s Hagen Barmasse (69-67, 136). Steger and Barmasse are three and four shots behind, respectively.
Contention has a familiar feel for Chung, who finished runner-up in last year’s Assistant PGA Professional Championship in Port St. Lucie to Gunner Wiebe, two shots back.
“I really like the (Wanamaker Course) and I love this Championship,” said Chung. “It’s a national championship and I was focused on coming back and playing well again this year. For two days at least, everything with my game is ‘dialed in.’
“Yesterday, I played well, but did not drive the ball like I can. Today, I was good off the tee and combined that with solid iron play. I also made a good number of putts."
While Chung's opening-round 67 Thursday served notice that last year’s charge was not a fluke, he doubled down on Friday and began with an eagle on the first.
Just like that, Chung was tied for the lead with first-round leader, Scott Ford, who would not tee off until the afternoon wave (Ford was 4-over-par through 14 holes upon play being suspended due to darkness at 5:34 p.m. EST).
After a bogey on No. 2, Chung tallied a trio of birdies on Nos. 6-8 to grab the lead. More birdies were to be had. Four more to be exact.
“Seven birdies and an eagle never hurt anyone,” said Chung of his round. But hours after his completion, all he wanted to talk about was his par save on the 14th.
“All I wanted to do was find my ball and get out of there with a bogey,” said Chung of his mindset after driving the ball right, into a penalty area.
He found the ball and took his medicine, playing his second shot laterally.
From there, he surprised even himself, getting up and down from 117 yards. The mental lift allowed him to tighten his grip on the momentum he’d long ago seized, which in turn, yielded consecutive birdies on 15 and 16.
The second round of the National Car Rental Assistant PGA Professional Championship will resume Saturday at 7:30 a.m. with Round 3 to follow at 10:00 a.m. EST.
The field for the National Car Rental Assistant PGA Professional Championship includes PGA Assistant Professionals (A-8 membership classification) or registered Associates that earned berths through their local PGA Sections. They are competing for a $150,000 purse, including the winner’s share of $12,000.
PGA Golf Club ー the PGA of America’s premier 54-hole facility ー hosts multiple PGA Member championships annually, such as the National Car Rental Assistant PGA Professional Championship, Senior PGA Professional Championship (biennially) and the PGA's Tournament Series and Winter Championships.