It doesn’t happen quite enough for most on the golf course, but some days “the ball just goes in the hole.”
Thursday was that day for Scott Ford, the Assistant Golf Professional from Glen Oaks Club in Old Westbury, New York. He carded a 7-under 65 and has a two-shot lead after the first round of the 2021 National Car Rental Assistants PGA Professional Championship supported by Srixon/Cleveland Golf/XXIO/ASICS. Ford’s opening-round foray on PGA Golf Club’s formidable Wanamaker Course was hardly a fluke, but doesn’t mean it was void of some magic either.
“I’m very happy to get off to such a good start, it’s been a number of years since I’ve played this well in a (PGA of America) national championship,” said Ford, whose given name is Doug. “It’s a good start and I played well, but I putted really well.”
The flat stick was the secret ingredient for the 52-year-old Ford, whose own playing history includes a full-year stint on the PGA Tour in 1996 and a family lineage that reads like golf royalty. His father, Doug Jr. played a smattering of events on the Tour in the 60s and 70s, while his grandfather, Doug Sr., won two Major Championships ー the 1955 PGA Championship and the 1957 Masters ー en route to being inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.
Family DNA aside, Ford made his own breaks Thursday, which began in earnest with four straight birdies on Nos. 5-8. An innocent 6-footer for birdie set things in motion on the 5th, a putt from double that distance on 6, a tap-in from 2 feet on No. 7 and a fourth straight birdie, this one from 10 feet, capped the binge on the 8th hole.
Ford’s 3-under-par back 9 topped off a bogey-free round to remember. He rolled in twin birdie putts, both from 18 feet, on the 13th and 14th holes. Then on the par-3, 212-yard 17th, his tee shot put him on the fringe, 50-plus feet from the hole.
Ford had some work to do. He chose his putter to get him up and down. Except his lag only went “down,” as in no “up” required. A seventh birdie.
“A bomb,” said Ford of his 50 to 55-foot putt, before moving on to how Thursday fit into his 2021 season. “I’ve had a good season, winning a few senior events up in the (Metropolitan PGA) Section. I’ve played well. Today was one day. The Wanamaker Course can get tough in no time.”
Last year’s runner-up, Jin Chung from the Georgia PGA Section, put himself in prime position Thursday with an opening 67 that was tainted only by back-to-back bogeys on 13 and 14.
Chung is tied for second with Paul Apyan from the Tennessee PGA Section. Apyan, like Ford, played without a blemish, tallying five birdies.
The Philadelphia PGA Section’s Brian Betgstol is alone in fourth after posting seven birdies and three bogeys, good for a 68. He’s three back.
The 132-player field, which includes PGA Assistant Professionals (A-8 membership classification) or registered Associates that earned berths through their local PGA Sections, is competing for a $150,000 purse, including the winner’s share of $12,000.
The 2020 Champion, Gunner Wiebe, is not in the field.
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.