20 Club Pros at Whistling Straits – A dream come true!
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This is the week they have all been waiting for – No, not the PGA Tour players, the 20 Club Professionals who will walk onto the driving range at Whistling Straits this week and hit balls next to Tiger, Rory, Jordan, and the rest.
Hearts will be beating out of their chests, but these players did not get here through a lottery. These are legitimately good players who can, and will, compete. And some of them will make it through to the weekend. Those who don’t will have had the time of their lives. Memories never to be forgotten!
In the second week of August, at telegenic Whistling Straits, 20 club professionals will play alongside the best players in the world in the PGA Championship. Once they were brethren, but not so much anymore. More like first cousins once removed. The club men all have the same spikes-in-the-ground goal: to make the cut. What’s life without a dream?
Even if they’re onstage only through Friday afternoon, the club pros are critical to the PGA of America.
Like the amateurs in the other majors, the club pros are living reminders of the event’s roots. But elite amateurs these days are usually full-time golfers, while the club pro is world-class only at multitasking. There’s the crowded lesson book, the Callaway rep on hold, the mortgage bill waiting at home. Six amateurs made the cut at the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay. No club pro has made the cut at the PGA Championship since 2011.
These soldiers who ply their trade in the game’s trenches make the PGA field by finishing in the top 20 in the four-day PGA Professional National Championship. This year it was held at the Philadelphia Cricket Club, which happens to be my home course. At the end of 72 holes, there was a traffic jam for 20th place: five guys, one spot, sudden-death playoff on a warm summer night. In golf, there are always competitions within the competition.
I didn’t know any of the five contenders, and I hope this won’t land me in the same hot seat as Donald Trump, but I found myself rooting for the skinny black kid, Wyatt Worthington, who teaches at a par-3 course called The Golf Depot, on the outskirts of Jack Nicklaus’s Columbus. Nothing against the four other guys, but golf needs more color.
The playoff began on No. 11 on our Tillinghast course.
The layout is a gem, start to finish, and the 11th is a par 4 with a second shot that goes straight uphill to a tilting green. It’s funny: On the tournament’s Golf Channel broadcast, I thought my beloved home course looked ordinary and flat. But in real life, I could speak of its cunning delights right through daylight. When MTV debuted in the summer of 1981, a girl I knew said music videos would be the death of rock ‘n’ roll because look would now trump sound. She was practically predicting Chambers Bay and Whistling Straits. I’ll take Tilly and the Cricket Club.
Pictures: Dan Perry
Check out this flyover of Whistling Straits. – http://bcove.me/2m8rk9uz
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