The walk from the final green to the clubhouse normally
would take Craig Thomas a few minutes. Tuesday it took a bit longer.
"It took Brownie and I about a half hour to get from the 18th green back to
the clubhouse," Thomas, Muttontown's head professional, said Tuesday. "Signing
autographs and things like that. But that's nice. It's exciting for us guys."
The "us guys" are the club professionals playing in this week's PGA
Championship at Medinah Country Club outside of Chicago. Thomas and Tam
O'Shanter's Mark Brown earned their way into the championship by finishing in
the top 20 of June's PGA Professional National Championship, which took place
at Turning Stone Resort in Verona, N.Y. Joining the two Long Islanders from the
Met Section are Metropolis Country Club's Ron Philo Jr., who won the title at
Turning Stone, and Greg Bisconti, an assistant pro at Saint Andrew's Country
Club in Hastings-on-Hudson.
"It's one of those things where you're proud to have gotten to this point,"
said Brown, who also competed in the 2000 PGA at Valhalla and the 2001 PGA at
the Atlanta Athletic Club. "I can't believe this is my third one. The thing is,
after playing in one, you just want to get back. It's really a hard feeling to
explain. It's an awesome feeling competing against the world's best golfers.
I'm lucky I'm here."
Thomas is playing in his third straight PGA, having competed in 2004 at
Whistling Straights and last year at Baltusrol. Thomas is a contender at any
Met Area event but said he doesn't try to fool himself into thinking this is
like any other tournament.
"Anyone who tells you this is no different would be lying," said Thomas,
who tees off this afternoon at 12:05 with two-time Tour winner Woody Austin and
more nerves than any other PGA event I've played in. They're all special for
us to play. Maybe this is a little more special because it's our championship."
But that has become less the case recently. A decade ago, 40 club
professionals could earn their way into the season's final major, which is
conducted by the PGA of America, the umbrella organization for working pros
like Brown and Thomas. The number was reduced to 25 club pros for last year's
PGA at Baltusrol and was trimmed to 20 this year. There has been speculation
that the number could soon be dropped further. Both Thomas and Brown said 40
might have been exorbitant but club professionals, those ultimately responsible
for growing the game, should not be steadily drummed out of the championship.
"There's 20 clubs that are really excited for his week to see how their
club pro can do," said Brown, who tees off this morning at 7 playing with Bo
Van Pelt, currently ranked No. 52 on the money list, and Dean Wilson, last
week's winner at the International. "This is our one time to shine for the
year. And it's not like we're taking spots from the Tour's top players. Tiger,
Phil and Ernie are all there."
Thomas found a disconnect in the PGA of America's slogan "Growing the
"That's their slogan," Thomas said. "Well, who's growing the game? We're
the grassroots of the tournament. If it wasn't for guys like us, there would
not be a PGA Championship. They need to remember that a bit."
Analyze your shot
for the right chipping club
Most amateur golfers have a favorite chipping club, no matter what the
circumstances. In fact, you should analyze the upcoming shot in two parts.
First, how far the ball needs to carry in the air and second, how far the ball
is going to roll. Select the club that will produce the desired result. For
example, your lob wedge might carry about 80 percent in the air and give about
20 percent roll while the results with a 7-iron might produce the opposite; 20
percent in the air and 80 percent roll. In each instance, play the ball
slightly back in the stance, with the hands and weight slightly forward. The
backswing is a slight rocking of the shoulders, with a follow-through shifting
your weight further onto the left side. The same stroke will produce different
results, based on your club selection. Don't always reach for that same club!
Today through Sunday, Medinah Country Club (Ill.)
Aug. 21-27, Hazeltine National Golf Club (Minn.)
Aug. 22-24, Canoe Brook Country Club (Summit, N.J.)
About this page
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Aces: Golfers with aces, double eagles or other scoring accomplishments
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