PGA Championship is one of golf's majors, but it's also a reward to its members, the club pros
The PGA of America will tell you that the PGA Championship has the strongest field among the four majors. They will tell you that it’s the only all-professional field, that it has 99 of the top 100 players in the world and so forth.
It is also the only tournament that reserves 20 spots for its own members, the club professionals.
In the past, this was somewhat of a sticking point, especially when there were 40 spots for PGA club professionals a little more than a decade ago. That was eventually cut to 25 as the PGA Club Professional Championship was refined into a “tour-like” event and now there are just 20 who get to go to the big dance.
It’s really those 20 club professionals that make this event so unique. While these days it’s highly unlikely that a guy who teaches golf or runs a shop for a living has a chance to contend, it’s still interesting to see these guys try to make the cut.
In some years, none of the club professionals make the cut, but every once in a while somebody cashes a nice check.
Mike Small, whose day job is the coach of the men’s golf team at the University of Illinois, is playing in his fifth PGA Championship this week at Hazeltine National Golf Club.
Earlier this year, Small won his second club professional championship at Twin Warriors Golf Club near Albuquerque to gain automatic entry. He would like to do more than just make it to the weekend.
“I think the last three times I played in the PGA, I made two cuts; I missed the other by a shot.
“I’ve been competitive. So I’ve got to make the cut again as the first course of business but then I’d like to be more competitive on the weekend than I have been. I think personally I deserve that, and I think I need to push myself into believing that I need to play a little better on the weekend and I can play a little better.”
Small, 43, has won a couple of events on the Nationwide Tour, so he’s got game. Truth is all of these PGA pros who qualify have game; they just don’t make their living playing golf, and that puts them at a severe disadvantage to the rest of the field.
But who knows? If one of them gets hot, anything can happen. Keep an eye out for those names you don’t recognize; they may be somebody who’s waited on you in a golf shop.
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