Uresti Secures Senior PGA Club Pro Title with 69
October 18, 2020
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Omar Uresti began Sunday's final round of the Senior PGA Professional (Club Pro) Championship with a six-stroke lead over the winner from two years ago, Bob Sowards, and he was eight ahead of defending champion Scott Hebert and Paul Stankowski. Although Sowards never really threatened Uresti, both Hebert and Stankowski made impressive runs at him in the middle of the round. But Uresti went on a birdie binge of his own on the back nine and concluded the day exactly where he started it -- six ahead of the field.
The 52-year-old winner closed with a 3-under-par 69 at the PGA Golf Club's Wanamaker Course, which gave him a tournament-record 72-hole total of 269 (18 under). Three of the tournament's four rounds were played at the Wanamaker Course (par 72), and one at the PGA GC's Ryder Course (par 71).
Hebert, who came from one behind to win the tournament by four last year, turned in the lowest score of the day Sunday, a 67, and claimed second place with a 275 aggregate. Stankowski shot 68 and finished one behind Hebert at 276, which earned him a tie for third, along with Sowards, who shot 70.
Jeffrey Schmid, 52, a former University of Iowa star who is still in Iowa City (he is a teaching pro at Brown Deer Golf Club), was the 36-hole leader, but he ballooned to a 76 on Saturday. He bounced back with a 69 on Sunday and tied for fifth, at 279, along with Walt Chapman, who ended his week with a 70.
With the victory, Uresti earned $26,000.
What is now the PGA Tour used to operate under the umbrella of the PGA of America, as a kind of subsidiary. But in the 1960's, thanks in large part to the popularity of Arnold Palmer, and also Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player, the tour began attractiing larger crowds and more money to its tournaments. Tour players started to complain that the parent organization was taking too much of the tour revenue for its general fund ("to help grow the game at the local level"), and that they were being short-changed. They also complained that the fourth major on the pro tour schedule, the PGA Championship, which has always been run by the PGA of America, had too many club pros in the field, and that unfairly limited the number of tour players in the field.
All of which led to a split in 1968. The players established their own organization to run the tour, and called themselves American Professional Golfers, Inc. The APG was completely independent of the PGA of America, briefly, but a compromise was reached in December of '68, and the APG was disbanded. The tour was once again allied with the PGA of America, but as a separate entity, which was called the Tournament Players Division initially. The name was changed to PGA Tour in 1975.
One result of the split between the parent PGA and the tour players was the creation of a national tournament for the club pros, the PGA Professional Championship, in 1968. It was intended "to provide additional playing opportunities for PGA Professionals" (club pros), partly because there were going to be fewer of them playing in the PGA Championship in the future. In 1989, the Senior PGA Professional Championship was established with the same purpose.
But the affiliation of the tour with the PGA of America remains, and as part of that arrangement, PGA Tour players are still considered members of the PGA of America. They pay annual dues, just like the club pros, and are designated as "Life Members."
Omar Uresti and Paul Stankowski are both former PGA Tour players, not club pros, but they have both paid their dues every year to the PGA of America (in Uresti's case, beginning in 1993). So they are Life Members, and even though Uresti admits that he has never spent a day working in a pro shop, they have both been eligible to play in the PGA Professional Championship, which Uresti won in 2017, and they are now both eligible for the Senior Professional PGA Championship. (Stankowski, who turned 50 last December, is in his first year of eligibility for the senior tournament.) Some club pros aren't happy about that, but those are the rules, and PGA of America officials have never indicated that they have any intention of changing them.
And Uresti and Stankowski are hardly the first former PGA Tour players to show up for the PGA Professional tournaments. The list of former winners of the "Club Pro" championships includes Bob Rosburg, who won six times on the PGA Tour, including one major (the 1959 PGA Championship at Minneapolis Golf Club), and the legendary Sam Snead, who a record 82 times on the tour. (His record has since been tied by Tiger Woods.)
Which brings us to Sunday. Uresti, who played in 356 PGA Tour events but never won (he did, however, win twice on what is now the Korn Ferry Tour), got off to a slow start, relative to his two closest pursuers, and he was even par through 10 holes. Meanwhile, Hebert seemed intent on reclaiming the title that he won last year. The 51-year-old head professional at Traverse City G&CC in Michigan birdied the par-4 fifth, par-5 seventh and par-4 eighth holes, and he got to 4 under for his round with a birdie at the par-4 10th. Stankowski birdied the par-5 first, followed that with five pars and then rattled off three consecutive birdies at the seventh, eighth and ninth.
But then Uresti responded in kind on the back nine, making three birdies in a row at the 11th (168 yards, par 3) 12th (399, par 4) and 13th (527, par 5). That blunted the charges of Hebert, who also birdied the 12th and 13th, and Stankowski, who made his fifth birdie of the day at the 11th. Both Hebert and Stankowski bogeyed the par-4 14th, and when Uresti birdied the par-5 16th (505 yards), the tournament was effectively over. He lost a stroke when he bogeyed the 18th, but by then it didn't matter.
By winning the Senior, Uresti joins an exclusive club. He is one of only four players who have won both the PGA Professional and the Senior PGA Professional titles. Hebert (2008 and '19) became the third member of the club last year, and Sowards ('04 and '18) the second two years ago. The first to do it was Steve Schneiter who won against the younger group in 1995 and against the seniors in 2016.
None of the Minnesota pros who were in the field of 264 made it to the final round, but Ty Armstrong came close. Armstrong, 61, a former PGA Tour player and Minnesota State Open champion (2004) who has been a teaching pro at GolfTEC in Eden Prairie for a decade, made the 36-hole cut on the number (146). But he then missed the 54-hole cut of 220 by a stroke, after a third-round 75.
2020 Senior PGA Professional Championship
At PGA Golf Club
Ryder Course (par 71) & Wanamaker Course (par 72)
Port St. Lucie, Fla.
(Everyone played one round at each course for the first two rounds; the third and fourth rounds were played at Wanamaker)
Final results (the field was cut to the top 90 & ties after the second round and to the top 70 & ties after the third)
1. Omar Uresti, Life Member -18 68 (R) 66 (W) 66 69 -- 269
2. Scott Hebert, Travers City G&CC, Mich. -12 68 (R) 70 (W) 70 67 -- 275
T3. Bob Sowards, Kinsale Golf & Fitness Club, Ohio -11 66 (R) 71 (W) 69 70 -- 276
T3. Paul Stankowski, Life Member -11 67 (R) 71 (W) 70 68-- 276
T5. Jeffrey Schmid, Brown Deer GC, Iowa -8 67 (W) 67 (R) 76 69 -- 279
T5. Walt Chapman, Fairways and Greens Golf Ctr., Tenn. -8 71 (W) 65 (R) 73 70 -- 279
7. Frank Bensel, Century CC, Fla. -6 70 (R) 65 (W) 73 73 -- 281
T8. Alan Morin, Falls Club of the Palm Beaches, Fla. -5 68 (R) 73 (W) 68 73 -- 282
T8. Mike Fergin, Mesa Verde CC, Calif. -5 71 (W) 69 (R) 75 67 -- 282
T8. Frank Esposito, Forsgate CC, N.J. -5 71 (R) 68 (W) 72 71 -- 282
Missed third-round cut (70 & ties) -- 220
T77. Ty Armstrong, GolfTEC-Eden Prairie +3 74 (W) 72 (R) 75 -- 221
Missed second-round cut (90 & ties) -- 146
T130. Dale Jones, Mendakota +5 73 (W) 75 (R) -- 148
T130. Don Berry, Edinburgh USA +5 77 (W) 71 (R) -- 148
T147. Dave Podas, Bel-Air CC, Calif. +6 71 (R) 78 (W) -- 149
T147. Larry Norland, Greenhaven GC +6 75 (R) 74 (W) -- 149
T230. Dan Callahan, Island View GC +14 79 (W) 78 (R) -- 157
T237. Steve Fessler, Albion Ridges GC +16 81 (R) 78 (W) -- 159