Uresti Wins 2nd PGA Club Pro Title; Polland, Beach & Holmes Are All Top 20
April 28, 2021
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Omar Uresti didn't play all that well on Wednesday at the PGA Golf Club's Wanamaker Course. He didn't have to. The 52-year-old former PGA Tour regular had established a seven-stroke lead by posting scores of 67, 68 and 65 during the first three days of the PGA Professional Championship. As a result, he was able to recover from a horrible start and shoot 76 in the final round -- and that was good enough for a three-stroke victory.
Things did get interesting, though. Uresti bogeyed the 463-yard, par-4 second hole, doubled the 417-yard, par-4 third and bogeyed the 222-yard, par-3 fourth on his way to a front-nine 40. Up ahead of him, Frank Bensel, a 53-year-old teaching pro from New York who started the day 11 shots behind, had birdied No. 2 and No. 3, and he made another birdie at the eighth (365 yards, par 4).
Bensel birdied the 365-yard, par-4 10th, as well. Suddenly, he was within three of Uresti.
At the 11th, a 199-yard par 3, Bensel gave one back with a bogey, but Uresti followed with a bogey of his own. Bensel then cut the deficit to two with a birdie at the 551-yard, par-5 13th. But that was where Uresti stopped the bleeding in his round, with a birdie of his own.
Bensel took another step back when he bogeyed the 460-yard, par-4 14th. He then birdied the 15th (356, par 4) and 16th (507, par 5), but Uresti pushed his lead back to three strokes with his birdie at the 16th. By the time Uresti bogeyed the 217-yard, par-3 17th, Bensel had lost another shot with a bogey at the par-4 18th (442 yards), which meant Uresti was three clear as the 5-foot-6-inch Texas native played the the final hole.
Uresti made a stress-free par at the 18th, tapping in from 10 inches for a 72-hole aggregate of 276 (11 under) -- and a three-stroke victory.
Bensel closed with a 68 to finish at 279.
Ben Cook was the highest finisher from the younger generation. The 27-year-old teaching pro from Michigan shot 74 and finished third at 281, two ahead of Larkin Gross, who matched Uresti's 76.
Right behind Gross, at 284, was Ben Polland, who played high school golf for Bloomington Jefferson and finished in the top 10 at the state high school tournament as a senior in 2008, tying for eighth in Class AAA. But it was at Campbell University in North Carolina, where he was in the golf management program, that Polland's game really developed. And while he was working as an assistant at the ritzy Deepdale Golf Club in New York, he nearly won the 2015 PGA Professional, but made a double bogey on the 72nd hole and lost by a shot.
The next year, he won the National Assistants Championship. He has also won on the PGA Latinoamerica Tour, and has had limited status on the Korn Ferry Tour. Polland, 30, is now listed as an assistant at the Shooting Star golf course in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
On Wednesday, he, like Uresti, doubled the third hole. But he eagled the seventh (535 yards, par 5), and was in third place, at 5 under for the tournament, after he birdied No. 10. From there, however, he made only one more birdie, at the par-5 13th, to go with three bogeys, all of which added up to 73.
Two shots behind Polland, at 286, was Alex Beach, another former Minnesota high schooler whose golf game blossomed after he left the state. Beach's story is really unusual. He traded the No. 1 spot on the Stillwater High School team with Kyle Scanlon, but Beach tied for 58th in the state high school tournament as a senior in 2007, and he didn't even bother to try out for the golf team while he was at the University of Nebraska. (Scanlon, on the other hand, got a scholarship to South Dakota State.) When he started working as an assistant pro on the East Coast, however, Beach decided that it would help his career if he could become an accomplished tournament player.
And that was exactly what he did. It helped that he was no longer the skinny kid he had been in high school. He gained weight, added distance to his game, and in 2019 the long-hitting left-hander won both the PGA Professional and National Assistants titles.
Beach birdied the par-5 first hole Wednesday, but he was yet another victim of the third hole, and he, too, doubled it. But from there on, he made 12 pars and three birdies, which gave him a 70. That 15-hole stretch moved him from outside the top 20 into a tie for sixth -- and a place in the 2021 PGA Championship, which will be played next month (May 20-23) on the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, S.C.
The top 20 from the PGA Professional tournament get into the PGA Championship each year, but only the top 20. No ties. There is a playoff to get the number to exactly 20.
It appeared that Derek Holmes of PXG Minneapolis would be in the playoff. The 33-year-old former Division III All-American at Wisconsin-Stout needed to par the 18th hole to avoid falling back into a six-way tie for 16th place, which would have meant a six-man playoff for five spots. His second shot left him 70 feet from the cup at No. 18, and his first putt started too far to the right on a really nasty green. The Golf Channel announcers were groaning as the putt drifted off at a 45-degree angle from its intended target -- and would up 35 feet from the cup.
But then Holmes made the 35-footer. His anything-but-routine two-putt par gave him a 73 and a 287, making him part of a nine-way tie for eighth.
So the playoff, which went on without Holmes, turned out to be 5 for 4.
This was the second time Uresti has won the PGA Professional Championship, which is commonly -- and more accurately -- referred to as the Club Pro Championship. He won for the first time in 2017. He has also won the Senior PGA Professional (Club Pro) Championship, in 2020.
Of course, not all the contestants were club pros. Uresti, for example. He has never spent a day, or even an hour, working in a pro shop at a golf course. But the PGA Tour is basically a subsidiary of the PGA of America, and according to an agreement that was reached in the late 1960's between the PGA and the Tour, PGA Tour members can be members of the PGA of America. That makes them eligible to play in the PGA Professional and Senior PGA Professional tournaments.
All they have to do is pay their annual dues, which Uresti has been doing since 1993, when he began playing on both the then-Nike Tour (now the Korn Ferry) and the PGA Tour. He won twice on the Nike, and although he never won on the PGA Tour, he played in 377 events out there.
Uresti is not the only former PGA Tour player to win the PGA Professional title. Bob Rosburg, a longtime Tour member and winner of six Tour events, including one major -- the 1959 PGA Champinship at Minneapolis Golf Club -- won the second Club Pro tournament, in 1968. Nor is Uresti the oldest winner at age 52. Sam Snead, a winner of 82 PGA Tour events (and seven majors), won the Club Pro crown in 1971, when he was 59.
MEN'S PROFESSIONAL GOLF
PGA Professional Championship
At PGA Golf Club
Wanamaker Course (par 72)
Ryder Course (par 71)
Port St. Lucie, Fla.
1. Omar Uresti, Austin, Texas 67-68-65-76--276 (11 under par)
2. Frank Bensel, Purchase, N.Y. 65-71-75-68--279
3. Ben Cook, Vero Beach, Fla. 69-68-70-74--281
4. Larkin Gross, Center Cross, Va. 71-72-64-76--283
5. Ben Polland, Jackson Hole, Wy. 67-74-70-73--284
T6. Alex Beach, Westchester, N.Y. 67-75-74-70--286
T6. Stuart Smith, Reno, Nev. 75-68-78-65--286
T8. Derek Holmes, Cottage Grove 72-71-71-73--287
Missed 54-hole cut
Jeff Sorenson, Minneapolis 71-74-79--224
Missed 36-hole cut
Kris Kroetsch, Fargo 71-77--148
Tim Thelen, Pasadena, Texas 78-74--152
Bill Israelson, Staples 80-74--154
Dale Jones, Mendota Heights 77-77--154
Brent Snyder, Hudson 76-78--154
Eric Rolland, Mpls. 80-80--160
Greg Avant, Mesa, Ariz. 79-82--161