By Bob Denney, The PGA of America
PITTSFORD, N.Y. - Twenty PGA club professionals made their bid to play the weekend in the Season's Final Major, but Oak Hill Country Club was the more formidable opponent Friday.
David Muttitt of Albuquerque, N.M., who was born in Dallas, Texas, but was raised from age 4 in Rugby, England, nearly climbed the Oak Hill summit. The PGA assistant professional at Paa-ko Ridge Golf Club in Sandia Park, N.M., played nearly his entire second round in a constant rain. He posted a solid even-par 70, finishing at 5-over-par 145, two strokes outside the 36-hole cut.
"I think every one of us was capable of making the cut, but there was always one bad swing that can cause you to miss while playing such a tough golf course," said Muttitt, 30, competing in his first major championship. "We played alongside the best players in the world, week in and week out. And, some of them were unable to do it.
"We come into this Championship from a variety of job descriptions - whether it is teaching, merchandising or managing a facility. You have limited time to prepare, but you give it a shot because it is such a great opportunity. I did play well; I just had five bad holes yesterday.
Muttitt collected five birdies at Nos. 1, 8, 10 13 and15, but could not overcome four front-nine bogeys and a bogey on 18. He took only 26 putts.
"Today, it was like the weather you see in the U.K. and what we played in every day in Oregon (at the PGA Professional National Championship)," said Muttitt. "In England, if you can't play in the rain, you don't play golf."
Jeff Sorenson of Blaine, Minn., a PGA teaching professional at Columbia Golf Club in Minneapolis, was runner-up at 148 after a 75 in the "tournament within a tournament" for Low Club Professional honors.
JC Anderson of St. Louis, finished third at 149 after a 76, and David McNabb of Newark, Del., and Ryan Polzin of Houston, Texas, were next at 150. McNabb closed with a 76 and Polzin, runner-up in the 46th PGA Professional National Championship, shot 77.
Rob Labritz of Pound Ridge, N.Y., battled back after a disappointing 78 on Thursday, by turning in a 73 for a 151, sharing that spot with Danny Balin of Rockville, Md., Caine Fitzgerald of Parker, Colo., and Bob Gaus of St. Louis.
Four-time PGA Professional National Champion Mike Small of Champaign, Ill., was at 152 after a second straight 76, and reigning PGA Professional National Champion Rod Perry of Port Orange, Fla., had his second consecutive 78 to land at 156.
The journey for the 20 PGA club professionals was sprinkled with disappointment, many of them coming close to turning around their fortunes to play the weekend.
Anderson, 51, a PGA teaching professional at Missouri Bluffs Golf Club in St. Charles, Mo., began play on the back nine. He was 1 under par through his first five holes, before slumping to four consecutive bogeys on the 15th through the 18th holes.
"I think if there was an opportunity to have Oak Hill at its easiest, my tee early/late was it," said Anderson. "We haven't had to play in any rain. The course was soft and it was there for the taking. In the two times I've played the PGA here, during the week, the Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday practice rounds, the course was incredibly hard. But this week, the last two days, it got easier and I think you could see in the scoring, I didn't see 63s and 64s here in the practice rounds.
Sorenson, playing in his second PGA Championship, suffered a 4-over-par stretch between the 9th and 11th holes, to derail his chances.
Labritz, who had an uncharacteristic 78 on Thursday, battled back with a 73 that could have been much better had he not lost his approach shot in the water on the seventh hole.
"I never give up. I'm one of those guys that I'm sweet on the inside but on the outside, I want to beat you," said Labritz. "I'm going to fight because you can never tell when something is going to happen. I know that. I may get a little dejected after that shot in the water on No. 7 today, but you know, inside ... make a par, or whatever I can do to scratch it out, because you can never tell when you're going to have to scratch it out under that pressure again. You're always working to get your game better, at least I am."
Mark Sheftic of Blue Bell, Pa., a PGA teaching professional at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa., was philosophical about a 78 and 153 total. He competed in his third PGA Championship.
"One thing I don't think the members at our clubs may not understand is how far the guys on Tour hit the ball," said Sheftic. "Including myself, I don't think the comprehension of how good these guys are ... these guys hit the ball that far, and you get soft greens, they are going to go pretty low. The golf course is outstanding.
"You know, in my opinion, it's a true test. If you're not hitting the ball well, there's some big numbers out here. And if you're hitting the fairways, there are some good numbers. It would be interesting to see if it firms up, see how the scores go. But the membership should be very proud of their golf course. It's a true test."