By T.J. Auclair, PGA.com Interactive Producer
SUNRIVER, Ore. - PGA of America Secretary Paul Levy is attending his first PGA Professional National Championship this week as a PGA Officer.
Ryan Polzin, who works for Levy, is trying to make it an unforgettable week for both of them.
Polzin, 33, excelled in the brutal conditions thrown at the players at Crosswater Club on the Sunriver Resort in the third round of the PNC Tuesday, firing a best-of-the-day-tying 2-under 70.
At 6-under 209 total, Polzin is just two shots off the 54-hole lead held by 2007 National Champion Chip Sullivan and Mark Sheftic.
"The biggest difficulty was the weather," said Polzin, PGA Head Professional at Royal Oaks Country Club in Houston, Texas. "It rained, it stopped raining, it rained again, it stopped raining. The wind blew, the wind stopped. We were just braving the elements. The course played pretty soft. It was a lot softer than when I played it in Round 1. They had some soft pins and we could be aggressive. Luckily I was able to make a few birdies."
Those birdies - four in all - were spectacular, too. Polzin holed putts from 10 feet on the par-5 sixth and the par-5 12th. His birdies on Nos. 8 and 9 - both par 4s - were inside of three feet.
Along with those birdies, two remarkable par saves are likely what Polzin will remember most from a round that has positioned him to possibly become a National Champion on Wednesday.
Following a bogey on the 10th hole with a three-putt, Polzin found himself in a little trouble at the 11th before nailing a putt from about 35 feet to save par. Then, on the par-5 16th, he managed to make par despite losing his tee shot in a water hazard.
"I made a really good par save on No. 11," he said. "That kept my momentum going, and then I made a birdie on 12 and coasted in. I saved par on No. 16 after hitting it in the hazard off the tee. All in all, I played great. The golf course is difficult. Hitting solid tee shots is important out here.
"For the week I've been hitting the tee ball really well. I hit it, I'd say, 70 percent good the rest of the way. I've had a couple of missed opportunities out there that costs me a few, but all in all I've kept the ball in front of me and it's worked out."
Levy, understandably, has been delighted with the play of Polzin, his fellow Southern Texas Section member.
"Obviously, at all of our clubs, we try to have people who love to play the game as golf professionals," Levy said. "That's what Ryan does. Everybody back home is pulling for him. They've been putting it on Facebook all day. A bunch of the Royal Oaks members have been going back and forth, cheering Ryan on and saying they saw him make a birdie on TV and so on. It would be a very special event to be here at the PNC for my first time as a PGA Officer and have Ryan win, or make the PGA Cup team, or earn a spot to play in the PGA Championship; he's a very humble guy and it'd be really special."
While he knows there's still plenty of work ahead, Polzin loves the fact that Levy is here to share in the experience.
"It means a lot that Paul, Sunrise and Royal Oaks Country Club allow me to leave what I do for a week and go focus on golf and not on the golf shop," he said. "My general manager back home is a PGA member as well, so he's manning the fort and allowing me to just focus on my game. It would be big to do well tomorrow with Paul here. It would be a real treat to have Paul here and walk away with a win."
Prior to this week, Polzin missed the cut in his two previous PNC appearances (2009, 2010). Thanks to hard work, though, those two missed cuts seem to be a distant memory.
"I've been putting in work for about the last six months with our Director of Instruction, Jim Phenicie," Polzin said. "He's got my swing on a lot better plane and it's helping me to make sure the golf ball doesn't get off line too much. You get it going, you get some confidence and here I am."
And there he was on Tuesday, playing alongside three-time National Champion Mike Small, a perennial contender. That would be enough to intimidate a lot of players, but not Polzin. His 2-under 70 was two shots better than Small's 72.
"As a player, you always want to play with the greats and that's what Mike Small is here in the PNC," Polzin said. "He's a great player. You learn off of him and you feed off of him. He had it going there for a while and then kind of fell at the end, but we all know he'll be around come the end of the final round. It was a good opportunity for me. I got to learn a lot. I'm just building my career."
Levy wasn't surprised to see Polzin rise to the occasion.
"There's not a lot that fazes Ryan," he said. "He was an All-American in college in Division II. He just went into the Hall of Fame at Sam Houston State. He's finished in the top couple of our section championships in South Texas a few times. He's used to this position. He's a guy that doesn't get fazed a lot. But let's face it, you're playing with Mike Small, a three-time National Champion, and you know you're close. You start thinking about playing in the PGA Championship, the Cup matches, gee, I might be in the final group, so we'll see what happens."
On Wednesday, Polzin has the chance to realize a dream. He's always dreamed of playing in a PGA Tour event, he said. With a top-20 finish, that event would be a major - the PGA Championship. He's also in position to secure a spot on the U.S. PGA Cup team and, well, has the chance to be the 2013 PGA Professional National Champion.
But he's not getting ahead of himself.
"I have a good opportunity to get there (the PGA Championship), but I can't think about that too much," Polzin said. "I need to worry about the shot at hand keep the golf ball in the right parts of these greens. If I keep doing what I'm doing right now, I'll be OK."
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