By Bob Denney, The PGA of America
TOWN & COUNTRY, Mo. - PGA club professionals Jeff Coston, Mark Mielke and Sonny Skinner took varying routes over feisty Bellerive Country Club Friday to keep their rounds intact and find themselves within five strokes of the lead following the second round of the 74th Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid.
The trio was part of a 10-player logjam in eighth place, at 2-under-par 140, on a mild day that appeared ripe for scoring in the most historic and prestigious event in senior golf. Overall, five PGA club professionals from a 42-player delegation made the 36-hole cut of 4-over-par 146.
Coston, a 57-year-old PGA teaching professional at Semiahmoo Golf Resort in Blaine, Wash., made his sixth appearance in the Championship and turned in a 2-under-par 69. He flashed some of the form he displayed in 2007, when he tied for 19th at The Ocean Course in Kiawah Island, S.C. But this time, he said, things were different.
"It's different, totally different. I'm in better shape, "said Coston, who made his third cut in the Championship. "It is not the same. Golf is not the same; you know what I mean? I am just enjoying the experience and playing golf; nothing bigger than that." Coston collected five birdies to offset three bogeys.
"I have played in this Championship regularly, and it's really nice of The PGA of America that they give us a chance, for club professionals to play in this tournament," Coston said. "I played the tour and I have had my golf academy up at Semiahmoo for 19 years now. So, I haven't played full-time in 19 years, but it's fun to get the opportunity to test yourself."
Sonny Skinner of Sylvester, Ga., the reigning Senior PGA Professional Player of the Year, who opened the Championship Thursday with a sterling 67, struggled to hold his round together. He came in with a 73, a scrambling round that featured three of his four bogeys on the back nine to go with birdies on the fifth and 17th holes.
"I'm just scrambling too much," said a visibly frustrated Skinner, 52, the PGA head professional at River Pointe Golf Club in Albany, Ga. "I'm not hitting the ball as well as I would like, and didn't putt as well. I'm a little disappointed today. I felt like I could possibly get it going a little better. I just ran out of steam on the back nine."
Mielke, the 50-year-old PGA head professional at Mill River Club in Oyster Bay, N.Y., turned in a five-birdie/five-bogey 71 in his debut appearance.
"It is awesome to be in contention on a weekend," said Mielke. "It's great! It's something that you don't come here saying, 'Hey, I would like to make the cut.' And then you get up the board, and you say, 'Hey, I want to play better than making the cut. So, it's real exciting. But it's a thrill for a club professional to be hanging with these guys."
Rounding out the five PGA club professionals making the weekend's 36-hole finale were Championship rookies Don Berry of Rogers, Minn., who had a 69 to land at 141; and St. Louis native Bob Gaus, who came in with a 74 for 145.
Berry, the PGA head professional at Edinburgh USA Golf Club in Brooklyn Park, Minn., overcame a slow start. Beginning play on the back nine, Berry bogeyed the 10th and 12th holes before hitting his approach to the 18th green within a foot of the hole. That sparked him to finish 3 under par the rest of the way.
"I love the course, it fits my eye," said Berry. "Yesterday, I played well but didn't get a whole lot out of the round. Today, I worked hard but ended up with a better finish. It's really cool to be here and see the great players in the locker room. I got to play a practice round with U.S. Open champions Tom Kite and Andy North. That was a lot of fun."
Gaus, 52, the PGA teaching professional at Tower Tee Golf Center in St. Louis, had the most experience at Bellerive among those making the cut. He used that course knowledge to his advantage.
"I played really well the whole way, both days, didn't do anything stupid, no double bogeys," said Gaus. "I felt pretty comfortable for once in one of these things. So we'll see what happens."