PGA Championship: The potentially life-changing week for low-PGA club pro Ben Cook

KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. – One putt. Eight feet. To play the weekend at the 103rd PGA Championship.

PGA teaching pro Ben Cook sank it as if it was just another putt on the practice green at Yankee Springs Golf Course in Wayland, Michigan, where he is PGA Director of Instruction.

“It is weird to think that it came down to the last putt on the last hole that I almost three-putted to miss the cut,” he said. “But I made it thankfully and then without that, it would have – none of this would have happened.”

That included a third-round pairing with former major winner Webb Simpson, and shooting a sparkling 3-under 69 on ‘moving day’ at The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Golf Resort. As Simpson and his caddie, Paul Tesori, walked off the green, Tesori said of Cook, 27, “How does he lose any tournament he plays in? He should be out here with us.”

Tesori, who played one year on the Tour before becoming a caddie, is a student of the game and he went one better at the end of the round, and let Cook know how impressed he was with his performance.

“Paul after the round was like, ‘Hey, use this as a springboard and see if you can build on that momentum that you created this week and see if you can get to the next level,’ which was really nice,” Cook said. “They are hoping to see me out here on a more regular basis, which is great.”

Ben Cook reacts on the first green during the second round of the 2021 PGA Championship at Kiawah Island Resort’s Ocean Course on May 21, 2021 in Kiawah Island, South Carolina. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Cook, who rocked a hat with the word “Bad” on the front, made four birdies in the final round en route to shooting 2-over 74 and a 72-hole total of 4-over 292. It earned him low PGA club pro honors after being one of the 20 club pros to qualify for the championship. He earned a berth in the field for finishing third in the PGA Professional Championship.

“It’s always something I’ve strived to do the last couple years and now that I’ve made the cut and was low club pro this year, it’s definitely a goal achieved, along with making the cut,” said Cook, who missed the cut in the 2019 and 2020 PGA. “Very happy.”

Cook has bigger ambitions in the pro game. He missed the cut at the PGA Tour’s Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship in September, currently has status on the PGA Tour Latinoamerica and has a date at U.S. Open Sectional Qualifying. Making the cut at the PGA Championship allows him to skip to the second stage of Korn Ferry Tour Q-School later this year.

“If I finish Top-10 on the Order of Merit or their points list, I’ll get to go to final stage of Q-School, get a card. Depending on how you play, you get better status,” he explained.

Of competing on PGA Tour Latinoamerica, Cook said, “It’s a little brotherhood, if you will, of everybody kind of splitting costs and going to dinners together. It’s a blast,” he said.

So was an unforgettable week at the 103rd PGA Championship.