HARTFORD, Conn – The 101st PGA Championship will have a Connecticut flavor in two weeks.
Alex Beach of Stamford shot a closing 3-under-par 67 for a 72-hole total of 10-under 277 to win the PGA Professional Championship at Belfair’s West Course in Bluffton, S.C., leading 20 club pros into the year’s second major championship May 16-19 at Bethpage Black in Farmingdale, N.Y.
Beach, 29, from Westchester Country Club in Rye, N.Y., won $55,000 from a $650,000 purse and will make his second PGA Championship appearance after his debut in 2017. He finished two strokes ahead of Danny Balin, a frequent Connecticut Open challenger from Freshman CC in Lake Success, N.Y. Beach joined 2013 champion Rod Perry of Port Orange, Fla., as the only lefthanders to win the title.
“This has been a lifelong goal ever since I became a PGA professional, knowing this is the highest level that we can compete,” Beach said. “I know that playing a guy like Danny Balin one-on-one is not easy. The only way I handled it (the final round) is because I’ve done it before. I’m going to have to do it all season. I got him this time, but I guarantee you he’s going to have a few more trophies. It was fun being out there with him. A guy like him makes me play better. I was lucky to come out on top.”
“In professional golf, it’s all about taking advantage of opportunities,” added Beach. “One week a tournament can change your life and your whole outlook on everything. For me, the PPC is that week. The goal was always to do this.”
Balin said, “I can’t say that I played bad, I can’t say that I played great. I missed two short putts that cost me. That said, I still hung on and shot a good score on a hard golf course in a tough final round with a lot at stake.
“It’s a hard day. It’s nice to play with somebody that you know. But at the end of the day, it’s golf; it’s on you. Try not to think about what everyone else is doing and know that if I play my game that I can beat anybody out here. Not to sound conceited – just knowing my game and given the situation and circumstances, Alex played great.”
Beach and Balin led a contingent of five players from the Metropolitan (N.Y.) PGA Section, which counts Bethpage Black as one of its Section facilities. Others from the Met Section to advance were former PGA Tour and Nationwide Tour player and 2017 PGA Stroke Play and 2012 Connecticut Open champion Jason Caron of the Mill River Club in Oyster Bay, N.Y. (tied for fourth, 285); Brian Mackey of Chestnut Ridge, N.Y. (tied for eighth, 287); and former Central Connecticut State University standout Rob Labritz of Pound Ridge, N.Y. (287). Caron’s wife, Liz, the teaching pro at the Mill River Club, was a two-time All-American and NCAA Division I Player of the Year at Duke and a former LPGA and Duramed Tour player who won five consecutive Connecticut State Women’s Amateur Championship and four Connecticut Women’s Open.
Balin, Labritz and Perry will be making their sixth PGA Championship start. Nine players will make their tournament debut, while six players will return after competing last year.
Suzy Whaley of Cromwell, the first female president in PGA of America history, will preside over the PGA Championship, which moved from August to May in the PGA Tour’s new schedule. Whaley, 51, played on the LPGA Tour, has won numerous national and local tournaments, including three consecutive Connecticut Opens, and has been recognized for years as one of the leading teaching pros in the country.
DOWLING, TAYLOR REPEAT
Richard Dowling made a 5-foot par putt on the fifth playoff to give him and Nick Taylor a second consecutive victory in the Connecticut State Golf Association Two-Man Championship at the Black Hall Club in Old Lyme. Dowling, the 2017 CSGA Amateur champion, and Taylor, who play out of the Golf Performance Center, combined to shoot a 2-under-par 140 and then beat David Giuletti (GC of Avon) and Steve Gettings (Orange Hills CC), who also finished second last year.
Eric Bleile (Sterling Farms CC-Stamford) and David Marseglia (Framingham, Mass., CC) also shot 140 but were eliminated on the first playoff hole. The 36-hole event has best-ball and alternate-shot formats, has been hosted by Black Hall since 2008 and is played in honor of Bill Hermanson, a 2012 Connecticut Golf Hall of Fame Inductee. Hermanson is a 25-time club champion at Black Hall whose run of titles includes 19 in a row from 1981 to1999. He also has won the Black Hall Senior Club Championship each of the past seven years. A five-time CSGA Mid-Amateur Champion, Hermanson earned the title of 2015 CSGA Senior Player of the Year after capturing the CSGA Senior and Senior Match Play championships that year. He and Kevin Foster (CC of Farmington) tied for 17th at 153.
The Julius Boros Challenge Cup Matches between the top players from the CSGA and the Connecticut Section PGA will be May 16 at New Haven CC. … The Section Spring Stroke Play Championship is May 20-21 at GreatHorse CC in Hampden, Mass. The winner earns a spot in the Travelers Championship on June 20-23 at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell. The 36-hole event is open to Section-affiliated PGA Members and PGA Associates (Apprentice) as defined in the Tournament Rules and Regulations Article IV, Section 1 and 2. The exemption to the Travelers Championship must be awarded to a Class A member. … Travelers Championship pre-qualifiers are June 12-13 at Ellington Ridge CC. Players from the pre-qualifiers advance to the Open qualifying June 17 at Ellington Ridge CC.
CWGA CELEBRATING 100th ANNIVERSARY
The Connecticut Women’s Golf Association is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, and it will be commemorated with a special day June 25 at New Haven CC. The CWGA Championship is June 4, 5 and 7 at Hartford Golf Club in West Hartford, and other major events include the Connecticut Women’s Open at Brooklawn CC in Fairfield on June 4-5, the New England Women’s Golf Association Amateur Championship is at GreatHorse CC on July 8-10, the Connecticut State Women’s Amateur Championship at Oronoque Village CC in Stratford on July 24-25 and the Endicott Cup between the top players from Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island at Madison CC on Oct. 1-3. … The Southern New England Women’s Golf Association Championship is July 15-16 at D.F. Wheeler GC in Fairfield. … The Hartford Women’s Open is June 8 at Goodwin Park GC in Hartford and June 9 at Keney Park GC in Hartford.