Chip Johnson, PGA (Hatherly CC) shot a three-under-par score of 67 at Kernwood Country Club on Wednesday to finish first in the field and qualify for the U.S. Senior Open Championship. Ron Philo, PGA (Stowe Mountain Club) also qualified after finishing at one-under-par and later winning a playoff.
“Considering my mom is from Salem and I was born in Salem it was kind of cool. I never really appreciated it, until it actually happened.” -Chip Johnson
Johnson had a strong showing throughout Wednesday’s round. He made three birdies on 4, 5, and 9 on his front nine to make the turn in a great position. On the back, even when he ran into trouble he was able to rebound. After making bogey on 13 and 15, he closed out his round with a birdie on 17. In a field with the competition and talent that was present on Wednesday, his perseverance was key. He finished at three-under par, two full strokes ahead of Sisk and Philo to lock in his spot in the U.S Senior Open.
“At somewhere like Kernwood, length wasn’t ever an advantage but position was important, and the greens were sadistic,” said Johnson. “If you drive it good, then you’re able to play out of the fairway, and onto the green to put it where you want. You’d be in trouble if you didn’t do that or got caught in the rough. Luckily I was able to stay ahead of it.”
Ron Philo, PGA’s journey was not nearly as simple.
After making a birdie on the fifth hole, Philo slipped in his front nine, making two bogeys to turn at one-over-par. However, like Johnson, he was able to refocus and finish out the round with some excellent play. Philo made birdies on 10, 13 and 15. Even with a late bogey on 18, he finished at one-under par with a strong 69, tied with Geoffrey Sisk for the second U.S. Senior Open qualifying spot.
The Stowe Mountain Resort professional would go on to win in the playoff to secure the second and final U.S Senior Open Qualifying spot. He attributed his ability to turn his game around to the mental toughness he’s learned throughout the years.
“I had a little bit of bad luck and I was hitting it well to keep plugging away. Those of us who have reached an advanced age know that it’s an 18-hole game, and what you are at one point is not what you are at the end,” said Philo.
No Huge Surprise
Both Johnson and Philo’s qualifying comes with little surprise to anyone who has known the professionals throughout the years.
Johnson is a mightily accomplished player. He’s played in the U.S. Senior Open, U.S. Open, PGA Championship, and Senior PGA Championship. He’s been a head professional since 1993, and at Hatherly Country Club since the late 90s. In 2000, he was selected as one of Golf Digest’s “Top 15 Teaching Professionals in Massachusetts” and in the same year, the New England PGA named him ‘Teacher of the Year.’
A Salem, Massachusetts native, Johnson has a deep connection to the site of the Senior Open.
“Considering my mom is from Salem and I was born in Salem it was kind of cool. I never really appreciated it, until it actually happened. I played the US Open in Brookline and anytime you get to play in your home state it’s a treat,” said Johnson
Philo is also an accomplished player in his own right. In 2006, he captured the PGA Professional National Championship. He’s played in eight major championships overall, including a U.S. Open and more than a dozen PGA Tour events. Within the New England PGA, he’s a five-time winner of the Player of the Year Award, and the reigning NEPGA Senior Champion.
Other NEPGA Professionals in Wednesday’s event also had a very strong showing. Frank Dully, PGA (Salem CC) shot an even par 70 and beat out fellow professional John Hickson, PGA in a playoff to finish as the second alternate, with Sisk as first alternate.
Back To Work
In true fashion as a PGA Professional on Wednesday, Johnson celebrated his win, but knew he had some other obligations on the docket first.
“To be an authentic PGA Professional and win it makes it extra special. My day in the sun ended really early, at around 6 a.m. this morning when I had to go into work,” said Johnson
The U.S. Senior Open kicks off on June 29th at Salem CC in Salem, Mass. For more on the New England PGA and its professionals, check www.nepga.com.
About the New England PGA: The New England Professional Golfers’ Association (New England PGA) has been making the game of golf better for 100 years in New England. The New England PGA is a non-profit association dedicated to promoting the game of golf, and is one of the 41 sections that comprise the PGA of America. The New England PGA consists of over 900 PGA Class A golf professionals and over 140 PGA apprentices at over 450 golf facilities in five states — Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts & Maine. These facilities include public, private and resort golf courses, teaching centers, and driving ranges.