PGA Professional contingent is led by seasoned veterans ...
By Bob Denney
PGA Life Member Roy Vucinich of Moon Township, Pennsylvania, is your “go-to guy” when preparing for a KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship. He’s making his 15th trip to the Championship, which begins tomorrow (Thursday) at Harbor Shores in Benton Harbor, Michigan.
Vucinich is one of 41 PGA Professionals who will tee it up alongside the premier 50-and-older players in the world in the 79th edition of the most historic and prestigious event in senior golf. They will contend for a crystal cup, awarded to the Low Club Professional Sunday before a global audience via NBC Sports.
Vucinich also is the oldest member of the 156-player field; and someone keeping himself fit to once again meet the demanding Jack Nicklaus Signature Course on Lake Michigan. Vucinich finished tied for 32nd in last fall’s Senior PGA Professional Championship in Scottsdale, Arizona, and survived a six-member playoff to earn one of three spots at Harbor Shores.
Vucinich has made eight cuts in his first 14 starts, including a memorable share of fourth place in 2002, when Fuzzy Zoeller hoisted the Alfred S. Bourne Trophy at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio.
Vucinich, who was the 1997-98 Senior PGA Professional Player of the Year, last competed here in 2012, when Harbor Shores hosted its first major championship.
“The golf course has vastly improved since that year,” said Vucinich. “The course is more mature and is in just excellent shape. I’d say it has improved 10-fold.”
Overall, 25 PGA Club Professionals in the contingent have experience at Harbor Shores, where the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship has been conducted in 2012, ’14 and ’16.
“It’s a course where you have to keep your ball on or as near to the greens as possible,” said Vucinich. “The player who is solid with his irons will do well here this week. It’s going to be fun being part of this Championship. It’s always a great test to see how you can do against the very good players.”
Reigning Senior PGA Professional Champion Frank Esposito Jr. of Old Bridge, New Jersey, is making his fourth Championship appearance. He finished 39th here in 2014.
The 41-member contingent includes 32 who earned a berth through last fall’s Senior PGA Professional Championship in Scottsdale, Arizona, and nine who gained a spot in the field as alternates.
Brian Cairns, the 2015 Senior PGA Professional Player of the Year, is a PGA Teaching Professional at Fox Hills Learning Center in Plymouth, Michigan. He’s making his fourth consecutive Championship trip and estimated that he’s played Harbor Shores “at least 25 times.”
“You must have control of your irons, and pay attention to where the flag is,” said Cairns. “If you are a hair short or a hair long….oooh! There’s plenty of room off the tee. That’s not the issue
PGA Professionals in the 79th KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship
|Joe Boros||Saxonburg, Pennsylvania||1||2016|
|Mark Brown||Oyster Bay, New York||1||2017|
|Brian Cairns||Northville, Michigan||3||2015-16-17|
|Walt Chapman||Knoxville, Tennessee||2||2016-17|
|Jeff Coston||Blaine, Washington||10||2007-08-09-10-12-13-14-15-16-17|
|Jim Empey||Boise, Idaho||1||2013|
|Frank Esposito Jr.||Old Bridge, New Jersey||3||2014-15-16|
|Jim Estes||Germantown, Maryland||3||2015-16-17|
|Jon Fiedler||Camarillo, California||6||2004-06-07-09-10-11|
|Gene Fieger||Naples, Florida||5||2011-14-15-16-17|
|Tim Fleming||Oklahoma City, Oklahoma||1||2017|
|Mike Genovese||Pace, Florida||Debut|
|Kevin Hayashi||Hilo, Hawaii||1||2016|
|Chris Johnson||Castle Rock, Colorado||Debut|
|Chris Kaufman||Coral Springs, Florida||Debut|
|Shawn Kelly||Auburn, California||1||2012|
|Darrell Kestner||Glen Cove, New York||9||2004-05-06-07-08-10-11-12-16|
|Neal Lancaster||Smithfield, North Carolina||2||2013-14|
|Brad Lardon||Santa Fe, New Mexico||2||2016-17|
|James Mason||Dillard, Georgia||14||2002-03-04-05-06-07-08-09-1012-13-14-15-16|
|Jared Melson||Tullahoma, Tennessee||Debut|
|Mark Mielke||Jupiter, Florida||4||2013-14-15-16|
|Rick Morton||Jacksonville, North Carolina||1||2016|
|John Nieporte||Boca Raton, Florida||1||2017|
|Michael O’Toole||Noblesville, Indiana||Debut|
|Sam Randolph||Fort Worth, Texas||1||2014|
|Doug Rohrbaugh||Carbondale, Colorado||2||2014-15|
|Dirk Schultz||Hagerstown, Maryland||1||2016|
|Jim Schuman||Scottsdale, Arizona||2||2015-16|
|Rob Sedorcek||Ballwin, Missouri||1||2016|
|Sonny Skinner||Sylvester, Georgia||6||2011-12-13-14-15-16|
|Stuart Smith||Reno, Nevada||Debut|
|Chris Starkjohann||Oceanside, California||7||2007-08-09-10-11-13-16|
|Kirk Stauffer||Bradford, Pennsylvania||Debut|
|Craig Stevens||Dallas, Georgia||4||2012-14-15-17|
|Robert Thompson||Huntsville, Texas||8||2008-09-10-11-12-13-15-17|
|Ricky Touma||Olney, Maryland||1||2017|
|Mark Tucker||New Hartford, New York||Debut|
|Gus Ulrich||Whispering Pines, North Carolina||1||2017|
|Roy Vucinich||Moon Township, Pennsylvania||14||1998-99-2000-01-02-03-04-0506-07-08-09-12-13|
|Rob Wilkin||Overland Park, Kansas||3||2012-15-16|
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