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Forty-one PGA Professionals Compete at 79th KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship

PGA Professional contingent is led by seasoned veterans ...

By Bob Denney
PGA Historian

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

PGA Professional Hometown Appearances Years
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