Earlier this summer I mentioned how the U.S. Open is unique because it holds open qualifying for amateur golfers to play in the tournament against the best players in the world. This week the fourth of golf’s majors, the PGA Championship, is being held at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minnesota and it too has a unique qualifying opportunity.  The PGA, however, reserves spots for professionals, not amateurs. Each year the top 20 finishers at the PGA Professional National Championship qualify to play in the PGA Championship. PGA Professionals, or “club pros,” are golfers certified by the PGA of America that work in the golf business, usually as instructors or golf course management.

2009 PGA Championship site Hazeltine National Golf Club
2009 PGA Championship site Hazeltine National Golf Club

Similar to amateurs at the U.S. Open PGA Pros rarely have a lot of success in the tournament and their inclusion is more of a reward from the PGA of America and an opportunity for a unique experience.  Over the years, however, there have been some club pros be competitive against the world’s top golfers. Here are some of the top performances by PGA Club Professionals at the PGA Championship.

Best Finish

  • Tommy Bolt – 3rd place in 1971
  • Jimmy Wright – 4th place in 1969
  • Sam Snead – 4th place in 1972, 9th place in 1973
  • Don Bies – 11th place in 1969
  • Tommy Aycock 11th in 1974
  • Lonnie Nielsen 11th in 1986

Most recent top finisher: Chip Sullivan – 31st place in 2004

Lowest Round

  • Don Bies – 64 in 1969
  • Buddy Whitten – 66 in 1983
  • Jay Overton – 66 in 1988
  • Larry Wise – 67 in 1972
  • Denny Lyons – 67 in 1973
  • Frank Dobbs – 67 in 1995
  • Mark Mielke – 67 in 1995

Lowest 72 Hole Score

  • Jimmy Wright – 279 in 1969
  • Rick Schuller – 281 in 2001
  • Don Bies – 283 in 1969
  • Tom Wargo – 283 in 1993
  • Stu Ingraham – 283 in 1993

Sports Best Performances by Club Pros at the PGA Championship