'Experienced' Omar Uresti Leads 2021 PGA Professional Championship at Half-Way Mark
Experience or brawn? Which carries more weight in the modern game of golf? Omar Uresti and Frank Bensel Jr. answered the question, almost in unison, with their second-round play at the 2021 PGA Professional Championship presented by Cadillac, Club Car and Rolex.
“Experience,” answered Uresti. “I’ve learned it’s best to keep it in play.”
“Experience,” offered Bensel. “But you have to have some skills, too.”
Uresti and Bensel, two 50-somethings, are positioned 1-2 atop a leaderboard that includes 312 PGA Professionals in golf’s largest all-professional national championship.
Both played the Ryder Course in Sunday’s opening round, but stepped up in weight class to challenge the longer, par-72 layout of PGA Golf Club’s Wanamaker Course on Monday.
With Bensel, 53, in the clubhouse with a second-round 71, good for a two-day total of 136, the 52-year-old Uresti birdied the par-5 16th to take the lead.
“I knew this was my chance to grab the lead,” said Uresti of his mindset on No. 16. “I hit a good drive, but then my 4-iron came up short and right. I thought I hit my chip a bit too firm, but it checked up nicely, almost hole high, two feet, and I converted.”
From there, a par-par finish netted Uresti, the 2017 PGA Professional Champion, a 68 and the 36-hole lead at 135.
Ben Cook (69-68, 137) is alone in third place, two shots back of Uresti, while Brad Marek (70-68, 138) of Berkeley, California and Tim Pearce (67-71, 138) of Birmingham, Michigan are tied for fourth, three out of the lead.
How good was Uresti’s 68 on the Wanamaker Monday? So good that through two rounds only one player 一 Colin Inglis, a PGA Assistant Professional from Junction City, Oregon 一 posted a better score on PGA Golf Club’s signature course. Inglis (140) carded a 67 today, jumped 81 slots and is tied for 7th, five shots back.
The first-round leader, Bensel, fought hard and long Monday. His second round started well enough with a birdie on the first hole. But a double bogey on No. 2 reminded the PGA Assistant Professional from Purchase, New York, that the comfort provided by Sunday’s 65 was over and done with.
“I had one of those half-in, half-out bunker shots and it did not work out,” said Bensel of his second hole undoing. “Then I bogeyed the 4th, but birdies on 5 and 7 helped me settle in.”
Bensel wrestled with three blemishes (double bogey and two bogeys) Monday, after enduring just one in the first round.
“We had a cross wind out there today. It was a challenge to not only drive it well, but to handle the approach shots and put those in the right position (on the greens). Overall, I hung on tight and played well enough.”
As Bensel’s early struggles ensued, Uresti, a PGA Life Member from Austin, Texas, began his round with a string of four consecutive pars, then surged with birdies on Nos. 5 (12-foot putt), 7 (pitch shot to five feet) and 8 (130-yard wedge to two feet).
In most Decembers and Januarys, playing the PGA’s Tournament Series and Winter Championships, Uresti’s front-nine 33 would be modest by his own lofty standards. But on a Monday in late April, it stood out, especially on a spring day unusually blustery for Florida’s Treasure Coast.
The outward 33 allowed Uresti to gain three shots on Bensel, who started more than an hour earlier in the afternoon.
“Frank (Bensel) and I have played these golf courses 100 times, and it’s that experience that gives us an advantage over so many of the younger (PGA Professionals) in the field,” said Uresti.
Cook was Monday’s other mover of note. He had more second-round birdies (8) than pars (7), but it was an unsightly double-bogey 7 on the Wanamaker’s par-5 13th that kept the PGA Director of Instruction from Caledonia, Michigan, out of the lead. Despite the double 一 one of only nine on No. 13 through two rounds 一 Cook matched Uresti’s 68 and is only two shots off the pace with a two-day total of 137.
One of the five women in the 312-player field, Alison Curdt, made the cut and advanced to the third round. The PGA Director of Instruction at Wood Ranch Golf Club in Simi Valley, California, Curdt fashioned a 1-under 69 on the Ryder Course Monday to make the 36-hole cut at 146.
Jim Troy, a Golf Manufacturer Sales Representative from Strongsville, Michigan, aced the Wanamaker’s 6th hole with an 8-iron from 180 yards.
With two rounds completed, the PGA Professional Championship field has been trimmed to the low 90 scorers and ties. The Wanamaker Course will host the final two rounds, with the low 70 scorers and ties after Tuesday’s third round advancing to Wednesday’s final.
The low 20 scorers earn berths in the 2021 PGA Championship, May 20-23, at Kiawah Island (South Carolina) Golf Resort’s Ocean Course.
The third round of the 2021 PGA Professional Championship will be broadcast live on Golf Channel on Tuesday, April 27 from 4:00 - 7:00 p.m.