Thirteen Titleist golf ball loyalists and 11 full-line Titleist Staff members were among the 20 players who qualified for this year's final major based on their performance at the PGA Professional National Championship contested in June in Sunriver, Ore. Titleist Player Promotion Manager / PGA Players Staff Greg Cesario is on-site at the 89th PGA Championship at Southern Hills working specifically with these club professionals to ensure they are well equipped to compete against the strongest field in golf. Greg will be providing his expert insight this week.
Full-line Titleist PGA Professionals in the 89th PGA Championship:
• Ryan Benzel - Bothell, Wash.
• Bob Gaus - St. Louis, Mo.
• Scott Hebert - Traverse City, Mich.
• Bob McGrath - San Jose, Calif.
• Kelly Mitchum - Southern Pines, N.C.
• Micah Rudosky - Cortez, Colo.
• Phil Schmitt - Baton Rouge, La.
• Matt Seitz - Hutchinson, Kan.
• Mike Small - Champaign, Ill.
• Tim Thelan - College Station, Texas
• Don Yrene - Scottsdale, Ariz.
After lunch, the weather did not get any cooler. Players started to cut down their practice sessions and primarily focused on putting and short game. I had the pleasure to run into my good friend Tim Thelen from the South Texas section. Tim is now Director of Instruction at the Traditions Club in Bryan, TX. He is a 2-time PNC champion and has played in 7 PGA Championships. Tim is one of the "lowest maintenance" players I have ever worked with. Once he finds a club that fits him (after hitting about 5 balls!) you can't take it out of his bag. He plays the 907D2 driver, 906F4 fairway metal, 755 irons, Vokey Design wedges and a Scotty Cameron putter. Look for Tim to show his tournament experience this week.
Tim Thelan and Greg Cesario on the range at Southern Hills.
Another seasoned veteran of the PNC and PGA Championship is Kelly Mitchum from the famed Pinehurst Country Club in Pinehurst, NC. This is Kelly's third consecutive appearance at the PGA Championship. Kelly is one of the most consistent ball strikers from the club pro ranks. He is not making any major changes to his equipment this week other than working with a new 56 degree Vokey Design wedge. He currently plays a 252.08 and a SM60 T grind. He is looking for a 56 degree option that plays with less bounce than our 14 and more bounce than our 10. Voke found one of our older designs in the van (256.12) and helped set it to Kelly's specs. If Kelly can get out of the teaching mode and put on his playing cap quickly, he could have a good week at Southern Hills.
Kelly Mitchum practicing on Tuesday at the range.
One of our "young guns" is Ryan Benzel, an assistant golf professional at Seattle Golf Club in Washington. In his first appearance at the PNC this June, Ryan was the overnight leader going into the final round and finished T2 with 2-time champion and Titleist ambassador Mike Small, to earn his first trip to the PGA Championship. Ryan closed in style at the PNC with an eagle on the final hole. He is a pleasure to work with and has a bulldog attitude on the course. Ryan's bag includes the 907D2 driver (10.5), 906F4 fairway metal (13.5), 585.H utility metal (19.0), 503.H utility iron (3), 695MB irons (4-P), Vokey Design sand wedge (54) and Spin Milled lob wedge (60). He hits the ball as straight as any guy on Tour and if he can get as loose as he was at Sunriver during the PNC, then he could make a statement that this young gun is around to stay.
Ryan Benzel of Seattle Golf Club.
Thank goodness there is a breeze. It is almost Noon and it has really saved the day so far. At least now the sweat is cooled off by the wind! Most of the PGA staff guys went out early for their practice rounds today. Range activity has been steady. I had the chance to catch up with a few more of our Titleist Staff players this morning. Spent some time with Matt Seitz from Cary Park Golf Course in Hutchison, Kansas. Matt, who finished 6th at the PNC in June to qualify for the PGA, was working with his instructor Jim Hardy. Matt is content with his current set composition which includes the New Pro V1x golf ball, 907D2 driver (8.5°), 906F2 fairway metals (13.0°, 18.0°), 585.H utility metal (19.0°), 670 irons (4-P), Vokey Design gap wedge (52°) and Spin Milled sand wedge (56°), and isn't planning any changing or tweaks of his equipment. He feels confident with his game and looks forward to playing on the weekend!
Matt Seitz discusses strategy with instructor Jim Hardy.
Titleist Staff member Bob Gaus is from the Gateway Section in St. Louis (check out the Blues logo on his bag). Bob survived a playoff that included six players for five spots at the PNC in Sunriver to qualify for the PGA Championship. Bob's game is in great shape and so is his equipment. Bob doesn't mess around with his clubs very much and feels very confident this week. He currently plays the New Pro V1x golf ball, 905R driver (8.5°), 904F fairway metal (15.0°), 503.H utility iron, 735.CM irons (3-P), Vokey Design gap wedge (52°) and a Spin Milled lob wedge (60°). Bob is looking at getting into a 907D2 driver, but we intend to work on that at a later time.
Bob Gaus chats with Greg about equipment on the range.
It was a little slow today as players were just beginning to arrive in Tulsa, and were greeted by extreme heat and humidity. Some guys are no doubt conserving their energy and golf shots for the Thursday start. Of the few Titleist Staff players I did see today, I worked a lot with Don Yrene. He was the low club pro at the PGA Championship at Medinah last year and is the Player of the Year from the Southwest Section. Don has been a high spin type player for some time and has had much success with the 905S driver. We built him a back up to his 905S today and also built him a 907D4 prototype driver to test. He will work with the new driver tomorrow but probably won't put it in the bag until after this week. Don is playing very well right now, and coming from the Golf Club of Scottsdale in Arizona, he should not be phased by the heat.
Greg Cesario working with Don Yrene, Player of the Year from the Southwest Section PGA.
Greg Cesario and Don Yrene discuss testing the 907D4 prototype as Greg looks at Don's 905S.
Micah Rudowsky is a first-timer at the PGA Championship, qualifying with a T7 finish at the PNC in Sunriver. He is a good, young player from the Colorado PGA Section with a solid golf swing. When he gets hot, he can get on a roll and go as low as anybody I have ever seen. Micah is very happy with his current Titleist equipment (New Pro V1x golf ball, 907D2 driver, 906F4 fairway metals, 735.CM irons and Vokey Tour Chrome wedges). I'm just trying to help Micah relax this week, advising him to have confidence in himself and his equipment and to save his energy for Thursday. That is the fault that many club professionals fall into when they get to the PGA Championship. They hit way too many balls and try to get comfortable in a very difficult and new environment. I suggest they play no more than two practice rounds and not over practice; work on their putting and wedge play and then go to a movie or walk around a mall. Stay away from the range and stop trying to "out-practice" Vijay Singh!
Micah Rudowsky works on the range in his first appearance at the PGA Championship.
Scott Hebert is another first-timer at the PGA Championship but has some great tournament experience. The Director of Instruction at the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa in Michigan, Scott has won the Michigan State Open four of the last six years and has participated in three Buick Open's. He is another great, young player with huge potential. I worked with Scott on finding a lower spinning, higher launching driver than his current gamer. He felt like he was losing a few yards because the ball wasn't staying in the air enough for him. We found him a prototype 907D4 driver with 1 degree more loft than what he uses in his 907D2 (8.5°). He also went with a Grafalloy Blue shaft which he feels is a better fit for the course this week.
Scott Hebert and Greg Cesario look at the 907D4 prototype as they work on finding a lower spinning, higher launching driver for Scott.
-- Greg Cesario