When the destination is Baltusrol Golf Club, it seems to bring out the best in the game of Spring-Ford Country Club head pro Rich Steinmetz.
Steinmetz and Mark Sheftic, the head of instruction at Merion Golf Club, led the Philadelphia Section PGA contingent in the opening round of the PGA Professional National Championship Sunday at the Turning Stone Resort in Verona, N.Y.
The top 20 finishers in the PNC qualify for the PGA Championship, the last of golf’s four professional major championships, which will be played at Baltusrol in Springfield, N.J. The last time the PGA was staged at Baltusrol in 2005, Steinmetz made the field with a ninth-place finish at the PNC.
Steinmetz and Sheftic, who has qualified for the PGA three times via a top-20 finish at the PNC, both played the Atunyote Course at Turning Stone Sunday and matched par with 72s. That left them tied for 40th and they are the only Philadelphia Section pros inside the projected cut of 1-over par. They’ll play the Kaluhyat Course Monday before the cut is made.
The rest of the Philadelphia Section group has some work to do.
Four players – Radnor Valley Country Club head pro George Forster, Jake Gerney of Trump National Golf Club, Philadelphia, Steve Swartz of the Country Club of Harrisburg, and Dave Quinn of the Links Golf Club – are at 3-over 75. Forster and Quinn played at Kaluhyat while Gerney and Swartz were at Atunyote.
Aronimink Golf Club head of instruction John Bierkan and Applebrook Golf Club head pro Dave McNabb, who won the Philadelphia Section title last fall, each carded a 5-over 77, Bierkan at Atunyote and McNabb at Kaluhyat.
Stu Ingraham, the head of instruction at the M Golf Range in Newtown Square, had a 78 at Kaluhyat. Ingraham has qualified for the PGA Championship six times out of the National Club Pro, as it was once known as.
Ashley Grier of Overbrook Golf Club and John Lynch of Cripple Creek Golf & Country Club both carded a 79 at Kaluhyat. And John Pillar of the Country Club at Woodloch Springs had an 80 at Kaluhyat.
Ryan Helminen, a pro at Ridgeway Country Club of Neenah, Wis., and Craig Bowden of Bloomington, Ind. carded 5-under 67s to share the lead after the opening round. Helminen, who earned a trip to the PGA at Whistling Straits a year ago out of the PNC at Philadelphia Cricket Club, played at Kaluhyat while Bowden, a former PGA Tour and Web.com Tour player, posted his 67 at Atunyote.
Mark Brown, a pro at Tam O’Shanter Country Club and an Oyster Bay, N.Y. resident, was one of six players tied for third at 4-under 68. Brown used a 7-iron to ace the 196-yard 11th hole at Atunyote on his way to his 4-under total. It was his 14th career hole-in-one.
Ben Polland, a pro at Deepdale Golf Club in Manhasset, N.Y., is also at 68. Polland made a double bogey on the last hole at the Cricket Club to let the 2015 National Club Pro title slip out of his grasp. Polland’s 4-under round came at Kalhuyat.
Also at 4-under 68 are Rod Perry of Port Orange, Fla., the 2013 winner of this event, Texan Brad Lardon, former PGA Tour veteran Omar Uresti, who finished tied for fifth at the Cricket Club a year ago, and Rich Berberian of Derry, N.H.
Perry and Lardon played at Kalhuyat while Uresti and Berberian were at Atunyote.