Ben Polland had just made a mess of the 18th hole at Philadelphia Cricket Club’s Wissahickon Course, making a double bogey that cost him the title in the 2015 PGA Professional Championship.
A group of golf writers, myself included, approached him warily. Emotions can still be a little raw for a player in a situation like that. But not Polland. The assistant pro at Deepdale Golf Club in New York was gracious in defeat, calmly replaying his disastrous final hole. He focused on the positives. He was still going to the PGA Championship. He had still played well while leading the biggest event for club pros in this country for a long time.
So it was nice to see him shoot a final-round 69 Sunday to capture the $9,000 top prize in the National Car Rental Assistant PGA Professional Championship at the PGA Golf Club’s Wanamaker Course in Port St. Lucie, Fla. His 3-under final round over the 7,123-yard, par-72 Wanamaker Course gave him a 72-hole total of 7-under 281 and a one-shot edge over a trio of tough pursuers, including the defending champion Andy Mickelson.
The victory also earned Polland a spot in next summer’s PGA Professional Championship, which will be held at the Sunriver Resort in Oregon.
Mickelson of Mistwood Golf Club in Illinois mounted a spirited defense of his title. His final-round 71 left him in a tie for second at 6-under 282.
Danny Lewis of Elks Run Golf Club in Ohio had held the 54-hole lead and had a final round of 2-under 70 to join Mickelson at 282. Shawn Warren of Fallmouth Country Club in Maine fired a final-round 69 and was third member of the trio tied for second at 282.
Todd Bailey of Rock Creek Golf Club in Alabama had a final-round 74 and finished alone in fifth at 3-under 285.
Gene Fieger, who dominated the Philadelphia Section PGA as an assistant pro at Overbrook Golf Club in the 1990s, finished in a tie for 12th at 1-over 289. Fieger, who plays out of The Club Pelican Bay in Naples, Fla., matched par in the final round with a 72.
Sunnybrook Golf Club’s Corey McAlarney moved up to a tie for 15th with a final-round 69. After struggling in an opening-round 77, McAlarney, winner of the recent Philadelphia Section PGA’s Match Play Championship, battled back to finish at 2-over 290.
Lookaway Golf Club’s Michael Little finished in a tie for 46th at 9-over 297 after a final-round 73.