KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship

Early Saturday Notebook: 2023 KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship

May 27, 2023


Jeff Babineau

Club Pros stay cool under pressure
Eleven members of the Corebridge Financial PGA Team of Club Professionals made the cut to earn their spots on the weekend at the 83rd KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship at Fields Ranch East at PGA Frisco, and for several, experience played a pivotal role.

Bob Sowards, who tied for fifth in this championship two years ago at Southern Hills, stepped to his final hole, the par-4 ninth, at 3-over par late Friday, thinking that’s where the cut would fall (eventually, after a tumultuous few hours, it did move to 3 over). His caddie, Kerry Baugher, told Sowards on his 36th hole the cut was going to be 2 over. So Sowards had one thing in mind as he lined up his 35-foot putt for birdie: get it there. He did, making the putt to assure he would be sticking around.

“It gives me a lot of confidence heading into tomorrow,” said Sowards, 54, PGA Director of Instruction at Kinsale Golf & Fitness Club in Powell, Ohio. He has played in four Senior PGAs and made the cut each time.

None of the 36 Club Professionals in the field would experience the stress that Tim Weinhart would feel as his tee time neared on Friday. Weinhart, PGA Director of Instruction at Heritage Golf Links (Tucker, Georgia), was warming up shortly before his tee time when he cracked the face on his driver. That touched off a mad scramble as the seconds ticked away and his tee time neared. The shop staff at PGA Frisco found him a driver head – same brand (TaylorMade), but different model), he hit three balls with it, darted to the tee and played. Weinhart shot 73 and made the cut.

He also credited his caddie, Steve Johnston, a good friend of 30 years, for keeping him calm while all this was going on.

“He just told me, ‘Hey, look, we've done this before, don't worry about it,’” said Weinhart, who was in Georgia when the week started, the tournament’s fourth alternate. This is his ninth major overall, and third start at the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship.  

Chad Proehl, 55, is another seasoned player who came through when he needed to late Friday. Proehl (PGA Teaching Professional at Sugar Creek Golf Club, Iowa Section) went out in 39 on Friday, having doubled his first hole of the day. But on the back nine, he found something, and kept on charging. He hit 4-iron pin high on his second shot at 18, up on a little hill, and hit a beautiful pitch over a bunker to 4 feet to set up one final birdie, shooting 73 to sneak inside the cut line.

“I got to 5 over, so I needed to do something,” he said. “To respond like I did, it feels pretty gratifying, to be honest. I haven’t played in a whole lot of these. It feels good to battle, and be in the heat. For a while there, it was going in the wrong direction. It was good to turn it around.”

For that, he earned his spot on the weekend.

Rookie Cink has unfinished business on PGA Tour
Stewart Cink is making his PGA Tour Champions debut this week at Fields Ranch East at PGA Frisco, having just turned 50 on Wednesday. He said Friday he is enjoying his time and has seen a lot of old, friendly faces. But he is not yet ready to commit full-time to senior golf.

“You may have heard they keep adding these designated events on the big Tour,” Cink, smiling, said after his second 68 on Friday. “So the big thing is I want to get in those and I'm not anywhere near ... I'm going to have to have a heck of a summer to get in those, but I want to try to get in those give myself a chance.

“I'm looking forward to PGA Champions Tour golf. But I think if I just converted to this tour right away and played the rest of the summer right away, and just didn't give myself any chance to get into those big tournaments I think I would look back and say, ‘Why didn't I at least give it a shot?’”

Corey Pavin visits with PGA HOPE
Former U.S. Open champion and U.S. Ryder Cup captain Corey Pavin went to Iraq to visit U.S. troops with several other players in 2006 and 2009, and it spurred him to get more involved with military-affiliated charities closer to home. For years he has supported Folds of Honor, striking up a friendship with its founder, Lt. Col. Dan Rooney. Earlier this week at Fields Ranch East at PGA Frisco, Pavin spent some time alongside veterans from the Dallas area playing golf through the PGA HOPE program.

“It's a slam dunk for me to say yes,” Pavin said. “It was great out there. Some good interaction. What the PGA of America is doing to let them come out here and practice and play (at PGA Frisco) is a no-brainer as far as I'm concerned. I was just out there Monday to say thank you to them for serving. We wouldn't have – as I told them, we wouldn't have places like this if it wasn't for them serving. And they ensure our freedom, put their lives on the line. I mean, how do you say thank you to that besides thank you?

“I'm just proud of the military, what they do and what they have to put up with. And it's just sad that they're not taken care of better, but I think there's a lot of people that are seeing that and they have been taking care of them a lot better in the last, gosh, 15 to 20 years now. It's great to see.”

PGA HOPE (Helping Our Patriots Everywhere) is the flagship military program of PGA REACH, the charitable foundation of the PGA of America. PGA HOPE introduces golf to Veterans and Active Duty Military to enhance their physical, mental, social and emotional well-being.