PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. (Oct. 27, 2023) - Strongs winds posed an added challenge throughout the second round of the 2023 Senior PGA Professional Championship on Friday.
Mick Smith (Summit, Wis.) and Mike Small (Champaign, Ill.) navigated those winds and PGA Golf’s Club’s demanding Wanamaker course skillfully as both registered 1-under-par 71s. Smith and Small enter the weekend tied atop the leaderboard (7-under-par 136) and co-lead by one.
Jim Carter (Scottsdale, Ariz.) and Bob Sowards (Dublin, Ohio) are T-3, one shot back at 6-under-par 137. Tracy Phillips (Tulsa, Okla.) and Jerry Haas (Winston-Salem, N.C.) are T-5 at 5-under-par 138.
Smith, PGA Director of Instruction at Mick Smith Golf, started on the back nine and rebounded from a bogey on the par-4, 448-yard 14th with birdies on the par-5, 510-yard 16th and par-4, 422-yard 18th holes. He rolled a 20-foot putt for birdie on the par-4, 429-yard second before bogeying the par-4, 415-yard fifth hole, then posted four consecutive pars on holes six through nine to conclude his round.
“I didn’t play quite as well today,” said Smith. “For the most part, I kept the ball in play. I had a few looks at birdie. I was able to hang on for pars and stay around even par.”
Smith looks to take better advantage of the Wanamaker’s notoriously difficult par fives this weekend.
“Playing the par fives well is very important,” said Smith. “Around the Wanamaker if you can play the par fives well and are able to sneak another birdie or two from the other holes, then it helps to keep you going the right way.”
Small, the Head Men’s Golf Coach at the University of Illinois, started his afternoon with a bogey on the Wanamaker’s par-5, 555-yard first hole, but responded quickly by birdieing the par-4, 429-yard second. The Illinois PGA Member registered his second of three birdies on the day at the par-5, 544-yard seventh.
Small later birdied the par-5, 539-yard 13th hole to claim a share of the lead. After “duck-hooking” his drive left into the grass near the cart path, Small chipped out with an 8-iron and hit a 9-iron to roughly five feet before sinking the putt.
Like Smith, Small is focused on improving his play on the par fives.
“I think I had to punch out or lay up on every par five,” said Small. “I couldn't go for any of them in two because I didn’t drive it very well today at all. I’ve got to play the par fives better. I’ve just got to hit better shots and give myself more birdie chances because it’s going to be a shootout the whole weekend here.”
Carter, a Southwest PGA Life Member, began the day T-14 following a first-round 2-under-par 70 on the Wanamaker. He rocketed 11 spots up the leaderboard with a bogey-free 4-under-par 67 at the Ryder on Friday: Birdies fell at the par-4, 409-yard second; par-5, 535-yard sixth; par-5, 535-yard 13th; and par-4, 405-yard 18th holes.
“I really did a good job on the putting green today,” said Carter. “In that wind it’s tough to get the ball close to the hole. I didn’t have a ton of birdie putts. I made the short ones I had. When I missed greens, I was able to get up and down to save par.”
Carter’s 67 was the low round of the day, which came as a pleasant surprise as he has played sparingly following a recent arm surgery.
“It’s much better than I expected,” said Carter. “I was hoping to get to the weekend and hit some good shots. This was a nice surprise. Maybe I’ll get lucky and it’ll keep going. That’s what I’ll shoot for.”
Haas, who was tied with Small and Smith for the lead entering day two, posted a 1-over-par 72 at the Ryder course on Friday.
In addition to the Leo Fraser Trophy, named after the 16th president of the PGA of America, players are competing for a $335,000 purse, including the winner’s share of $27,000.
The top 35 finishers will be named to the Corebridge Financial PGA Team and advance into the field for the 2024 KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship to be held May 23-26 at Harbor Shores in Benton Harbor, Michigan.
The 2023 Senior PGA Professional Championship, presented by Cadillac, continues Saturday on the Wanamaker course at PGA Golf Club following a cut to the low 90 scorers and ties. Following Saturday’s round, a second cut will be made to the low 70 scorers and ties before Sunday’s final round on the Wanamaker.
For more about the Senior PGA Professional Championship, visit here.
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Greg Dillard, PGA of America, 561-308-8013, email@example.com