It might have been a national championship, but the PGA Professional Championship came down to a regional showdown, match play between players from clubs in the Metropolitan Golf Association in the New York area.
Alex Beach, 29, an assistant pro at Westchester Country Club in Rye, N.Y., won by two over Danny Balin, 37, the head pro at Fresh Meadow Country Club in Lake Success, N.Y.
The duo began the final round on the West Course at Belfair in Bluffton, S.C., tied for the lead, five strokes ahead of their nearest challengers. Beach closed with a three-under-par 69 and a 72-hole total of 10-under-par 277, while Balin shot a one-under 71 and finished at eight-under 279. Stuart Deane finished alone in third place, seven back of Beach.
Both Beach and Balin earned a spot in the field for the PGA Championship in two weeks at yet another MGA course, Bethpage Black. The top 20 finishers (shown below) in the PGA Professional Championship earns starts in the PGA Championship.
Player, Club, PGA Section, Previous PGA Championship Starts
Alex Beach, Westchester C.C., Metropolitan, 2017
Danny Balin, Fresh Meadow C.C., Metropolitan, 2010-13, '18
Stuart Deane, Texas Star G.C., Northern Texas, 2014, '17
Jason Caron, Mill River Club, Metropolitan, First appearance
Ben Cook, Yankee Springs G.C. , Michigan, First appearance
Rich Berberian Jr., Vesper C.C., New England, 2016-18
Rod Perry, Crane Lakes Golf & C.C., North Florida, 2012-14, '16-17
Jeffrey Schmid, Brown Deer G.C., Iowa, First appearance
Marty Jertson, Ping Golf, Southwest, 2011-12, '18
Casey Russell, Golfcrest C.C., Southern Texas, First appearance
Brian Mackey, Hollow Brook G.C., Metropolitan, First appearance
Ryan Vermeer, Happy Hollow Club, Nebraska, 2017-18
Rob Labritz, GlenArbor G.C., Metropolitan, 2002-03, '10, '13, '16
Craig Bowden, Life Member, Indiana, 2018
Justin Bertsch, Hideout G.C, South Florida, First appearance
John O'Leary, Trump National G.C. D.C., Mid-Atlantic, 2007
Cory Schneider, The Pointe G.C., Carolinas, First appearance
Craig Hocknull, Saber Golf, Southwest, 2018
Andrew Filbert, Royal Poinciana G.C., South Florida, First appearance*
Tyler Hall, Upper Montclair C.C., New Jersey, First appearance*
- — earned spot in 6-for-2 playoff
Three years ago, Beach was en route to the PGA Professional Championship when he had a blood clot and was taken to a hospital. He still played, but missed the cut.
“It’s an achievement unlike anything I’ll ever repeat, the ups and downs to get here,” he said. “Medically, I’ve always thought I was good enough to do it, but golf is a game that doesn’t give you a lot. To kind of stick with it and join those great names on the trophy is a huge step forward.”
Beach, incidentally, got his job at Westchester Country Club when Balin left the position to become the head pro at Fresh Meadow.
Beach and Balin were still tied through eight holes, but Balin bogeyed the ninth to fall one behind. Beach opened a three-stroke lead, but a two-shot swing at the par-5 12th allowed Balin to get back within one.
But Beach expertly countered every challenge Balin mounted. He followed Balin’s birdie at 12 with his own birdie at 13. Another Balin birdie at 14 was offset by a Beach birdie at 15.
“Just refocusing,” Beach said. “I knew playing Danny today, it kind of felt like match play. He’s a tough opponent and he’s not going to make a lot of mistakes. So I needed to capitalize on every thing I could. I stuck to my game plan. I stayed patient. The putter was ice cold yesterday. I was fortunate today it warmed up a little bit.”