Mike Townsend, the head professional at Kiawah Island Club's Cassique Course, spent last week largely tending to his ailing wife.
Katherine Townsend was hit with a virus and had to be admitted to the hospital twice. If she wasn’t feeling better Monday, Townsend was planning to take her back to the hospital, which likely would have led to his withdrawal from the Carolinas PGA Section Professional Championship at the 7,211-yard Grande Dunes Resort Course.
“She had some sort of bug and it hit her pretty hard for about seven days. She was in pretty bad shape,” Townsend said. “Monday morning I wasn’t even sure I was going to be able to play. She started feeling better, and her mom got into town, and she just told me to leave. I’m not much help, anyway.”
His earnings Thursday should be of some assistance. Townsend won the $72,000 CPGA Section Championship by four shots with a 12-under-par 204 and returned to his Johns Island home with a $9,500 winner’s check for Katherine and their two kids, along with some other spoils from his victory.
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“That’s probably what I owe the hospital for all the bills this week,” Townsend said. “I probably broke even. Good thing I played well.”
Townsend was part of a one-two finish by the staff at Kiawah Island Club. Charles Frost, head pro at the club’s River Course, finished second for the second consecutive year with a closing 66.
With his win Thursday, Townsend also earned an exemption into either the PGA Tour's 2016 Wells Fargo Championship or Wyndham Championship, and one of nine qualifying spots that were up for grabs for the 2016 PGA Professional Championship next June 26-29 at Turning Stone Resort in Verona, N.Y.
That event will feature 312 players, and the top 20 there will advance to compete in the 2016 PGA Championship, one of pro golf’s four majors.
Ryan Tyndall of Murrells Inlet may be one of those competing at Turning Stone. The head pro at The Reserve Club in Pawleys Island tied for 10th at 2-under 214 and hit a wedge from 144 yards to 6 feet and made the birdie putt on the fourth playoff hole – the 428-yard par-4 10th – to earn the first alternate spot, which is likely to get him into the national finals.
Frost did not count as one of the nine qualifiers. He was already exempt into the PGA national finals based on his 10th-place finish at this year's national championship in June at Philadelphia Cricket Club, and he’ll be competing in the $10 million PGA Championship Aug. 13-16 at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin.
The other qualifiers Thursday were Wake Forest University golf coach and 2014 CPGA Section champion Jerry Haas; Derek Easter of Erwin, N.C.; Kelly Mitchum and Gus Ulrich of Pinehurst, N.C.; John Thompson of Charlotte, N.C.; Todd Camplin of West End, N.C.; Luke Lovell of Wellford; and Zac Collins of Durham, N.C.
Townsend arrived at Grande Dunes Monday in time to play just nine practice holes on the eve of Tuesday’s opening round. “I think almost not practicing kept me from stressing out about it a little bit,” Townsend said.
The 32-year-old Methodist University grad played a handful of small mini-tour events after college and settled into a nine-year assistant pro position at Eagle Point Golf Club in Wilmington, N.C., before moving to Kiawah Island Club. “I messed around for about a year [on mini-tours], but you know pretty quickly that you’re not good enough,” Townsend said.
He won the CPGA Assistants’ Championship in the mid-2000s, and he finished second and third in the section championship in 2012 and ’13, which were both won by Mitchum.
Utilizing a putting tip from Frost on Monday, Townsend made 14 birdies and an eagle over three rounds.
“For three days I felt really comfortable over the putter, which is pretty rare,” Townsend said. “I don’t say that very often. I hit a lot of good putts over the last three days and it took some of the stress off the rest of my game knowing that it was rolling pretty well this week.”
Townsend entered the final round with a two-shot lead at 9 under and the lead never dipped below two strokes.
Townsend birdied the par-5 seventh hole with a two-putt and 10th hole with a wedge to a couple feet, made his lone bogey of the day on the 14th, then birdied holes 16 and 17 with a pair of wedge shot to about 6 feet to extend his lead.
“I couldn’t believe how relaxed I was. Usually I’m just a nervous mess out there,” he said. “I hit a lot of greens, and I drove it really well today, which kind of made it easy coming in.”
Ulrich, of Pinewild Country Club, bogeyed the 18th hole while playing in the final group to cap a 77 and fall back into a tie for 10th with Tyndall and Mark Tomedolskey of Cherokee Plantation in Yemassee, forcing a three-player playoff for the final exemption into the PGA nationals that began on the par-4 10th hole.
Ulrich promptly birdied the 10th with an approach to 10 feet to earn the spot, and Tyndall and Tomedolskey played three more holes – the par-3 11th, par-4 18th and 10th again – to determine the first alternate position.
Tyndall made par from a left bunker on the 11th and from the front of the 18th green, while Tomedolskey got up and down from a right greenside bunker on the 18th to continue the playoff.
Tyndall is the No. 2 alternate nationally based on the CPGA’s place this year in the annual alternate rotation among the 41 PGA sections, so he stands a good shot of getting into the field at Turning Stone.
Each section replaces their own withdrawals among qualifiers from their section championships until one week prior to the first round, then the national alternate list takes precedence. Players otherwise exempt, such as Frost, are immediately replaced off the national list.
“We’ll hope for the best. I was in a similar situation last year. I was the first alternate for the assistants championship and didn’t get in. But you never know. I would love to be at Turning Stone and play. We’ll plan the whole year to get up there and if it happens we’ll be excited to go.”
Tyndall began the final round tied for ninth at 3-under 141. He was 2 over for the final round through 12 holes before making birdie on the par-5 13th with a chip to 8 feet, saving par on the par-3 14th with a 20-foot putt and making birdie on the par-4 15th with a wedge to 12 feet. A bogey on the 16th hole after a drive in a fairway bunker dropped him back to 1 over for the round.
“I was kind of on a little bit of a streak and bogeyed 16, which kind of took all the air out of my tires, but I grinded it in the last two holes trying to make birdie,” said Tyndall, who was unable to make a downhill 30-footer on his final hole of regulation. “I figured if I shot even par to 1 under today that was probably good enough to get in the top 10.”
Tyndall was promoted to head pro at The Reserve Club about six months ago and intends to play in more CPGA majors and pro-ams next year with the support of the club.
“I’m just trying to get my game in shape a little more to hopefully contend in these down the road. If you can compete in this section you can compete anywhere,” Tyndall said. “… I grinded really well all week. I really was not sharp any of the three rounds but I just found a way to get the ball in the hole and made some key putts when I needed to.”
Dale Ketola of Little River and Potential Golf at Farmstead Golf Links, who participated in the national championship last month, shot a 68 Thursday following a pair of 74s to move into a tie for 17th at even-par 216.
1, Mike Townsend, Kiawah Island Cassique, 71-64-69—204, $9,500
2, Charles Frost, Kiawah Island River, 69-73-66—208, $5,600
T3, Derek Easter, Chicora Golf & CC, 70-68-72—210, $4,250
T3, Jerry Haas, Wake Forest University, 72-68-70—210, $4,250
5, Kelly Mitchum, Pinehurst Resort, 68-72-71—211, $3,220
T6, John Thompson, Carolina Lakes GC, 74-68-70—212, $2,547
T6, Todd Camplin, Beacon Ridge G&CC, 69-71-72—212, $2,547
T8, Luke Lovell, The Carolina CC, 73-68-72—213, $2,052
T8, Zachary Collins, Treyburn CC, 67-72-74—213, $2,052
T10, Gus Ulrich, Pinewild CC, 70-67-77—214, $1,708.33
T10, Ryan Tyndall, The Reserve Club, 70-71-73—214, $1,708
T10, Mark Tomedolskey, Cherokee Plantation, 74-67-73—214, $1,708
T17, Steve Isley, Oak Island GC, 74-71-71—216, $1,141.25
T17, Dale Ketola, Potential Golf, 74-74-68—216, $1,141.25
T32, Gil Feagin, CCU PGM Program, 74-71-75—220, $632.50
T48, Chuck Johns, Hackler Course at CCU, 74-71-81—226, $392.50