PGA Professional Championship tees off Sunday at new time with record number of women

Montana Pritchard/PGA of America

PGA Professional Championship tees off Sunday at new time with record number of women

Professional

PGA Professional Championship tees off Sunday at new time with record number of women

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BLUFFTON, S.C. — The first act in the PGA of America’s grand plan for springtime golf kicks off Sunday at the 52nd PGA Professional Championship.

With the association moving the PGA Championship from August to May, starting this year, so too does the PGA Professional Championship move up on the calendar.

It had previously been conducted in late June, about six weeks before the PGA Championship, but now the top 20 finishers, each of whom earns a place in the PGA Championship, will have about two and a half weeks to gear up for the year’s second major championship.

TEE TIMES: PGA Professional Championship

Starting on Sunday, a field of 312 club and teaching professionals will compete on the East and West courses at Belfair, a 36-hole Tom Fazio-designed facility located near Hilton Head Island.

The big question for a spring PGA Professional Championship is what kind of effect winter has on those club professionals who live and work in Northern climates.

Jaysen Hansen, the head professional at Beechmont Country Club in Cleveland, Ohio, who has top-10s in each of the last two PGA Professional Championships, played his first local rounds of the year just last week.

Is it possible to have his game in mid-season form in April?

“That’s just what we’re trying to figure out,” he said after a practice session at Belfair on Saturday. “It’s a little hard. Our first (Northern Ohio PGA Section) event two weeks ago got cancelled, because of snow, so right now it’s a little bit of a grind.”

Hansen wanted to do more over the winter than merely hit balls into a net or in a dome, so he made trips to Florida and Southern California.

“Just to play golf, to see the ball in the air,” he explained. “We still have to do our thing out there, whether it’s with a month’s preparation or a week’s preparation. It is what it is.”

The field at Belfair includes four women, a record: Ashley Grier of Springfield, Pa.; Joanna Coe of Baltimore, Md.; Sherry Andonian of Centennial, Colo., and Alexandra Braga of Denver, Colo. Because they’ll play Belfair about 1,100 yards shorter than the posted yardages for men, the women are ineligible to advance to the PGA Championship.

One casualty of the new dates for the PGA Professional Championship is the inability of college coaches to make the field since the college season is still in progress. This week’s field at Belfair doesn’t include Mike Small, the head coach of the men’s golf team at the University of Illinois, or Jamie Broce, the head coach at IUPUI. Small has a record-tying three wins at the PGA Professional Championship among his 10 top-10 finishes in 15 starts; Broce was runner-up in 2014.

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