A couple of Tri-City area golf instructors will compete at the PGA Professional Championship beginning Sunday in New York, with hopes of scoring well and moving on to one of the game’s most prestigious tournaments.
Tri-City Country Club’s Clint Ables and Meadow Springs’ Jason Aichele will compete in the field of 312 PGA professionals at Turning Stone Resort in Verona, and both will be shooting for a top-20 finish to qualify for the PGA Championship in July.
Aichele played in the Professional Championship in 2014, when it was in Myrtle Beach, S.C., where he finished 9-over par at the four-day tournament, just four strokes outside the cut to play in the PGA Championship. He said that getting that close to playing in one of golf’s major tournaments has both motivated and prepared him for this year’s championship.
“I’ve got kind of the experience now for this year of how the tournament is run, how to prepare for it, things like that that I didn’t know the first time I played in it,” Aichele said. “But I’m kind of sticking to the same game plan I had in Myrtle Beach.”
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In addition to instructing golfers of all levels at Meadow Springs Country Club, Aichele runs a highly successful, year-round instruction program for competitive high school and college golfers, and said making it into the field of a PGA Tour event would allow him the chance to spend more of his time focusing on his students.
“When I first got started in the PGA program, one of the instructors asked me, ‘Why did you get into the PGA program?’ And my goal was to play in the PGA Championship,” Aichele said. “Once I accomplish that goal, I can say ‘that’s done,’ and kind of move on and start helping the other kids.”
Ables is making his first start at the PGA Professional Championship after trying to qualify for the event for the last five years, and said just making it into the tournament field was an accomplishment. He expects to be nervous and excited when he steps onto the first tee box.
“This will be the biggest tournament I’ve ever qualified for, it’s been one of my lifetime goals to qualify for this,” Ables said. “Obviously the nerves are going to be there, but it’s kind of one of those things where you just let the chips fall where they’re going to fall, and you’re going to play the way you’re going to play.”
Aichele and Ables qualified for the tournament at the Pacific Northwest Section PGA Professional Championship in September at Canyon River Golf Club in Missoula, Mont. Ables finished in a tie for third at the event by shooting 7-under over three days, and Aichele finished tied for fifth at 4-under.
The PGA Professional Championship will be played over four days at two of Turning Stone Resort’s nationally renowned courses. Three of the tournament’s rounds will be at the 7,315-yard, wide-open Atunyote course, and one of the first two rounds will take place at the short and narrow Kaluhyat track, which was regarded by Aichele and Ables as the tougher of the two.
Ables will tee off at 9:35 a.m. EDT on Sunday and Aichele will start at 2:15 p.m. Both will play Atunyone the first day and Kaluhyat the second.