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Omar Uresti hangs on to win 53rd PGA Professional Championship

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PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Omar Uresti started Wednesday’s final round of the 53rd PGA Professional Championship with a seven-shot lead, and he needed most of it.

After playing flawless golf for the first 54 holes, Uresti struggled throughout the final round. The Austin, Texas, resident was 4-over after four holes and saw his once-invincible lead shrink to two shots on the back nine of the Wanamaker Course at PGA Golf Club.

But he got back to what he does best, grinding away for pars, and held on for a three-shot victory over Frank Bensel Jr. of Jupiter, Florida. Uresti etched his name on the Walter Hagen Trophy for the second time in four years, having also won in 2017.

“I had a pretty good lead and got off to a rough start, so there was a little frustration early,” Uresti said. “I just tried to grind it out. I didn’t putt like I did the first three days, but I was able to hang in there and make some 2-putts.”

PGA Professional Championship: Leaderboard

Uresti’s 75 left him at 11-under 276. At 52, he became the second-oldest PPC champion behind Hall of Famer Sam Snead, who was 59 when he won in 1971.

The win also earned Uresti a spot in next month’s PGA Championship at Kiawah Island, six PGA Tour exemptions over the next year – Uresti has played in 377 career PGA Tour events – and a spot on the 2022 U.S. PGA Cup team.

“I’ve never played at Kiawah, so I’m looking forward to it,” Uresti said. “That’s a long course. I’m 5-foot-6 and 52, so that’s going to be a fun week.”

Bensel started the final round 11 shots back of Uresti, but charged into contention with four birdies on his first 10 holes while Uresti was struggling. Bensel’s birdie at the 16th moved him within two shots of the leader for the second time on the back nine. Bensel had the day’s second-lowest round, a 68.

“We got to the sixth hole and I saw Omar was 4-over and I was 3-under, so I knew I had a chance,” said Bensel, a PGA Teaching Professional at Century Country Club in New York. “It’s tough to play with a big lead, so I just kept wanting to play well and keep making putts. I’m really happy with how I played.”

Ben Cook of Vero Beach, Florida, had three late birdies to rally for a 74 and finish third at 6-under 281. Larkin Gross of Center Cross, Virginia, couldn’t match his third-round 64, shooting a 76 that left him fourth, a shot ahead of Ben Polland (73-284) of Bloomington, Minnesota.

While Uresti hung on for the win, most of the focus Wednesday was to see which PGA Professionals finished in the top 20 to land a precious spot in the 2021 PGA Championship.

Stuart Smith of Reno, Nevada, made the day’s biggest move with his 7-under 65 propelling him 60 spots up the leaderboard into sixth place at 1-under 286. Smith was tied with defending champion Alex Beach (70) of Stillwater, Minnesota. Brett Walker (70-287) of Ukiah, California, earned a PGA spot by finishing tied for eighth with Danny Balin (71) of Lake Success, New York; Tyler Collet (72) of Vero Beach, Florida; Peter Ballo (72) of Stamford, Connecticut; Joe Summerhays (73) of Syracuse, Utah; Derek Holmes (78) of Cottage Grove, Minnesota; and Brad Marek (74) of Berkeley, California.

There was a five-way playoff for the final four PGA spots between Mark Geddes (74) of Coronado, California; Greg Koch (73) of Orlando; Patrick Rada (74) of Jupiter, Florida; Sonny Skinner (75) of Sylvester, Georgia; and Cody Haughton (76) of Canton, Michigan. Haughton was odd man out after missing out on the PGA with a bogey.

original article link https://golfweek.usatoday.com/2021/04/28/omar-uresti-win-53rd-pga-professional-championship/

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