PATTERSON, CALIF. - Jeff Bender, the club pro at Sunnyside's Black Rock Creek Golf Course, begins his quest today on attempting to capture the title of the Western PGA Club Professional Championship.
The four-day tournament, which wraps up this coming Sunday, is being staged at the Legends West Course at Diablo Grande Resort in Patterson, Calif. The championship tournament, open to PGA club professionals from 13 states, features a 144-player field. The low 70 scorers after 36 holes of play will move on to Saturday and Sunday's final rounds, competing for a total purse of $150,000. First place prize money is $20,000.
Bender, one of eight PGA club pros from Washington state competing in the West regional championship tournament, qualified for the championship event at a tournament held last month. Other Washington state competitors include Michael Combs of Kennewick, Matt Bunn of Colbert, Michael Swingle of Bellevue, Tom Sovay of Mukilteo, Brett Eaton of Lynden, Mike Gove of Snohomish and Jeff Coston of Blaine.
Coston is one of the favorites this week, as he made the cut at the 86th PGA Championship after firing a second day round of 68. The defending champion of this week's four-day tourney is Michael Henderson of Ft. Worth, Texas. Other players to watch this week include 2003 PGA Club Professional Champion Tim Thelen of Richmond, Texas, and past PGA Club Professional champions Steve Schneiter of Sandy, Utah (1995) and Brett Upper of Phoenix, Ari. (1990).
The top 32 finishers at this week's tournament will join the top 32 finishers at each of the three other regional tournaments around the country, all advancing to play in the 38th annual PGA Club Professional Championship June 23-26, 2005 at Kiawah Island Resort's Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, S.C.
Bender was scheduled to tee off this morning at 9:24 a.m. Among his three-person playing group were Mark Pelletier of El Paso, Texas and Mark Sherman of Martinez, Calif. The same threesome is scheduled to tee off tomorrow (Friday) at 1:39 p.m.