At the age of 50, Tim Weinhart is continuing his run as the Georgia PGA’s most successful player, especially in qualifying events for national PGA championships.
Weinhart scored his sixth career victory Tuesday in the Georgia PGA’s qualifier for the national club pro championship, winning the GPGA Professional Championship by two strokes on a demanding Jennings Mill layout.
After opening with a 2-under 70 to share the lead with Jake Keen of Maple Ridge in Columbus going to the final round, Weinhart followed with a 69 for a 5-under 139 total to hold off a challenge from Cherokee Town & CC instructor Anthony Cordes.
Beginning the final round four strokes off the lead, Cordes pulled even with Weinhart thanks to seven birdies on the first 16 holes at Jennings Mill, a Bob Cupp design that hosted a Nationwide (now KP) Tour event from 2006 to 2009. But Cordes closed his second round with bogeys on his final two holes for a 67 to finish second at 141.
Keen placed third in the qualifier at 143, playing his final 10 holes Tuesday in 4-under to overcome a shaky start and shoot 73.
Both Cordes and Keen will be making their first ever appearance in the PGA Professional Championship, which will be played April 26-29 at the Barton Creek Resort in Austin, Tex. Weinhart will be making his 19thappearance in the national club pro championship over the past 21 years.
Al so qualifying for nationals was Bobby Jones GC instructorJustin Martin, who finished fourth at 145, and Dunwoody CC head pro Kyle Owen, who tied for fifth at 147. Owen tied former tour player Paul Claxton, who had already qualified for nationals thanks to his recent victory in the Georgia PGA Championship at the Sea Island GC Retreat course.
Weinhart’s first win in the event came in 2006 at Chicopee Woods, and he has won the tournament five more times — in 2011 (Settindown Creek), ’12 (Standard Club), ’16 (Reynolds Oconee) ’17 (Champions Retreat) and this week at Jennings Mill.
The victory gives Weinhart a sweep of the two Georgia PGA qualifiers for national club pro championships this year. He won the GPGA Senior Professional Championship at the Legends at Chateau Elan in August, his first appearance in a senior event, and played well enough recently in nationals at the Barton Creek Resort to qualify for the 2020 Senior PGA Championship.
“I’ve always qualified pretty well,” said Weinhart, recollecting a Nike Tour event he played his way into as a young pro in New York state in the 1990s. “There’s something about it.”
The win also gave Weinhart his 10thGeorgia PGA Player of the Year Award, as he edged out Sonny Skinner for the honor. Weinhart, the Director of Instruction at Heritage Golf Links, first earned that honor in 2002 and captured his ninth title in 2016.
Weinhart carded five birdies in his opening round 70, and he and Keen were among just three players to break par of 72. Dylan Malafronte, the head pro at Frederica GC on St. Simons Island, was next at 71, with Winston Trively of Crooked Oak in Colquitt fourth at 72 and Fox Creek instructor Brian Dixon fifth at 73.
Cordes challenged Weinhart’s lead in the final round, carding five birdies on the first seven holes on the back nine to get to 7-under on the day and 5-under for the tournament. Weinhart, who shot 1-under on the front, played his best stretch of golf early on the back nine, unaware that someone was challenging him.
Weinhart hit a wedge close on 10, followed with another birdie on 11 after having to lay up and holed a clutch par putt on 12 after missing the green. He hit a beautiful 6-iron to 3 feet for birdie on the 13th, a hole he had to scramble to save bogey the day before, but fell into a tie with Cordes when he drove into a fairway bunker on 14 and made his only bogey of the day.
Until that point, Weinhart thought he had a fairly comfortable lead, and when he found out he did not, he responded positively.
“OK, cool. I‘m tied. That helped me. I went back on offense.”
Weinhart gave himself decent birdie looks on the next three holes and closed his day with a solid par to take home the winner’s check of $3,700, while Cordes bogeyed his last two holes with Weinhart a few groups behind him and earned $2,500.
The final birdie of Cordes’ round came on the par-5 16th, a hole that damaged his first round scorecard. He was even par after 15 holes before taking double bogey on the risk/reward hole and winding up with a 74.
Cordes said his ball striking in his second round 67 was “maybe my best ever. “ He said he hit the green on his first 16 holes before some slight lapses on 17 and 18, with the longest of his seven birdie putts in the 15-foot range.
“I was cruising along and hitting it pretty close all day, then I got to 17 and started thinking about where I was, and I had not done that all day.” He said the two late bogeys served as “a good lesson to keep my foot on the gas when I’m playing well.”
Cordes was not overly disappointed at failing to convert his chance to win. “Winning is great, but ultimately qualifying is the goal and I put myself in position to do it.”
This is the third season at Cherokee for Cordes, an Ohio native who played his college golf in state at Miami and was working at Pinehurst as a club fitter and instructor before coming to Atlanta. He creditedPeter Jones, Cherokee’s Director of Instruction, for helping him enjoy what he says is “the best season of my career.”
Cordes has a pair of top 10s in Section events and a win in an Assistants Division tournament this year, and achieved his Class A PGA status just in time to be eligible for the national qualifier.
“To play against the guys at the highest level and see where my game stands, I’m ecstatic.”
A few weeks before the tournament, Keen Mwon the GPGA Central Chapter Championship at Valdosta CC by a shot over Skinner, who was denied a third Player of the Year title by Weinhart’s victory.
“I took down Skinner, so I figured, ‘Why not Tim?” Keen chuckled. “Tim has been a mentor of mine, and it was fun to play with him and compete against him.”
Keen was paired with Weinhart in the final round, and got off to s slow start with a series of 3-putt bogeys early in the round. A sloppy double bogey at the short, par-3 eighth dropped him to 5-over for the day and six shots behind Weinhart before he closed the front nine with a birdie on the perilous par-5 ninth.
After hitting his tee shot out of bounds on the par-5 11th, one of the easiest holes at Jennings Mill, Keen saved his round by chipping in for par, essentially making eagle with his second ball. He followed with birdies at 13 and 15, a pair of difficult par 4s, and with his qualifying spot all but locked up, decided not to go for the green on the 16thin two, making birdie after laying up.
“This is something I’ve looked forward to,” Keen said of qualifying for nationals. “It was at the top of my calendar as an event I wanted to be part of.”
Mike Gill, the Director of Golf at Maple Ridge, played in the national club pro championship several times and qualified for the 2000 PGA Championship at Valhalla, and will be able to provide Keen with some valuable insight prior to his appearance in Texas next Spring.
Keen qualified for nationals in his first attempt after getting his Class A PGA certification earlier this year. He is a Gwinnett County native who did not play golf in college. He attended Columbus State, where he was the head softball coach while a student there. He went on to get his MBA in finance, but said his “love of golf” was a stronger pull than Wall Street, and got into the golf business as an assistant at Maple Ridge.
Martin qualified for nationals for the third time in four years, shooting 70 in the second round despite a double bogey at the typically friendly par-5 fifth That was the only blemish on his scorecard, as he began the day with birdies on the first two holes, and added birdies on 8 and 16 get the fourth of five available spots. He scored one of his two first round birdies at the fifth, finishing with a 75.
Owen got the fifth spot, surviving a pair of double bogeys in the opening round. He was 2-under after 11 holes before making doubles at the difficult par-3 12thand the par-4 14th, part of a tough stretch of holes at Jennings Mill. He shot 74 on the day and followed with a 73 that included four birdies and five bogeys. A birdie at the par-3 17thenabled him to narrowly grab the final spot despite a bogey at the long and demanding par-4 18th.
This will be the sixth time Owen has qualified for nationals since 2011, and he came into the tournament as defending champion, winning in difficult weather conditions last year at Barnsley Resort.
Claxtonshot 75-72 to tie Owen for fourth, and will be playing in the PGA Professional Championship for the fourth straight year. He almost won the event in his initial start in 2017, the first year in which he was eligible after playing 20 years on the PGA Tour and what is now the KP Tour.
Several players came close to a top-5 finish and a spot at nationals.
A double bogey at the 12thin the final round proved costly for Dixon, who missed tying Owen by a shot after scores of 73-75—148. He will be the first alternated from the Section at nationals.
Also missing by a shot was Augusta CC head professional Tommy Brannen, who last qualified for nationals in 2013. The 62-year-old Brannen had six birdies in a second round 72, but was done in by double bogeys on the difficult par-4 seventh and the 12th, as well as a closing bogey at the 18th.
Missing by two shots at 149 was Skinner, Jones, Highland CC head pro Todd Ormsby, Augusta National assistantRobby Bruns and Malafronte.
Skinner, who failed to qualify for nationals for just the second time since becoming eligible in 2006, shot 77 the first day and was part of a 5-way tie for ninth at 149. Jones, who qualified in 2017, carded five birdies in the second round, but made four bogeys on his last six holes. A double bogey at the demanding seventh hole the final day was the difference for Ormsby, who won the event in 2013, while Bruns, who also posted scores of 74-75, could not overcome a triple bogey on the seventh. He was among six qualifiers last year.
Malafronte, a recent addition to the Georgia Section, took the lead from Weinhart with three birdies on his first six holes in the final round, but made a triple bogey on 7 and another at 16. He shot 78 with four birdies.
Capital City Club assistant J.P. Griffin, coming off a win in the recent Match Play Championship, was 1-over for the tournament after a birdie on the first hole in the second round, but made a triple bogey on the second and a double on the third and wound up with a 76 for a 150 total.