Toledo coach rockets to top of PGA Pros leaderboard

pga-broceJamie Broce makes his living coaching younger men to handle pressure situations on the golf course. The University of Toledo coach practiced Monday what he’s been preaching the past two seasons to his Rockets, rallying for an even-par 72 to grab a one-stroke lead midway through the 47th PGA Professional National Championship.

Broce (“Brose”) overcame a double bogey on the third hole at Grande Dunes Resort Club when he struck a stray tee on his backswing and hooked his drive, leaving him with an unplayable lie. He bounced back with five birdies, including one at No. 16 and a three-footer at No. 18 that gave him a 36-hole total of 4-under-par 140.

“Yesterday, the conditions were a little more benign, but today was a lot different. The wind kept you uneasy,” said Broce, 37, a resident of Ottawa Hills, Ohio, who missed the cut last year in his only previous trip to the National Championship. “I just got into a plan to hang in there and survive. I got away with a couple bad swings and was able to come back. I just plan to have fun and play golf the next two days and see what happens.”

Ryan Helminen of Menasha, Wisconsin, shot 73 on Monday and is one stroke back at 141. He rallied from consecutive double bogeys on the 14th and 15th holes (his fifth and sixth of the round), birdieing each of the three par 5s after his early struggles.

“I got a lot out of that round,” said Helminen, a PGA teaching professional at Ridgeway Country Club in Neenan, Wisconsin. “When you’re 5-over through six holes and going the wrong way and you make a birdie and some par-saving putts, it lifts your spirits. Those kinds of putts are what keep you in the game. And the 12-footer I made at the last was icing on the cake.”

Helminen was followed by a trio at 142 – Dustin Volk of Layton, Utah; Michael Block of Aliso Viejo, California; and Frank Esposito Jr. of Monroe Township, New Jersey. First-round co-leaders Dave McNabb of Newark, Delaware, and Johan Kok of Brentwood, Tennessee, each stumbled with second-round 78s and are at 145.

There are a total of eight players under par, with Block and Jeffrey Peck of Charlotte, North Carolina, shooting 69 to share the day’s low round at Grande Dunes. John Bachman of Louisville, Kentucky, had the low round (70) at The Dunes Club.

There were 103 players who made the 36-hole cut of 5-over-par 149. They advance to Tuesday’s third round, when a second cut at 54 holes will trim the field to the low 70 scorers and ties.

The low 20 scorers in the PGA Professional National Championship will advance to the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky. The National Championship, featuring a $550,000 purse, is presented by Club Car, Mercedes-Benz and OMEGA.

As Broce took command at Grande Dunes, Karen Paolozzi of Roswell, Georgia, put on a show with a sizzling back-nine 32 at The Dunes Golf & Beach Club. She joined Suzy Whaley of Farmington, Connecticut (2005), as the only women PGA Professionals to make the 36-hole cut in the National Championship. She is also only the third woman ever to compete in the Championship.

Playing The Dunes at 6,059 yards, which is 84.7% of the men’s distance (7,148 yards), Paolozzi delivered her own clinic in course management. She rebounded from a double bogey on the par-4 seventh, recording four back-nine birdies, which included a chip-in from behind the 10th green.

Paolozzi’s 1-under-par 71 is the lowest 18-hole round by a woman professional in Championship history.

“I was struggling a little bit with the greens, but I was hitting the ball pretty well,” said Paolozzi, a PGA assistant professional at Druid Hills Golf Club in Atlanta, Georgia. “On No. 10, I was in the rough off the tee and was just kind of in a crazy lie. I flew the green and thought, ‘Oh, here we go again.’ But I made a nice little chip and it happened to go in. That turned it all around for me. I got a little more confidence and then made birdie on 11 after hitting a great approach shot. The putter got really hot on the back nine.”

Despite Paolozzi’s stellar play, she will not be eligible to join Wednesday’s low 20 scorers for a trip to the 96th PGA Championship. She did not play the men’s distances last fall when she earned a National Championship berth through the Northern Ohio PGA Section Championship.

“This is exactly what my goal was. I wanted to make the cut,” said Paolozzi, 31, a first-team All-American and a Big Ten Champion at Indiana University. “I wanted to come here and play well. I was a little disappointed after yesterday (she opened with 75 at Grande Dunes), but I knew if I put in a solid round today, I had a chance. A lot of the guys have been coming up to me and just congratulating me for making it here, which has been great.”

Six PGA Professional National Champions made the cut, led by defending Champion Rod Perry of Port Orange, Florida, and 2012 Champion Matt Dobyns of Glen Head, New York, both of whom are at 2-over-par 146. They are joined by Steve Schneiter of Sandy, Utah (147); Mike Small of Champaign, Illinois (147); Bob Sowards of Dublin, Ohio (147); and Darrell Kestner of Glen Cove, New York (148).

Photo by Montana Pritchard/PGA of America

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