FLINT – Kyle Martin knew some putts were dropping for him but he wasn’t looking at the leaderboard of the 102nd PGA Professional Championship at Flint Golf Club Tuesday.
“I thought I would just keep to myself, play and see what happens,” said the defending champion from Lochmoor Club in Grosse Pointe Woods.
What happened was Martin shot a 5-under 67 for a 7-under 137 total and was tied for the lead with first-round leader Jeff Roth of BOYNE Golf Academy through two rounds of the 54-hole, $57,000 championship.
Roth, a five-time winner of the Michigan PGA Professional Championship, birdied the last two holes of his round (holes 8 and 9) to shoot 69.
Chad Kurmel, the assistant men’s golf coach at Michigan State University, shot 66 and was tied one shot off the lead at 138 with Tim Pearce of Birmingham Country Club, who shot 68.
Payne Gniewek of Thousand Oaks Country Club in Grand Rapids, who shot 70 for 139, was just two shots behind, and two players checked in just four shots back at 141 – Scott Shapin of Pine Lake Country Club, who shot 68, and Jim Deiters of Midland Country Club, who shot 70.
A crowd of eight golfers were at 143 including eight-time champion Scott Hebert of Traverse City Golf & Country Club, who shot 71, and 2015 champion Dan Urban of Gull Lake Country Club, who shot 72.
The 36-hole cut to the low 60 scorers and ties fell at 9-over 153 with 62 players moving on to Wednesday’s final round. The final group will tee off at 11:20 a.m.
In addition to determining the Michigan Section PGA champion, who receives an exemption into the 2024 PGA Tour’s Rocket Mortgage Classic at Detroit Golf Club along with a $7,500 first-place check, the tournament also serves as a starting point and qualifier on the road to major championship golf at the PGA Championship of 2024, which will be played in May at Vahalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky.
The low nine golfers at the end of the Michigan PGA Professional Championship besides Hebert and Roth, who are already exempt, will earn playing spots in the 2024 PGA Professional National Championship next April at Fields Ranch East & West courses in Frisco, Texas, home of the new PGA of America headquarters. The low 20 finishers from that championship move on to Valhalla to play with the best players in the world at the 105th PGA Championship.
Martin and Kurmel played together in the morning wave Tuesday and started making birdies.
“When you get a nice pairing that always helps,” said Martin, who shot 5-under 31 on the front while Kurmel shot 32 on the back. “Chad and I started to make some putts, which was nice to see. I really didn’t do anything crazy. I made a couple of 10 to 12-footers and hit fairways and greens.”
Martin said another low score will be needed to get his name on the Gilbert A. Currie Trophy for the second consecutive year.
“I’m confident,” he said. “If I make some putts and good things will happen.”
Roth, who birdied No. 8 with a 6-hybrid shot to two feet and birdied 9 with a 12-foot birdie putt to forge the late tie, said he was surprised 7-under was leading.
“I think it kind of proves my point about this course standing the test of time,” said the former Flint Golf Club pro. “It’s not 7,000 yards but it requires shot making, a little local knowledge and a lot of patience. Through all the generation of players and equipment changes, it’s still not easy to shoot par here. I was patient and got a couple at the end there. That’s what it takes.”
Roth, who previously won in 1988, ’89, 2001, ’03 ’19, said getting under par, patience and grinding will be needed in the final round.
“I haven’t been very good at grinding the last two years, but I’ve been grinding a little this week and knock on wood, I’ll stick around for tomorrow and maybe I can pull this thing out,” he said.
Pearce, the 2019 Michigan PGA Assistants Champion, has been knocking at the door of a major state title in recent years and is looking forward to the final round.
“This is exactly where I want to be,” he said. “It’s the final day of the Michigan PGA and I have a chance to do some things and play with some good players, have a fun time and hopefully there’s fireworks.”
SPONSORS: This year’s presenting sponsors are Club Car, Corebridge Financial and Rolex. Supporting partners are Gallagher, the Golf Channel and the PGA Tour. Supporting sponsors are Titleist/Footjoy, Callaway Golf, Nike and TaylorMade.
RESULTS, TEE TIMES: Click HERE