Senior PGA Professional Championship Preview
By Luke Montalbano
SANTA ANA PUEBLO, N.M – The first of three PGA of America events to take place in New Mexico is set to start at Twin Warriors Golf Club and Santa Ana Golf Club. The Senior PGA Professional Championship will take place on Oct. 13-16, 2022, at Santa Ana and Twin Warriors.
The Sun Country PGA Section will be represented by four Section Professionals, Brad Lardon, Steve Manning, Carlton Blewett, and Kevin Amhaus.
Lardon, who has won five out of the last six Senior Section Championships, has played in national events at Twin Warriors before, but this will be the first time he will be playing in one as a Sun Country PGA Professional.
“Representing the Sun Country PGA and Las Campanas is very important to me”, Lardon said. “I hope to play well, be competitive and show the rest of the country that we are strong here.”
Lardon has won three Section Majors this season: the Sun Country PGA Senior Section Championship, the Sun Country PGA Section Championship, and the Senior New Mexico Open. His Senior Section win this year was at Twin Warriors.
“I’m very happy to have played solid in these events”, said Lardon. “I still think there is plenty of room for better play at the National Championship. My goal starting the year was to first qualify for both PNC’s and now the goal has shifted into qualifying for the major championships via the PNC’s.”
Steve Manning, who was the runner up at the 2022 Sun Country PGA Senior Section Championship, has also played in multiple national events like Lardon.
“There are a few items that come to mind immediately when I think about getting to play in such a high caliber event like the Sr. PGA Professional Championship”, Manning said. “This will be my 9th National PGA Championship that I have qualified for, and I am thrilled to be playing at an elevation I am accustomed to as well as the type of turf that we will be playing on. Both of those may seem insignificant to the average golfer but I finally know that have somewhat of an advantage against the majority of the field playing here in New Mexico this time around.”
The last person to qualify from the Section Championship is Kevin Amhaus. Amhaus beat Carlton Blewett in a playoff to earn the last qualifying spot. However, Blewett got into the field off the national alternate list.
Blewett has finished in the top-10 in multiple SCPGA events this year. His best finish was t-3 at the Senior Section Championship, going even par for the week. He has also played in the Senior PGA Professional Championship multiple times, and was the 2012 Senior Section Champion.
Amhaus is looking forward to the opportunity playing in this event in his section.
“First off, it's a real blessing to get through qualifying,” Amhaus said. “With only three spots and lots of really great players, getting into the field is a real accomplishment. Being able to play a National Championship at "Home" is a something that we can only dream about. Twin Warriors & Santa Ana are courses I've played for years. It's 20 minutes from home. It's an honor to those facilities to be chosen to host the best PGA players from around the country, both this event and in the spring.”
All four of these Professionals have played in multiple Section events at Twin Warriors and recognize that it will take all phases of the game to do well there.
“Playing well at Twin Warriors requires a polished game from the tee box to the putting green”, Manning said. “Regardless of what the yardage the PGA of America sets the course up for play, competitors have to drive it well off the tee box. The greens are, for the most part, large in square footage so hitting greens in regulation once safely off the tee is generally doable. From there, avoiding leaving yourself lengthy second putts will ease the mental challenges that seem to be around every corner at Twin Warriors.”
Although Amhaus knows the difficulty of Twin Warriors, he says that it is one of his favorite courses.
“Twin is a ball strikers golf course,” Amhaus said. “There is trouble lurking with all the native areas around. I love playing at Twin Warriors. It fits my eye. I have played well there many times. You have to drive the ball in play. The rough this year is as thick as I've seen and could be as long as the PGA wants. You can't score from the rough. The golf course can play 7700+ yards, if the PGA decides to use all of that, length is a real advantage. The wind can blow there too. It takes some solid ball striking to get it around out there.”
In terms of Santa Ana, all the players understand the difficulty and severity of their greens, and the importance of keeping the ball below the hole.
“The real key at Santa Ana is to keep the ball below the hole on and around the greens,” Amhaus said. "When those greens get rolling, being above the hole puts you on defense. There are putts at Santa Ana from above the hole that are nothing but trouble. The course is not as long as Twin. But there is still ample trouble. The two courses are different. Solid ball striking, being good around the greens and making putts is the key in championship golf.”
Hole locations will be the key to Lardon’s strategy for his one round at Santa Ana.
“Santa Ana, from little I know of it at this time will be put more emphasis on keeping the ball in play off the tee and learning where to position myself on the greens relative to certain pin locations”, Lardon said.
The field will consist of 256 PGA Professionals ages 50 and over from across the country. Everyone will play one round at Twin Warriors and one round at Santa Ana the first two days. The final two rounds will be played at Twin Warriors. The top 35 players will qualify for the 2023 KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship at PGA Frisco.