The veteran campaigner struggled to a disappointing opening round but has enjoyed the experience so far

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“An Eye-Opening Experience”: 60-Year-Old PGA Pro Reflects On Kiawah

It’s one of the aspects of the PGA Championship that makes it what it is. Not only do the best players in the world feature, but 20 club pros get their chance on the big stage in what is the only all-professional major. 

One of them was Sonny Skinner. The 60-year-old took on the monster that is The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island and described it as “the hardest” test he’s faced after posting a 13-over-par 85. 

“Obviously I didn’t play my best,” Skinner said after his round. 

“What I experienced out there today, it’s a big boy’s golf course. It’s a big boy’s situation with the wind and the climate and everything. 

“I gave every shot my best and 85 was the best I could do. I tried on every one of them.

“I knew what I was up against before I came. I didn’t feel the need to overwork, just show up and hope lightning might strike, but it didn’t.

“I am going to say that between this one and Whistling Straits, this one wins because of the wind factor. 

“I think both golf courses are expertly designed and challenge the player at the highest level, especially from the back tees. And I don’t think we played it all the way back today, but it’s right there.

“In my experience, it is the hardest.”

Skinner teeing off on the eighth hole during Thursday’s first round

At 7,660 yards, just over 200 short of its capacity, it was always going to be a struggle in the blustery conditions for Skinner who said he carries his driver around “255, 260 at sea level.”

However, despite the challenge, the PGA Tour Champions member has been able to savour his experience, which included playing some practice holes with World No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar on Wednesday. 

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He said: “That was quite a treat [playing with DJ and Kuchar].

“I played the first nine holes all by myself yesterday, got a little lunch, went to the tee. There was a logjam. I just stood in line, it came my turn. 

“I stood up, as I was about to walk to the tee, Dustin and Kuchar came strolling up, and I invited them to play, and they said, sure.

“After watching him hit his first tee shot, and Kuchar really smacked it out there, too, I was like, ‘wow, so this is the way the game is really played these days’. 

“What are the chances somebody of my age is going to be able to play at this time in my career with a player of that calibre, and it was an eye-opening experience.”

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And as for the tournament proper, Skinner, who won twice on the Nike Tour (now the Korn Ferry) in the 90s, had a front-row seat to enjoy his playing partner, Aaron Wise, post an impressive opening round, as well as lap up some generous support from the friendly South Carolina crowd. 

“I thoroughly enjoyed playing today with Aaron Wise and watching him shoot [69] – I think he is leading at this point. Beautiful player. 

“It was wonderful to watch. I just stayed out of his way and tried to enjoy myself the best that I could. 

“A few of my good shots received quite an applause from the gallery, which I was amazed at. I think being a club pro and being my age and making it into the field had some people pulling for the underdog, and I appreciate that acknowledgment.”