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Schultz works way toward potential spot in PGA

June 22, 2006|by TIM KOELBLE

Dirk Schultz spent the last three days at the Turning Stone Resort in Verona, N.Y., preparing for the 39th PGA Professional National Championship.

Today, he begins his quest for at least a top-20 finish in the 72-hole event previously known as the Club Professional Championship, which would earn him an automatic berth in the PGA Championship in August at Medinah (Ill.) Country Club.

Schultz, the professional at Beaver Creek Country Club, tees off today at 1:20 p.m. on No. 10 at Shenendoah Golf Course, a 7,069-yard par-72 design by Tom Fazio.

Half the field of 312 will play today at Shenendoah while the other half opens at the Atunyote Golf Club, a 7,297-yard par 72 just 2 1/2 miles away from Shenendoah.

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After Friday's second round, the field will be cut to the top 70 and ties for the final two rounds at Atunyote.

"The par-5s are reachable and the courses are in mint condition," said Schultz, who will be in his third national finals. He played Shenendoah four years ago and Atunyote two years ago and said the courses are links-style with open driving areas.

Driving accuracy will be important as the PGA plans for rough that could reach 4 inches in height by the weekend.

Never one who is totally satisfied with how he's playing, Schultz said he's been working on swing specifics.

"About a month ago, my wife videotaped me and I saw my swing plane was over the top, so I'm working on a flatter plane," he said.

Schultz has won two of four tournaments he's played in the last two weeks in the PGA Middle Atlantic region.

Last year, Schultz was in contention for a position in the PGA Championship, but faltered down the stretch in the qualifier at Longaberger Golf Club near Columbus, Ohio.

The PGA switched its format this season, allowing for the monster number of players in the qualifier. In a survey, many club pros said too much time was being spent away from their respective clubs during section and regional qualifying and the old CPC.

Schultz didn't mind the old format.

"I'm sure a club understands the time spent away and playing in such an important event," he said. "It made the PGA a lot of money."

The host course, Atunyote, entertained two Eastern Regionals under the CPC format. Shenendoah is ranked the No. 2 public course in New York behind Bethpage Black. More than 1,200 volunteers are working the event.

The Golf Channel will have coverage each day from 4 to 6 p.m.

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