Alex Knoll, seeking to repeat as winner of the Philadelphia PGA Professional Championship, fired a 3-under-par 69 Tuesday at the Country Club of York and held a two-stroke lead after two rounds of the tournament.
Knoll, head teaching pro at Glen Brook Golf Club in Stroudsburg, enters Wednesday’s final round at Bent Creek Country Club in Lititz with a 36-hole score of 9-under 134 after a five-birdie, two-bogey day.
Pine Valley assistant pro Tom Cooper carded six more birdies to add to the eight he converted in Monday’s first round and shot a 70 to hold second place at 136. Three-time champion Rich Steinmetz of Spring Ford had a 67 at Bent Creek to tie Sunnybrook’s Brett Walker (68 at Bent Creek) for third at 138.
The winner at the end of Wednesday will earn $9,000 from the total purse of $72,000. The top 11 finishers will advance to the 2021 PGA Professional Championship, where the top 20 will qualify for the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island, S.C. The original field of 144 players was reduced to 61 Tuesday after the 36-hole cut.
Knoll, 35, who was in the first group to tee off at York, had four of his birdies on the front nine and notched his fifth at No. 18 with a 4-foot putt. After going 5-under with two eagles Monday on Bent Creek’s three par-5 holes, he went 1-over on Tuesday.
“I gave myself chances, I just didn’t make the putts,” he said. “I didn’t putt as well as I did [Monday] but I still hit the ball excellent off the tee, which for these courses have been giving me a ton of scoring opportunities. There was no wind and the greens were receptive, so I was able to hit a lot of good shots.”
Knoll said a second straight championship would be nice, but his focus is on qualifying for the PGA Professional Championship, the national tournament for club pros, for the seventh time in nine years.
“Even though I honestly want to win the golf tournament and play well again, I’ve always been proud that I’ve been able to qualify six of the last eight years,” he said. “I’d like to do it again.”
Cooper, 33, of Clementon, N.J., said he changed his setup a little bit and has been hitting the ball consistently well while making some putts. As for the birdies, they do more for him than just improve his score.
“To make the birdies … mentally I know that I can make some bogeys out there and not worry about my finish,” he said. “So even if I make a couple of bogeys in the round, I know the putter’s working and I can get some more birdies to get it back to even or under par, so it helps the round for sure mentally.”