PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. (AP) — Frank Esposito Jr. shot a 3-under 69 on Wednesday for a share of the second-round lead with Stan Cooke in the Senior PGA Professional National Championship.
Esposito, the 50-year-old PGA head professional at Brooklake in Florham Park, N.J., made a 25-foot eagle putt on the par-5 16th in cool, windy conditions on PGA Golf Club’s Wanamaker Course – the site of the final two rounds.
“The greens are a little different than they were when we played here in the winter,” Esposito said. “It absolutely helps if you know the golf course. I just went out and tried to hit some good shots. I drove the ball well and kept it in play. That’s what you have to do.”
Cooke, the 53-year-old PGA general manager and director of golf at Ocala (Fla.) National, had a 71 on the Ryder Course to match Esposito at 8-under 136.
“The wind was totally different today – in a completely different direction,” Cooke said. “I didn’t get on a roll like I did yesterday, but I remained patient. I tried to make a bunch of pars in this breeze. It’s pretty brutal out there.”
Originally scheduled for October at Creighton Farms in Virginia, the event was postponed because of rain and flooding. The top 35 will earn spots in the Senior PGA Championship on May 22-25 at Harbor Shores in Benton Harbor, Mich.
Gene Fieger, the 53-year-old PGA director of golf at the Hideout in Naples, Fla., was a stroke back at 7 under after a 69 on the Wanamaker course. He has had only two bogeys in 36 holes.
“It was a struggle, but I played well and I didn’t hit any real bad shots,” Fieger said. “You have to chip well out here due to the humps on the greens. You must be on the right side of the hole. It’s a tough test. I don’t care who you are, if you make two bogeys in two days out here you’re going to do pretty well.”
Rob Gibbons was 6 under after a 71 on the Ryder Course. The 57-year-old Gibbons, the PGA head pro at Arrowhead in Molalla, Ore., had two eagles, two birdies and five bogeys.
Chip Johnson had the best round of the day, shooting a bogey-free 65 on the Ryder Course after opening with a 77 on the Wanamaker Course. The 51-year-old Johnson, the PGA head professional at Hatherly in North Scituate, Mass., was tied for 12th at 2 under.
“I hit a lot of really good shots. It seemed like I had the perfect club into every green,” Johnson said. “All this wind didn’t bother me, either. I think I’m a better wind player. Today, I had all the shots and it seemed like I was always at the right yardage.”
Ninety players made the cut.