KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. – While Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas and Xander Schauffele were sent packing from the 103rd PGA Championship, PGA teaching professionals Brad Marek (pictured above) and Ben Cook survived the 36-hole cut at the Old Course at Kiawah Island Resort.
“First PGA Tour event, to make the cut on this golf course is pretty much a dream come true,” Marek said.
The 37-year-old teaching pro from the Northern California PGA Section posted a 1-over 73 Friday and 2-over 146 for the championship (T-32). Cook, 27, PGA Director of Instruction at Yankee Springs Golf Course, Wayland, Michigan, was leaking oil on the closing stretch of the Pete Dye layout, but managed to par the final two holes to make the cut on the number (72-77—149) for the first time in three appearances.
“It’s been a cool week,” Cook said. “I’m out here on the putting green hitting putts next to my heroes, and I have a great support team here. I feel very blessed.”
Marek, who played college golf at Indiana, competed professionally for nine years on a variety of tours, winning 15 times in that span, including a couple of times on the Dakotas Tour.
“I chased mini-tours nine or 10 years after college, always with the goal of trying to get out here. Obviously didn’t attain that via the regular route, but as soon as I was done playing, I knew I wanted to be a part of the PGA for the opportunities like this on the playing side,” he said.
Marek, who tied for eighth at his first PGA Professional Championship to earn a spot in this week’s field, runs his own junior golf academy out of Corica Park in Alameda, Calif., for players with aspirations of playing college golf.
“Everybody in that has a goal of trying to move up to the next level in terms of their golf,” he said.
What could provide greater inspiration to his students than to see their coach holding his own with the best players on the planet on one of the toughest courses on the planet. Marek opened with 73 on Thursday, and began his second round with two birdies, including rolling in a 20-foot birdie putt from the fringe at No. 10. The course toughened beginning at 14 when the wind flipped into his face.
“You just know for the next nine holes, you’re just holding on, trying to keep your head above water and hopefully get a little bit of reprieve 6 through 9,” he said.
He made a “miracle bogey” on 18, and then pitched in at 2 for birdie.
Said Marek, who ranks second in Strokes Gained: Around the green through two rounds: “It was a really good shot but did not expect that to go in.”
Nor did he expect to drain a 35-foot birdie putt at No. 9, his final hole of the day. (He ranks ninth in SG: Putting.)
“It was getting really dark, and I was just trying to get it out there and just dribble it down the hill so I had a kick-in,” he said, “and I still can’t believe that thing went in.”
Speaking as much for Cook as for himself, Marek explained why it was important for two of the 20 club professionals in the field to make the cut.
“Any time one of us can make the cut, I think it’s really good for,” Marek said. “I think there used to be 25 spots in this and it got reduced to 20, so I feel like any time a couple of us can make the cut and represent the PGA well, I think that bodes well for the organization as a whole and just kind of shows the type of players that are at the top level of the PGA of America.”