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‘It’s just playing golf’ with PGA champions

by Stephen Blue

Easy words on the links at Indian Creek Yacht & Country Club in Lancaster. But when you’re at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, New Jersey, an historic 121-year-old venue which has hosted 9 major golf championships, with more than 80,000 spectators in attendance and more than 30 million more tuned in on TV to watch you and over 150 of the world’s top golfers, it’s difficult to believe “It’s just playing golf.”

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Practice Everything. Even after landing an approach shot on the green, Josh Speight often threw a couple extra balls into the bunkers and practiced escaping what will be inevitable jams when the competition begins.

But that’s exactly how Middle Peninsula native & Indian Creek assistant professional Josh Speight is looking at it as he prepares to tee off in the 98th PGA Championship on Thursday morning.

“It’s a little surreal,” Speight said after his final practice round on Wednesday. “It’s been a dream of mine forever to play on the tour, and the fact that it’s a major championship—it’s just that much cooler.”

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A crowded gallery looks on as Josh Speight tees off on the 15th hole.

Speight will be among the earliest golfers to tee off in the first round on Thursday, July 28, with a 7:20 a.m. start time. He will be paired with American Jason Kokrak, a veteran with 121 PGA tournaments of experience over the past 5 years, as well as Kristoffer Broberg, a Swedish native and 6-year veteran of the PGA European tour.

With afternoon temperatures forecast to reach well over 90 degrees, Speight lucked out with the early tee time, which should give him temperatures in the 70s for the majority of his round.

And just in case there are any early nerves, the early time should help. “There won’t be as much crowd out there at 7:20 in the morning,” he said. “When I got the pairings I was pretty happy with my draw.”

Speight spent several hours on the course Wednesday, shooting all 18 holes in one last bit of preparation for the event. He also called on some inside help: Two former teammates on Speight’s Methodist University golf team are assistant professionals at Baltusrol. “They walked the whole course with me today, kinda giving me some hints and tips.”

With as much preparation under his belt as possible, and a solid final round of practice, Speight feels confident going into his first PGA tournament Thursday. “Today was a good day. Today was relaxed,” he said. “That first tee shot is going to be a little nerve wracking tomorrow.”

“But after that, it’s just playing golf.”

Speight tees off at 7:20 a.m. Thursday morning. Also in the field are 2015 PGA Championship winner and current world #1 ranked player Jason Day, and the winner of the last PGA Championship held at Baltusrol, Phil Mickelson.


UPDATE:
After 8 holes Thursday in the PGA Tournament, Josh Speight was 4 over par.

posted 07.28.2016

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