Vero Beach’s Ben Cook targets weak PGA Pro at PGA Championship
Ben Cook’s first goal this week was to make the cut to the PGA Championship on his third try.
After shooting a 3-under 69 in Saturday’s third round at Kiawah Island, SC, he has a higher and achievable ambition: to be a weak PGA Professional.
Cook, who spends his winters as a PGA Professional at John’s Island Club in Vero Beach, is 2 of 218 and in the top 35 to enter Sunday’s final round of the PGA Championship on the dreaded Ocean Course.
Cook was in a close battle with Brad Marek, the other PGA pro to make the cut. But when Marek hit a quintuple Bogey 8 on the difficult par-3 17th hole on Saturday, Cook took a six-stroke lead over Marek, who is 8 of 224 after a 78.
“That’s always the point, to be a weak PGA professional,” Cook said. “The guys who are here are here for a reason and they are really good. We’ll see what (Sunday) has in store. “
Cook, by comparison, birdied on the 17th to punctuate his 69, much to the delight of the large gallery around the hole.
“To birdie in 17 with so many people out there is amazing,” Cook said. “Cheering is crazy, such a cool feeling. You can see why the guys love the fans going out. “
Cook has qualified for the last three PGA Championships, but has missed the cup the last two years. He played the first two rounds last year with 36-hole leader Haotong Li. Cook said he learned from Li that he doesn’t have to play perfect golf to score well.
After opening with a 72 on Thursday, Cook struggled with a 77 on Friday. He didn’t know until Friday night that he had made the cut.
Cook played alongside former US Open champion Webb Simpson, and they tied 69. Simpson said after the round that Cook had the talent to play on the PGA Tour.
“It’s super sweet,” said Cook, who is 28th in points on the PGA Tour Latinoamerica. “And that’s the end goal for me. Hopefully, with some good finishing touches, I’ll be moving to the Korn Ferry for the fall. It just proves the work I did this week and the winter paid off and it’s fun to see where it is.
The 27-year-old cook is 18 holes away from earning low PGA professional honors and making a good paycheck.
“Hopefully I can be under par for the weekend and maybe have a race on the board, we’ll see,” Cook said. “If I can go under the par total, that will be a huge goal of mine or at least even coming back would be nice.”
Cook was one of three PGA Professionals on John’s Island to qualify for the PGA. The other two, Brett Walker and Tyler Collet, missed the cut.