Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

SHEBOYGAN, Wis. -- Breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in, breathe out.

That's what Albany golf pro Sonny Skinner is telling himself these days.

Not because he's about to play golf with megastars like Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson at this week's PGA Championship -- nah, he's done that before -- but because he's just been playing so much golf lately.

And it's, well, tiring.

"I'm back at the condo, resting," Skinner said Tuesday from Wisconsin before going back out to play nine holes. "I'm getting tired. But I'll be rested and ready to go (today)."

The River Pointe Golf Club teaching pro has played 10 days in a row, gone through multiple media and photo sessions and participated in recent tournaments like the Georgia Open, the Players Championship and the PGA Professional Championship.

The latter is the reason he's at Whistling Straits Golf Course in Kohler, Wis., site of this year's PGA Championship. Skinner finished runner up for the second time in three years in that tournament, earning himself another spot in the season's final PGA Tour major alongside 19 other PGA teaching professionals.

"I played a lot of years and never made it to a major," said Skinner, who turned pro in 1982. "Then when I step back and become a teaching professional, I find myself in two of them."

Skinner's last PGA Championship was in 2008 at Oakland Hills Country Club in Michigan. While he missed the cut that year, he said this year's course leaves the trophy up for grabs.

Skinner tees off at 10 a.m. today then 3:15 p.m. on Friday.

"I don't care who you are, you gotta be lucky on this course," said Skinner, who caddied for Allen Doyal at Whistling Straits at the 2007 U.S. Senior Open. "There are so many places you can hit the ball where (you don't know where it's gonna go). My goal is just to shoot as low as I can shoot and play golf the way I know I can play.

"You never find a golf course this difficult and demanding unless you're in a major tournament. It's an extreme challenge, but a lotta fun."

That's Skinner's mindset. He may be 49 -- he turns 50 next Wednesday -- but he still views the game like a youngster, focusing on playing the kind of golf he's used to and having a good time in the process.

"My main goal would be to just get out there and play my golf," Skinner said. "A lot of times, when you get into situations like this, you try to be better than you really are, but you gotta get out there on the course and hit comfortable targets (you) know you can hit. I just gotta play my game the best I can, and, if I do that, I'll be able to play four rounds of golf.

"It's just a fun thing to do, being in an arena like this with the majority of the best players in the world. It's really cool."

He's not the only one who thinks it's pretty neat, as Skinner had to get 13 tickets for family and friends who are going to the tournament to support him.

"I get phone calls from people just about every day," Skinner said. "(Joking around like) 'Do (I) need to come up there and give (you) a lesson?' Giving me their 'tips.' "

While his wife, Genia, and daughter, Marlee, won't be up there because of school responsibilities, Skinner said he'll be thinking about them all week.

"My wife's been a huge supporter," said Skinner, who's been married for 20 years. "She wants me to do what makes me happy. She's as much apart of this as I am, even though she's not here. She gives me free rein to chase my dream I've had since I was a kid.

"Next year, they promised me when it's in Atlanta, they'll go," Skinner added. "So all I have to do is get in the PGA Championship next year, and they'll come."

So what would Skinner do if he actually won the whole thing?

"First thing I would do is buy this Mercedes I've been driving around all week," Skinner laughed. "It's the most wonderful vehicle I've ever been in."

While he could afford it if that happened --this year's purse is $7.5 million and the winner receives $1.35 million -- Skinner said he would also just want to keep on playing.

"I'd probably just play more golf on a higher level, playing all over the world. ... But I might surprise you, too. I might just retire!" Skinner joked. "Nah, I want my career to go on and on. When I'm dead, they can just throw sand over me and keep on playing."