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Skinner shoots one over, five shots off lead

Sylvester resident and Albany golf pro Sonny Skinner will tee it up with the world's most elite field of 
golfers today when the season's last major -- the PGA Championship -- begins at Whistling Straits in Sheboygan, Wis. Skinner will be making just his second career appearance at the prestigious PGA Tour stop.

Sylvester resident and Albany golf pro Sonny Skinner will tee it up with the world's most elite field of golfers today when the season's last major -- the PGA Championship -- begins at Whistling Straits in Sheboygan, Wis. Skinner will be making just his second career appearance at the prestigious PGA Tour stop.

Kohler, Wis. -- For a while it didn't look like Sonny Skinner was going to get a chance to start his round at the PGA Championship. The thick cloud cover and dense fog that blanketed the area Thursday morning made it difficult to find a car in the parking lot, much less watch a golf ball struck down the fairway.

Skinner, the PGA teaching professional at Albany's River Pointe Golf Club, was scheduled to start on the first tee at 10 a.m. But after taking a peek at the sky, Skinner knew that wasn't going to happen.

Turns out, he didn't take his first stroke until around 11:15 a.m. Five hours later, he finished up with a 1-over 73, leaving him with a chance to meet his first goal of the tournament: making the cut.

"That delay didn't matter to me," Skinner said. "It's not the first time I've ever played in a tournament with a fog delay, so I knew what to do."

Skinner got up at 6 a.m. to get to the course in time to start his routine. The later start gave him the opportunity to chow down as he strolled into the player's dining area and ate a big breakfast.

"The PGA has some pretty good hospitality, so I had a big meal. Actually, I ate two meals," he said. "But I needed it."

Things started well for Skinner, who made par on the opening two holes. But he missed the green at No. 3, a 181-yard par 3, and wound up with an awkward lie in the bunker. He escaped the sand, but landed in the thick grass that surrounds the green. He followed that with a bogey at No. 4 -- "A par 4 that plays like a par 5 to me," he later said -- and was suddenly 3-over and moving the wrong way.

His turnaround moment may have come on the seventh hole, where he found himself in thick rough but was able to chip in for a par.

"I told my caddie, that's it," he said. "That's going to get us going."

It did, too. He made a nice par save at No. 8 and birdied the ninth hole to make the turn with a 2-over 38.

Skinner's momentum carried over onto the back nine. He rolled in birdies at No. 12 and No. 14 to draw to even par, then he made a 15-footer to save par on the 15th hole.

Skinner hit a good tee shot at No. 18 and had about 220 yards to the flag. His approach shot was just short, then Skinner got a bad break when the ball landed in the heavy grass around the bunker, rather than in the sand trap. He punched it out, but couldn't get any action on the ball and was left with a 15-foot putt for par, which he missed.

Overall, Skinner said he was pleased with the way he played, especially after the shaky start. Now he'll have to wait and see what starting time he'll draw for the second round. It all depends on how soon the morning wave can get finished, but it isn't likely to be early.

"That's OK," he said. "I'm planning to sleep late. I'm pretty tired and I can use the rest."