Skinner finishes second, on his way to PGA Championship

Photo by Daniel Kay

Photo by Daniel Kay

FRENCH LICK, Ind. -- Golf tournaments are a lot like weddings. They're fun to attend, but everyone wants to be in the spotlight at least once.

For Sonny Skinner, the PGA teaching pro at River Pointe Golf Club in Albany, that's especially true.

Skinner finished runner-up at the PGA Professional National Championship on Wednesday -- the second time that's happened in the past three years.

"I've been a bridesmaid," joked Skinner, who also finished second in 2008.

Skinner then added:. "Hopefully, down the road, I can enjoy winning one."

Mike Small birdied three of his last five holes and finished with a 1-over 73 to win his second straight championship, holding off Skinner by three strokes after the two were tied for the lead until the 16th hole of the final round.

"I obviously didn't play good enough to win," Skinner said. "Mike Small did good down the stretch, and I just got outplayed."

Skinner shot a 71 for the third straight day and finished the tournament at 5-under, but it wasn't enough to beat Small, who finished 8-under and won his third overall PGA national title, tying Larry Gilbert's record.

"You look back at the four days of the tournament, and I played pretty good," Skinner said.

One of the moments that didn't go Skinner's way was on the second hole of Wednesday's round, where he hit the green with his drive, but it bounced off and he ended up with a double bogey.

There was, however, a huge silver lining to Wednesday's finish for Skinner.

He earned a spot in the PGA Championship on Aug. 12-15 at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin. The Top 20 finishers for the tournament all earned qualifying spots.

And Skinner said he's very familiar with that course.

"I caddied for Allen Doyle (at Whistling Straits) in the U.S. Senior Open (in 2007)," Skinner said. "That course is one of the most difficult courses I've ever seen. I haven't played it, but I know it well. "

It will be Skinner's second appearance in the PGA Championship. While he missed the cut in 2008, he said he's really looking forward to the tournament.

"(The challenge) is the only reason I play golf," Skinner said. "It's going to be the toughest course I've ever played, but it'll be great."

Small became the third player to repeat as champion in the 43-year-old event. Roger Watson also did it in 1974-75.