Hocknull looks to defend title at Southwest PGA Championship

Craig Hocknull swings his golf club. (Submitted Photo)

Due to his work schedule, Craig Hocknull hasn’t played in many Southwest PGA events in 2017 — only six to be exact.

The seventh will be when he defends his title in the 60th PING Southwest PGA Championship, scheduled to take place Sept. 11-13 at Ak-Chin Southern Dunes Golf Club in Maricopa.

“I’m very excited to defend my title as the Southwest PGA Championship is such a prestigious event,” Mr. Hocknull said in a prepared statement. “Southern Dunes is such a great tournament venue and I’m really looking forward to competing in the championship.”

Mr. Hocknull, a 42-year-old PGA Director of Instruction at Outback Golf Academy, has made the most of his abbreviated playing schedule. He saw success in his last three tournaments — all Southwest PGA majors — finishing tied for third in the Southwest PGA Match Play Championship, winning the Southwest PGA Professional Championship and most recently, a tie for fifth place in the 74th Arizona Open Championship, a press release states.

He has the opportunity to become the first person to win the Southwest PGA Professional Championship and Southwest PGA Championship in the same year since Don Yrene accomplished the feat in 2003.

Mr. Hocknull also can become the first professional to win back-to-back Southwest PGA Championships since Dean Vomacka won in 2008 and 2009, according to a press release.

“Winning these two Southwest PGA majors in the same year would be very cool,” he said in a prepared statement. “Dean is a friend and to go back-to-back like he did would be a great accomplishment. It’s hard enough to win one of these events let alone both majors in the same year and defend a title on top of that.”

Mr. Hocknull won last year’s Southwest PGA Championship after posting a 54-hole total of 12-under-par 204 that included an opening round 64, the low round of the Championship.

His margin of victory was four strokes over Desert Mountain’s D.K. Kim and Bobby Pancratz from Parsons Xtreme Golf. Mr. Hocknull earned $6,000 for the victory and an exemption into the PGA Tour’s 2017 Waste Management Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale.

Michael Hopper leads the 2017 Southwest PGA Player of the Year points race by nine points over Marty Jertson with only three events remaining.

Mr. Jertson, a 37-year-old PGA Professional and Senior Design Engineer at PING Golf, was atop the leaderboard the entire year until Mr. Hopper, a 33-year-old PGA Assistant Golf Professional at Lookout Mountain Golf Club, surpassed him following his tie for seventh finish in the 74th Arizona Open Championship.

In third place is Dennis Downs, a 35-year-old PGA Director of Instruction at Reid/West Golf Academies (Pebble Creek), who trails Mr. Hopper by almost 100 points for player of the year.

All three will be paired together for the first two rounds of the Championship beginning Monday, Sept. 11 at 8 a.m. off the 10th tee.

The 2017 starting field features 82 participants including eight past champions: Mr. Hocknull (2016), Mr. Downs (2015), Mr. Hopper (2014), Paul Trittler (2013, 2007), Jon Stanley (2011), Mr. Vomacka (2009, 2008), Jeff Yurkiewicz (2002) and Mike Franko (1993).

The first and second rounds will be Monday and Tuesday, Sept. 11 and 12, respectively, at 7:30 a.m. off hole Nos. 1 and 10. Following 36 holes of play, the field will be cut to the low 36 scorers plus ties for the final round on Wednesday, Sept. 13.

The Southwest PGA champion will receive an exemption into the 2018 Waste Management Phoenix Open, scheduled for Feb. 1-4, 2018 at TPC Scottsdale.

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