E.A. Sports Today

Closer to a major

Anniston Country Club pro Driggers qualifies for the PGA Professional Championship, one step away from PGA Championship

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

PENSACOLA, Fla. – Sometimes it helps to have no expectations.

Anniston Country Club professional Steven Driggers really had none when he entered the Alabama/NW Florida Section’s qualifier for the PGA Professional Championship this week. All he did was lead after the first day and Tuesday earned one of the three spots to the main event in April at Belfair in Bluffton, S.C.

The PGA Professional Championship is the club pros’ national championship, their ticket to the PGA Championship, which in 2019 moves to May.

Driggers shot 1-over-par 73 at Pensacola Country Club Tuesday and finished at 4-under 140, tying with Shoal Creek director of golf Eric Williamson. Todd McCorkle of Old Overton shot a final-round 66 to win medalist honors.

It will be the first trip to the PGA Professional Championship for the 48-year-old Driggers.

“I had no expectations whatsoever,” he said. “I probably had not played in about a month.

“It’s an event I play in every year; I just went ahead and signed up for it. I really didn’t know how I was going to play.”

But he played “as solid as I played in a long time” the first day – 5-under-par with seven birdies – and held the overnight lead. He got it to 7-under for the tournament with a birdie on No. 11 Tuesday and then “kind of scraped it around” coming home, making a three-foot par putt on the par-3 18th in the last group of the day to second his spot.

“I didn’t know that was to qualify, but it wound up being the putt that qualified me,” he said. “I wouldn’t say I grinded on it because I didn’t know any better, to be honest. I was grinding on everything coming in.”

Driggers had played only two competitive rounds before this week – one-day events in the section’s Club Car series at the Auburn University Club (the day after the ACC Invitational) and Pine Tree CC – and that limited experience made it a challenge to finish strong.

He still had a share of the lead when he made the turn, but McCorkle, playing in the group in front of him, surged into the lead with consecutive birdies on 11, 12, 13 and 14. Driggers fell back with bogeys on 12 and 13, but at that point all Driggers had to do was hang on and he was advancing.

“I played really solid through the first 11, 12 holes,” he said. “It’s been a long time, three or four years, since I’ve been in contention at a tournament that big. If you’re not in that situation a lot it’s a different animal. You just try to control yourself and slow down the best you can.

“I would’ve loved to have finished a little better than I did … but I did not have any expectations when I went down there and went on to finish second and make it to the next stage.”

On the cover: Anniston Country Club pro Steven Driggers (R) presents the championship trophy to Jacob LeCroy at this year’s Wilfred Galbraith ACC Invitational.

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