Philadelphia Cricket Club’s Bill Sautter, PGA, Leads PGA Quarter Century Championship

By Craig Dolch, Port St. Lucie, Florida

Former professional soccer player Bill Sautter had plenty chances to celebrate Wednesday.

He opened with an eagle and added eight birdies – meaning he played half his holes under par – to shoot a 5-under 67 and take a two-shot lead in the 50-64 division of the PGA Quarter Century Championship at PGA Golf Club.

Sautter played in the North American Soccer League and the American Soccer League for eight years (1978-85). He started playing golf when he was 30 and is a PGA Teaching Professional at Philadelphia Cricket Club.

Sautter eagled the first hole on the Wanamaker Course and added three birdies on the front nine. He added four birdies on the back nine – offset by two bogeys and a double bogey – for the 67. Only seven of 91 players broke par.

Sautter leads by two over Sonny Skinner of Sylvester, Ga., JC Anderson of Bonita Springs, Fl., and Jeff Whitfield of Weldon Spring, Mo. Skinner and Anderson took a similar path – they rode in the same cart and posted identical 3-under 69s, each making five birdies and two bogeys.

“We were trying to keep up with each other,” said Skinner, a six-time PGA Professional Player of the Year. “JC and I have known each other since the late-1980s, if not longer. It was a very comfortable pairing.”

Skinner, a PGA Teaching Professional at Spring Hill Country Club in Tifton, Ga., had three consecutive birdies on the front nine and played even par the rest of the round. Anderson, the Director of Instruction at The Club at the Strand in Naples, had an early and a late bogey and five birdies in between.

“I didn’t know we both shot 69s until we got to the scoring tent,” said Anderson, who has won a pair of Winter Championship events. “I just said, ‘Let’s do it again tomorrow.’”

Whitfield added a 69, thanks to three birdies on the last seven holes. Bill Breen of Nashville is fifth at 70, a shot ahead of Mark Mielke of Jupiter and Kirk Hanefeld of South Hamilton, Mass.

Bob Sowards, recently named Senior PGA Professional Player of the Year, and former PGA Tour member Omar Uresti are part of a group tied for eighth at 72.

In the 65-and-older division, Gary Robison of North Canton, Ohio shot a 6-under 66 on the Ryder Course to take a one-shot lead over Pat Delaney of Springfield, Ohio and Jay Horton of Port St. Lucie. Robison outdueled Skinner to win last year’s 50-64 division, but after turning 65 is trying to win consecutive Quarter Century title in different divisions.

“I wasn’t really thinking about that,” said Robison, the PGA Director of Golf at Brookside Country Club in Canton. “I’m just trying to find my game and have some fun doing it.”

Robison was all smiles after playing the first seven holes in 5-under, thanks to an eagle at the par-5 sixth where he hit a hybrid to 12 feet. He saved par at No. 9 after taking a penalty shot and added a birdie at the 13th.

“I played really well on the front side and tried to stay aggressive,” Robison said. “The greens are in great shape, so you have to stay aggressive to keep moving forward.”

Delaney, who was inducted into the Southern Ohio PGA Section Hall of Fame two years ago, said he was looking forward to turning 65 last October because he became one of the youngest players in his division.

“I knew I was moving to a different age group and it motivated me to come down and play,” said Delaney, a PGA Professional at Reid Park Golf Course in Springfield. “It would be a hoot to win.”

Horton also got off to a hot start – he was 4-under after seven holes – and made six birdies and a bogey. Tied for fourth at 68 are Jerry Tucker of Stuart, Bobby Heins of White Springs, N.Y. and Paul Gooden of Savannah.

A player has to be a member of the PGA of America for 25 years to be eligible for the Quarter Century Championship.

In the Half Century Championship, brothers Tom Joyce of Huntington, N.Y. and Bob Joyce of Southampton, N.Y. are tied for the lead with 2-under 70s. Tom Joyce won the title last year.

Paul Kelly of Dorset, Vt., at 88 the oldest player in the field, shot a 73, as did 85-year-old Bill Moser of Vero Beach.

The PGA Winter Championships are presented by GolfPass and PrimeSport.