AVERILL PARK, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Albany native Justin Hearley, who’s the head pro at Burden Lake Country Club in Averill Park, will be one of 312 golfers pursuing a spot in a PGA Tour event this weekend.
The Christian Brothers Academy product is set to compete in the PGA Professional Championship at Twin Warriors and Santa Ana Pueblo Golf Clubs in Santa Ana Pueblo, New Mexico, where the top 20 finishers earn a spot in next month’s PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester.
“It’s an unbelievable opportunity,” said Hearley. “Can’t say maybe once in a lifetime, but it could be once in a lifetime.”
Hearley competes in the Northeast New York Section of the PGA. He had to win a qualifying match at Albany Country Club last August just to earn a spot in the Professional Championship.
“Our section’s the smallest in the PGA, so we only get two spots, potentially three in this huge field,” said Hearley. “And, you know, I’m thankful to my family, and (for) all the support from the membership and everything for having my back, and allowing me to do this.”
Last August’s win in the qualifying tournament was just one victory in a breakout season that culminated in Hearley being named player of the year in his section – the first time he had earned that honor.
As he prepares to play on the biggest stage of his career, there’s no deviating from the approach that brought him so much success last year.
“I’m just gonna try to maintain my focus; not try to do anything special,” said Hearley. “My goal is to eliminate the big number. If you can make a lot of pars…looking at the past year’s cut – the last time they were there I think was 2009 – and, like, two over got through the first cut. Make a lot of pars; try to make birdies, and again, just avoid the big number. That was how I was successful last year. I hit the shot I know I could hit; not the shot I thought I should. And then I just try to trust everything, and commit to my process.”
Finishing in the top-20 would be a tall order for Hearley, but he’s relishing the opportunity to compete on the national stage nonetheless.
“I never would’ve dreamt to be here with this opportunity,” said Hearley. “We’re four good rounds of golf away from potentially being in Rochester in a few weeks, playing against Rory (McIlroy), and unfortunately, no Tiger (Woods). But, the top players in the world.”
Hearley will tee off in the opening round Sunday. He’s guaranteed to play two rounds: Sunday and Monday. If he can make the first cut after round two, which encompasses the top-90 scorers, he’ll continue onto the third round Tuesday. And if he cracks the top-70 by the end of the third round, he’ll make the second cut, and be eligible to compete in the final round of the tournament, which is Wednesday.
The PGA Professional Championship will be broadcast on the Golf Channel, with coverage beginning Sunday at 10:00 p.m. est.