Copyright © 2023 Albuquerque Journal

Trent Rommann knows New Mexico golf.

Scenic views. Ball flights at elevation. Target golf. The importance of hitting fairways in blustering winds — or bearing the consequences if you don’t.

“With the desert, you can get lucky and you can have a perfect lie,” he said. “Or you can (hit into) a bush and have to take an unplayable.”

And having a “desert club” in your bag, one to get you out once you get in.

“You’re hitting rocks or cactus or whatever,” he said. “That club takes a beating.”

A state champion for Rio Rancho High in 2001 and now the pro at Crestview Country Club in Wichita, Kansas, Rommann no longer has that club heading into the PGA Professional Championship, starting this Sunday at Twin Warriors Golf Club at Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort & Spa and Santa Ana Golf Club.

This will be the third time the event plays out at Twin Warriors and Santa Ana after previously hosting in 2003 and 2009.

Joining a field of 312 PGA certified golf professionals, assistant pros and general managers coming in from across the country, Rommann will compete through Wednesday for the ninth time to earn a top 20 finish and automatic qualification into the PGA Championship next month at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, New York. It’s an opportunity he narrowly missed in 2018.

“I finished tied for 20th,” he said. “I did not win the playoff. It was a seven-man playoff for one spot … .”

But for a player who worked in the back room at Twin Warriors in the summers, getting out this week will be a sweet feeling in and of itself.

“I just missed it,” he said. “I love the area and I love the golf courses. I was looking forward to it and super excited and happy to be here.”

The PGA Professional Championships are not classified as a traditional professional major, Ã la the Masters Tournament, U.S. Open, PGA Championship and the Open Championship. However, its importance can’t be understated to PGA professionals.

“It is the pinnacle — the biggest and most important event to the PGA Professionals of America … It’s a huge event for club pros,” Rommann said. “And we try to keep our game as sharp as we possibly can (for the tournament).”

Brad Lardon, the director of golf at Los Campanas Golf Course in Santa Fe, agrees. He said the tournament is the “national championship” for PGA Professionals.

“There’s a ton of great players, right?” he said. “There’s 28,000 PGA pros in America, and 312 qualify for this event.

“If you can separate yourself from the pack, a lot of great things happen for you.”

Play will start on Sunday and Monday at both Twin Warriors and Santa Ana before shifting to only Twin Warriors for the final rounds on Tuesday and Wednesday.

OTHER NOTABLE NEW MEXICO TIES: Steve Saunders (former golfer at University of New Mexico and current PGA director of instruction at Temecula Creek Golf Club in Temecula, California)

• Bill Harvey (former UNM basketball player, current director of golf at Ladera Golf Course)

• Garret Howell (assistant director of golf at Las Campanas in Santa Fe)

• Matt Lohmeyer (graduate of New Mexico State’s PGA golf management program and current instructor with SLICGOLF)

• Jonathan Reigstad (NMSU PGA golf management program graduate, head of Reigstad Golf Instruction in St. Paul, Minnesota)

• Charlie Maizel (NMSU PGA golf management program graduate, assistant golf pro at Red Hawk Golf Club, New York)

TITLE DEFENSE: Jesse Mueller, last year’s winner at Barton Creek in Austin, Texas, is no stranger to New Mexico golf.

With the possibility of a repeat in play, it’s unlikely his approach will change much this week.

“I know that I have a chance to win if I play solid golf,” he said. “You never know what’s gonna happen. You got to get some breaks here and there to win events, but I’m gonna try to put myself in a position going into the last couple of days with a chance.”

Mueller won’t be the only reigning champ in the field. The U.S. Team that won the 2022 PGA Women’s Cup (Sherry Andonian, Jennifer Borocz, Joanna Coe, Stephanie Connelly-Eiswerth and Ashley Grier) will be returning for another round at Twin Warriors.