Dublin's Bob Sowards secured another berth in the PGA Championship with a strong showing in the PGA Professional National Championship held June 22-25 in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
He's feeling optimistic entering the 96th PGA Championship because the Aug. 7-10 event will be played on a course where he feels comfortable -- Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky.
"I'm really looking forward to Valhalla," said Sowards, 46, a teaching professional at New Albany Country Club. "I've played there quite a few times. Most (Jack) Nicklaus courses suit my game, so I'm going in confident, trying to shoot under par every round."
The top 20 finishers in the 47th PGA Professional National Championship, which was played at the Grande Dunes Resort Club and the Dunes Golf & Beach Club, qualified for the PGA Championship.
Sowards shot a 1-over-par 289 to tie Dustin Volk and Rod Perry for fifth behind champion Michael Block, who defeated Jamie Broce in a two-hole playoff after tying for first with a 2-under 286.
After shooting a 2-under 70 on the first day, Sowards struggled on day two, finishing with a 77. He bounced back to shoot 70 on day three and 72 in the final round.
"It was a good week," he said. "Fifth is good. It's a tournament that I'm going to look back on and think that I gave it away more so than other guys winning. I shot a 77 the second round, trying to play a little too defensive and not to make mistakes instead of playing aggressive. I feel like I gave the tournament away on the second day."
Sowards has played in the PGA Professional National Championship 13 times, winning in 2004 and qualifying for the PGA Championship seven times. He has yet to make the cut in the PGA Championship.
Sowards opened this year by winning the PGA Stroke Play Championship for a record fourth time Feb. 3-6 on the Wanamaker course at the PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie, Fla. He earned $5,000 for the win.
Sowards made five birdies in seven holes midway through the final round to finish with a 9-under 279 and edge Rob Corcoran, who finished with a 280. He also won the tournament in 2005, 2006 and 2013.
"That tournament is the second biggest of the year (after the PGA Professional National Championship), so to win it is always special," Sowards said. "Being the only person to ever win that event four times is special also."
Sowards' achievements have the caught the attention of the staff at New Albany Country Club.
"Not only is this good for Bob, but it's always neat to have someone from your club have a chance to win or be very competitive," said Cory Luke, the PGA professional at the club. "The ultimate goal is winning and make the PGA Championship and things like that. It's not only myself but for our staff and our members, it's something they really follow and take pride in it."
Sowards was the PGA professional Player of the Year three consecutive years starting in 2003. His career also includes being a three-time Ohio Open winner (2002, 2004 and 2010) and winning the 2007 Southern Ohio PGA Section Championship.
He was named Southern Ohio PGA Player of the Year 10 times between 1996 and 2011.
Sowards played on the PGA Tour in 2008, with his best finish a tie for ninth in the Wyndham Championship in Greensboro, N.C. He earned a career-high $263,327 in 2008.
He has played in the Memorial Tournament in Dublin twice, finishing 79th (297) in 2005 and missing the cut in 2008.
"Your worst day playing is better than your best day working," Sowards said of not playing full time on tour any longer. "The only thing I don't miss is the travel. To have a family, to have an 11-year-old daughter (Jordan), I want to actually be there and hug her every day."