Greenwich golf pro Balin making the most of his PGA experience

Danny Balin, golf professional at Greenwich’s Burning Tree Country Club, hits his tee shot on the ninth hole during the first round of play at the 95th PGA Championship, at the Oak Hill Country Club, on Aug. 8 in Rochester, N.Y. — photo courtesy of Darren Caroll/The PGA of America

Danny Balin, golf professional at Greenwich’s Burning Tree Country Club, hits his tee shot on the ninth hole during the first round of play at the 95th PGA Championship, at the Oak Hill Country Club, on Aug. 8 in Rochester, N.Y. — photo courtesy of Darren Caroll/The PGA of America

Danny Balin has become one cool customer competing in the grandest stage of the golf world.

After three consecutive years of battling the best golfers in the world during the PGA Championship, the fourth major of the year for golf, it would be easy for Balin, the PGA assistant professional at Greenwich’s Burning Tree Country Club, to start to feel like it’s all old hat.

That couldn’t be farther from the truth, as Balin cherishes every opportunity he gets to play in such a high-pressure event.

“It’s an honor to represent the PGA and to play in one of the best tournaments in the world and with the best players in the world,” Balin said. “This is something that you work hard for and you want to play the best you can and compete, but it’s a special week and a celebration of golf and what us golf pros have accomplished throughout the year. It’s our major championship and this was an awesome venue. There were tons of fans and it’s something I’ll keep close to my heart.”

For the third year in a row, Balin was once again in the middle of the PGA Championship, this time taking place at the Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, N.Y.

Balin took to the East Course and finished his two days with an 11-over par 151, netting him tied for 131st at the event.

On the first day of action, Balin said that his bad scores hit the scoresheet when he missed the fairways. Luckily, Balin was able to stay on the fairways quite a bit throughout the opening round and had a solid Thursday.

Balin’s nerves got the better of him early, as he hit a double-bogey on the first hole and another bogey on the second. However, Balin remained under control and scored a par on the third hole and connected on back-to-back birdies on the fourth and fifth holes. On the day, Balin finished a 3-over par 73.

However, it was what Mother Nature did during the second round of the PGA Championship that caused Balin to fall in behind the leaders.

“I thought the greens were going to be a little slower than they were because of all the rain that we got,” Balin said. “But the greens were still very fast. I couldn’t handle that part, I guess. Competing in major tournaments, you have to stay on your best game and play close to perfect and battling the elements makes it hard to stay in that mindset throughout the day.”

Because of the rain during the second day of action, the speed of the greens wasn’t what Balin had anticipated. Despite the heavy rains, Balin was still on target early, netting pars on the first, third and fifth holes. He also birdied the fourth hole. But back-to-back double-bogeys on the sixth and seventh holes didn’t help Balin’s cause.

In that second round, Balin shot an 8-over par 78.

“When things don’t go your way it’s hard to get them back on track quickly, especially on a golf course such as Oak Hill,” Balin said. “I was feeling good early on, but wasn’t able to keep it going.”

One of the biggest strengths for Balin during the event at Oak Hill was his experience competing at the event. Being the fourth consecutive time at the PGA Championships, Balin knows how to handle the pressure of battling in the fourth major of the golfing year. The Burning Tree Country Club pro said that it was all about controlling his nerves.

“Overall I think I handled the crowd and the events throughout the week a little bit better this year,” Balin said. “Going out and playing in a major with people watching you is something you can’t learn from without doing it. To be able to have done it the past three years, I knew what to expect and I was very happy with how I controlled my nerves, other than the first hole. The last 35 holes I stuck to my game plan and didn’t pay attention to the crowds as much as I did in the past.”

Balin’s quest to compete in the PGA Championship started on June 26, when he traveled to Sunriver, Ore. for a competition in the PGA Professional National Championships at the Sunriver Resort. Needing a top 20 finish to punch his ticket to the East Course at Oak Hill, Balin carded a 1-over par 288 and tied for 18th overall.

A few weeks later, Balin was in competition again, as he competed at the PGA Metropolitan Championship on July 15 and he fired a 5-under par 135. He took fourth place overall at the Rockland Country Club in Sparkill, N.Y.

For Balin, one of the ways of staying on his toes leading up to the PGA Championship was to play in events leading up to the event.

Balin participated in both the New York State Open and the Connecticut State Open.

During the 79th annual Connecticut State Open, which took place at the Torrington Country Club, Balin finished tied with five other golfers for eighth place with a 4-under 212 and was only three shots off the lead.

However, it was his dominating performance during the New York Open State Championship, located on the famed Bethpage Black, that had everybody talking. Balin’s final round 72 gave him a total of 206, two strokes better than his next opponent, and earned Balin a repeat as New York Open State champion.

“Both those events were really good for keeping me on my toes for the PGA Championship,” Balin said. “The New York State Open was at Bethpage and that place hosted numerous major tournaments, just like Oak Hill. It was great to play a few rounds out there and get ready for the PGA. You definitely like to put in the extra practice, especially on the short game for me.”

While Balin can officially be called a veteran when it comes to the PGA Championship, he’s always looking to improve on things for another run at next year’s event.

“You learn a lot about yourself when you’re out there on the course,” Balin said. “Things happening that are really good and things you need to work on. You take the overall experience, take the positives from it and move forward. You also learn how to manage your time during the long week, watch and observe what the tour pros do and try to copy that going forward.”

Although the Burning Tree Country Club golf professional wasn’t able to compete during the weekend of the PGA Championship, he still has his fair share of fond memories from the event. The biggest thrill for Balin during his time at Oak Hill took place on the par-5 13th hole on the first day of action. It was a rush that he  won’t soon forget.

“There’s a big hill behind the green where there were tons of fans and when I was there, I had about a 20-footer downhill and it was a really fast putt,” Balin said. “I ended up making the shot and my brother has the video of the shot and the crowds were going nuts. It was something special to have about 7,500 people around you cheering for that shot. It was awesome.”

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