MENASHA – An Appleton native is set to tee off alongside the likes of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Steve Stricker.
Ryan Helminen, who teaches a Ridgeway Country Club in Neenah, will compete at the P-G-A Championship next month and for the teaching pro, it’s the opportunity of a lifetime.
“The goal that I set at the beginning of the year was to make it. I’ve had great years in the past but I’ve never achieved this goal,” the 39 year old Helminen said. On his seventh attempt to qualify, Helminen earned his spot in the PGA championship fulfilling a longtime longing. “I always kind of felt like it was a piece I needed to add.”
He made the PGA Championship field by finishing in the top 20 at the national club PGA professional tournament. He even did it the hard way, earning the very last spot in a playoff, coming though under that kind of pressure gives Helminen piece of mind moving forward.
“I think when I get another opportunity to do it again or at the national championship I’ll be prepared for that. I’ll have a better understanding of how to control the adrenaline. But once I got the final spot it was almost like a dream come through.”
This will be the first PGA Championship for the sweet swinging former Wisconsin Badger. He has played in three PGA Tour events and said no matter the level of competition you still have to drive it, pitch it and putt it.
“You’ve got to look at it’s just golf, Helminen said. “It’s 18 holes each day. I can’t get caught up in trying to hit it further or try to hit shots I’m not comfortable hitting.”
There are 28,000 PGA professionals in the United States. Only 20 make it into the PGA Championship field. Helmininen is honored to tee it up for them a national stage.
“It’s nice that they let 20 of the top club pros in. It makes stories like this possible. I think it adds another dimension to the tournament. Like I said and make sure this experience is one I can remember for the rest of my life.”