Dulac on Golf: Stellar performance just in time for local pro

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Funny thing about Steve Wheatcroft, a Washington, Pa., native who keeps bouncing between the PGA Tour and the Web.com Tour: He prefers to play in tournaments in which the winning score is around par, yet he has won two tournaments in which his combined score is 53 under.

That's right. Fifty-three under par.

"For a guy that enjoys playing courses where even par is a good score, I've got two wins and 53 under for those wins," Wheatcroft said. "I don't know what goes on for those two weeks."

Wheatcroft, 36, won for the second time in four years on the Web.com Tour when he captured the Albertsons Boise Open last week with a 10-foot birdie on the first playoff hole after shooting a tournament-record 24-under 260.

Combine that with the tour-record 29-under 255 he shot to win the Melwood Prince George's County Open by a record 12 shots in 2011 and it is easy to assume Wheatcroft is not out of his comfort zone when the scores start to go low.

"It came out of nowhere," said Wheatcroft, a Trinity High School graduate. "I still like when par means something. I guess I get hot every now and then on a birdie-fest."

The victory moved Wheatcroft to No. 11 on the Web.com Tour's money list and guarantees him a spot on the PGA Tour -- the third time in the past five years he has earned a battlefield promotion to the big tour.

Problem is, Wheatcroft has never played well enough on the PGA Tour to stay there for more than one season.

Nonetheless, the win couldn't have come at a better time for him. After missing eight cuts and not having a top-10 finish in 15 starts this season, he was beginning to doubt his ability. And, with his first child due in less than a month, Wheatcroft started thinking it might be time to find a different profession. He even started doing some course reporter work for the Golf Channel.

"It's been a terrible year," Wheatcroft said. "It's been by far my worst year I've ever had out here as a touring professional. I've had so many finishes down near the bottom. I actually started looking elsewhere for jobs and tried to figure out what my next venture was going to be because golf wasn't providing the way it had been in the past.

"I've got a baby on the way in less than four weeks. It's made me re-think everything and where's the money going to come from if I keep playing this poorly."

"Luckily, now I don't have to do that. It's more than special. It was a blessing the way it worked out."

Not so fast on McIlroy ...

After winning the British Open for his third different major title, Rory McIlroy is starting on a path that could make him one of the greatest golfers of all time.

But before anyone wants to start comparing this 25-year-old wunderkind from Northern Ireland to Tiger Woods, remember this:

* McIlroy has 13 worldwide wins in his career. When he was 23, Woods won 13 times in a 13-month period from August 1999 to August 2000.

* McIlroy has been ranked No. 1 in the world for 39 weeks. When he was 25, Woods had been No. 1 for more than 140 weeks.

* After winning his first major, Woods went nine years before missing the cut at a major. McIlroy went four tournaments.

* In his first 24 majors, Woods won six times, or 25 percent of the time. In his first 24 majors, Mclroy won three times.

With his fluid swing, awesome power and ability to get tremendous height on his long irons, McIlroy has the talent to win more majors than Phil Mickelson, Nick Faldo, Arnold Palmer and Tom Watson. If he wins just one every two years for the next 10 years -- a modest pace for a dominant player -- he will have eight majors by the time he is 35. That will still leave him behind Walter Hagen (11), Ben Hogan (9) and Gary Player (9).

And, don't forget, Woods might not be done winning majors, either. Sure, he hasn't won one in six years and hasn't won the Masters in nine years. But I think he still has one, and possibly two, left in him, provided his body doesn't continue to break down. Let's hold off on the Tiger comparisons.

Milestone anniversary

The summer-long Kings Tri-State PGA Junior Golf Series remains very popular, with sold-out fields for most, if not all, of the 15 tournaments.

But one junior tournament seems to stand above the rest.

Monday, Green Oaks Country Club in Verona will celebrate the 35th anniversary of the Dr. Charles Cuden Memorial Junior Tournament.

The event not only honors the memory of Cuden, a Squirrel Hill dentist and one of the founding members of Green Oaks who died in 1978; it continues to honor a family tradition of feeding the players and providing prizes.

The tournament is actually older than the Kings junior series, which is in its 25th year. But the event was so popular the Tri-State PGA incorporated the tournament into its rotation.

The tournament was unique because Cuden's family would provide lunch to the field of junior golfers -- a tradition that was started by Cuden's sister, the late Maxine Goldman. That practice has been continued by Cuden's sons and Goldman's daughters.

Dissa and data

* Twin brothers Ron and Dave DeNunzio of Jeannette won the 39th Baltusrol Invitational with a record best-ball score of 5-under 277. One week later, Ron DeNunzio shot 7-under 137 and was low qualifier to gain one of two spots into the U.S. Amateur. The other spot went to Sean Knapp (139), who, at age 52, qualified for the U.S. Amateur for the 14th time.

* ESPN anchor Jay Harris, who once worked in Pittsburgh, picked a good time to get his first hole in one. Playing in the Coach Michael Woodson Las Vegas Invitational, Harris aced the 190-yard 17th hole at Southern Highlands Golf Club using a 6-iron and won a 2015 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque SUV. Here's the best part: Harris' shot bounced off a hill to the left of the green, rolled onto the putting surface and into the cup. Harris formerly worked as a news reporter at WPGH-TV and morning news anchor at WAMO-FM.

Gerry Dulac: gdulac@post-gazette.com; twitter: @gerrydulac. Listen to "The Golf Show with Gerry Dulac" every Thursday 6-7:30 p.m. on 970 ESPN.


First Published July 25, 2014 1:00 AM

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