2021 PGA Championship
Credit: Darren Carroll/PGA of America/PGA

There was already a reason for Ben Cook to be happy Saturday morning. By the time Saturday afternoon rolled around, he was even happier.

Cook, one of two PGA Professionals to find the weekend at the 103rd PGA Championship, shot a 3-under 69 Saturday – a score that matched his major-winning playing partner, Webb Simpson.

While Cook’s white hat with a black rope had the word ‘Bad’ scrolled across it, his play was anything but. Once he found the weekend, he was able to breathe.

“Because there's no surviving for your life to make the cut anymore and there's no pressure, I felt like my swing was way more freed up in that aspect,” said Cook. “I could go at some pins I might not have the first two days and just try to make some extra birdies and climb the leaderboard.”

Cook bogeyed his final hole of the day but was 4-under through 17 after playing very solid golf through most of the day.

The 27-year-old is one of four PGA Professionals to have played in the last three PGA Championships (2019-2021), and one of three PGA professionals from the same club (John’s Island Golf Club in Vero Beach, Fla.) that all teed it up this week at the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island.

More than 500 members of the club have donated to a fund that helps Cook – who has conditional status on PGA Tour Latinoamerica and sits 28th on the points list – and the other pros with tournament expenses. He said it was “so cool” to be able to represent the [28,000] PGA members as one of two to find the weekend at the Ocean Course.

On Saturday it was a group of vocal friends and family that buoyed Cook all day.

“I'm so thankful and blessed to have that many people supporting me for sure. We probably have 20-plus people that are from my hometown here or close friends and family. And it's just fun to have that,” said Cook. “We had a big camping group that we used to go camping every summer, so a lot of them are my parent’s friends from their high school so they have been close forever and we got to know their kids… and we all would camp for a week every summer. A lot of them are here today.”

But while his friends were in full voice, cheering Cook on as he knocked his tee shot to just 12 feet on the par-3 17th and rolled in the birdie, it was someone he had never met before, Simpson, who was cheering him along just as much.

Cook said the conversation with Simpson flowed naturally, and they talked mostly about the Ryder Cup and which one was Simpson’s favorite. He was also able to glean some course-management tips from Simpson just by observing how the three-time Ryder Cup team member dissected the Ocean Course.

“I was impressed. He seems like he's been on Tour 10 years. You know, a top-50 player in the world,” said Simpson of Cook. “He played great, really all day. I know he's still trying to play, he said, so I wouldn't be surprised to see him out here.”

After hearing what Simpson said about him, Cook replied that it was “super kind” to hear from a player of Simpson’s caliber. 

Simpson said he was most impressed at Cook’s whole day, and mostly at the birdie on 17. 

“My caddie, we walked off the green on 17 and he said, ‘This guy, how does he lose any tournament he plays in?’ He should be out here with us,’” said Simpson. “Impressive.”

Perhaps Cook will be out on the PGA Tour soon, but for now, he’s enjoying the experience at the PGA Championship – with one more day to go.

“It just proves that the work I put into this week and the winter paid off,” said Cook, “and it's fun to see where it's at.”

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