Ben Polland interview

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PGA Director of Golf, Shooting Star, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Posted on
May 15, 2024
by
M. James Ward in ,
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

LOUISVILLE, KY. The PGA of America is unique among golf's four majors championships in that the top twenty finishers in the Professional Championship are extended invitations to play in the event.

Ben Polland, the 2024 winner, is no stranger to playing in the PGA Championship as he has played three times previously. He finished as runner-up in the 2015 event followed by a T-13 in 2016 and a fifth-place finish in 2021.

The 33-year-old native of Minneapolis also claimed the 2016 National Car Rental Assistant PGA Professional Championship. Polland was also a member of the victorious U.S. 2022 PGA Cup Team and a member of the 2015 PGA Cup Team.

Winner, 2021 Rocky Mountain PGA Player of the Year; 2021 Rocky Mountain PGA Assistant Championship; 2014 Metropolitan PGA Professional Championship; 2020, '16 Metropolitan PGA Assistant Player of the Year.

A 2013 graduate of Campbell University's PGA Golf Management University Program, he played a vital role as his Campbell squad won the 2012 PGA Jones Cup.

Worked at Deepdale Golf Club in Manhasset, NY and served under Darrell Kestner, 1996 PGA Professional Champion and 2017 National PGA Golf Professional of the Year.

Polland arrived at Shooting Star in November of 2020, and became Director of Golf in February of 2022.

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What did it mean to win the Professional Championship?

It means a lot to me to win the PGA Professional Championship. It is a tournament that my mentors have won and is something I've always looked up to as the pinnacle of competition amongst all PGA Professionals.

(Ryan Lochhead/PGA of America)

What was the hardest part in coming down the stretch of the event?

Keeping to the task at-hand and not letting my mind wander to results, what others are thinking, or what was at stake.

It takes a lot of focus to block that stuff out in the moment and I think it is something I am just learning how to do now.

 

How hard is the time factor for you to sufficiently prepare for the event in concert with the myriad of your other activities in representing your club?

All PGA of America Golf Professionals struggle to balance work and time to practice their game. I had mentors in Darrell Kestner and Matt Dobyns that both valued good golf and playing well in tournaments, and they both had their priorities straight.

They knew what their job was at the club and that came first, and any free time there was after that, it was time to go play 3 holes, putt for 15 minutes, or hit balls for 30.

I love my job at Shooting Star and have great team to work with. I do my best to help everyone understand that the better we are at preparation and efficiency in the scope of our job, we will have more opportunities to do what we love – play!

 

Michael Block finished T15 last year at Oak Hill – the first club professional to break the top twenty since Jeff Overton in 1988. Should twenty spots be rewarded for those among the highest finishers in the Professional Championship when the simple reality is that the competitive position is just not present to warrant that many spots?

I will always defend the spots that PGA Professionals earn on the Corebridge Financial Team in the PGA Championship. It is the PGA of America's major and playing good golf is a core belief of our Association.

Having those spots each season is a major factor in driving PGA Professionals to work on their game, represent their club, and realize a dream of playing in a major. It is in the spirit of our major to have these spots, similar to the US Open or Open Championship having open qualifying stages for others to compete.

On another note, the PGA Championship, more times than not, has the strongest field of any major with the twenty PGA Professionals that are playing. Michael Block reminded the world that we can play as well as PGA Professionals, and I'm glad he did that.

This year's PGA Championship will be played at Valhalla. Have you ever played there and what will be your practice rounds formula in getting ready for Thursday's first round?

I've never played Valhalla but I remember it from former PGAs and the Ryder Cup. It looks to be a long and challenging course that tests all facets of the game.

I am playing a couple rounds on our simulator this week in Jackson Hole. That's the only practice I have prior to the events since I'm looking out my office window right now and its snowing.

 

Who will be your caddie for the PGA Championship?

Cliff Dill is my caddie for the PGA.

The same caddie I had in the PPC. Cliff was with me for the last 3 PPCs and we always have a good time on the course. I like our team dynamic, and we are starting to feel more comfortable together when the stakes are high.

 

You've played in the PGA Championship before. What did you learn from past involvements and what do you see doing differently this time around?

My first two PGAs were in 2015 and 2016 at Whistling Straits and Baltusrol. I was a fish out of water in those events, not really knowing how to approach a four-day tournament – the 2015 PPC was my first four round tournament ever.

Since then, I've played on different tours and found how I like to a approach a tournament week. I felt a lot more comfortable in 2021 at Kiawah, but my game just wasn't there.

This time I will put a game plan together once we see the course and will do our best to stick to that through the week.

Ben Polland with his caddie, Cliff Dill (Ryan Lochhead/PGA of America)

How will you measure success at Valhalla?

A lot of people talk about making the cut at the PGA being the goal, but I've learned that the more you think about the cut during a tournament, the more often you find yourself near it or above it.

I always measure my success by asking whether or not I tried my best on every shot. Experience is what helps to accomplish that over the span of a golf tournament.

At the end of the day, if I do that, my skill level will put me exactly where I'm supposed to be.

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About M. James Ward

A GWAA and MGWA member, the 66-year-old from the USA has covered golf in all facets since 1980, notably the major championships and other high level events. He has played over 2,000 courses globally and has competed in USGA Championships.

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