Category - Member Events
Preston Cole Captures Walk-off Win at 2023 National Car Rental Assistant PGA Professional Championship
By Craig Dolch
Preston Cole earned his first victory Sunday as an Assistant PGA Professional, and it came in walk-off fashion.
Protecting a two-shot lead on the 18th hole of the National Car Rental Assistant PGA Professional Championship, Cole knew he needed to hit his pitching wedge from 124 yards close to clinch the victory.
How about it hitting just short of the cup and bouncing it into the hole for an eagle? On the toughest hole of the Wanamaker Course on Sunday?
“I knew I hit it good, but I didn’t see it go in,” said Preston, who works at Quail Hollow Club (N.C.). “It wasn’t until everyone started cheering that I knew it was in. Then it was just relief because I knew it was over, and I had won.”
The hole-out put an exclamation point on Cole’s 4-under 68 – the low round of the day -- that lifted him to 13-under 275. Adding to the moment, both of Preston’s playing partners, Mike Ballo of Westchester Country Club and Zac Oakley of Bidermann Golf Club, hit their approaches to No. 18 and both watched them stop inches next to the cup.
“That was an exciting way to finish,” Cole said. “We put on a great show there.”
Ballo was hoping he was going to be the one to slam-dunk his wedge from a few yards closer to force a playoff. But all he could do afterward was congratulate Cole’s heroics.
“Pretty impressive what he did there,” Ballo said. “At that point, you shake the guy’s hand and say ‘Great playing.’ He played awesome all week. I can’t be upset. He deserved to win.”
Cole and Ballo started the final round tied for the lead at 9-under, with Ballo’s brother, Peter, tied with Oakley a shot back in third place. The Ballo brothers were hoping to make history by becoming the first siblings to finish 1-2 in the National Car Rental Assistant PGA Professional Championship.
But Cole was the only player in the last two groups to break 70; he had three 68s during the tournament. Mike Ballo’s 71 left him two strokes ahead of his brother, Peter (72), who tied for third place at 8-under 280 with Oakley (72). Dylan Newman (72-281) of Meadow Brook Club was fifth.
“One of us Ballo brothers will win this tournament at some point,” Mike Ballo said. “It’s pretty impressive we finished 2-3.”
The victory earned Cole $12,500 and a spot in the 2024 PGA Professional Championship at PGA Frisco’s Fields Ranch in April. Cole, the Ballo brothers and Oakley earn exemptions into the 2024 National Car Rental Assistant PGA Professional Championship.
For more about the National Car Rental Assistant PGA Professional Championship, supported by Srixon, Cleveland Golf, Asics, visit here.