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Jeff Kolpack, Published May 25 2010

Golf: Podolak makes Senior PGA event

Last Friday, Mike Podolak was the fifth alternate to the Senior PGA Championship to be held this weekend at the Colorado Golf Club in Denver. By the time he logged on to his e-mail this morning, he was making plans to get on a plane to Denver.

It almost overloaded the wow meter.

“’Wow’ is right,” he said, while waiting for a flight at Hector International Airport. “I think I’ll catch a few of my friends by surprise on this one.”

The tournament runs Thursday through Sunday. The first two days will be aired by The Golf Channel and the final two rounds will be shown on NBC.

It will be the second professional tournament for Podolak, who qualified for the Allianz Championship in Boca Raton, Fla., in February through a company exemption. He shot a 3-over-par 219, finished ahead of nine players and won $1,955.

That was enough to put him 117th on the money list through May 2 and, as it turns out, was enough to get him in the Senior PGA Championship. It was an unexpected invite in the field of 156 players.

Podolak, an insurance agent affiliated with Allianz, had to forfeit his amateur status for an entire year because of the Allianz tournament.

He figured it was a once-in-a-lifetime event.

Turns out it will be a twice-in-a-year golf experience – something out of a fantasy camp. His name was added to the PGA tournament website on Monday.

Podolak was getting ready for a graduation open house last Friday when he got a call from Bob Denney of the PGA, who informed him that he was fifth on the alternate list.

That by itself caught him by surprise.

“I’m at home on my hands and knees scrubbing the floor, I got the call and I just told him: ‘You’ve got to be kidding me,’ ” Podolak said.

He asked Denney about his chances of playing. Denney’s response: the tournament has gone eight to 12 players deep into the alternative list before. When the final determination came Monday, that he was indeed in the tournament, Podolak had two hours to respond.

“I thought about, thought about it … I guess I gotta go,” he said. “I thought the Allianz was an unbelievable opportunity. This one has taken me by storm.”

He hasn’t been playing much golf, but still feels like his game is pretty sharp. He played at the Detroit Country Club in Detroit Lakes, Minn., last Monday. Then the call from Denney came later in the week.

“It would always be nice to be sharp and catch an event at the best time you can,” he said. “But nobody does that. I think I’ll do just fine.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack at (701) 241-5546