There is absolutely no hesitation in Brendon Todd. After spending more than a third of his life growing up in McMurray and learning to play golf with his brothers at Rolling Hills Country Club, he definitely considers himself a member of a rare club -- a Western Pennsylvania native who has won a PGA Tour event.
Right up there with Arnold Palmer, Rocco Mediate, Jim Simons and Mike Nicolette.
Todd, 28, performed the feat two weeks ago when he won the HP Byron Nelson Classic for his first PGA Tour win. Few people around here knew about Todd's roots to Western Pennsylvania because his family moved to North Carolina when he was 11.
But he was born in Canonsburg Hospital in 1985, went to McMurray Elementary School through fifth grade and would hang around the golf course and swimming pool at Rolling Hills.
"I've probably changed a lot since then," Todd said over the phone. "But there's no doubt I developed my passion for golf at Rolling Hills. It's a fond memory for me. I remember getting dropped off in the summer, playing golf with my brothers in the morning and going to the pool in the afternoon."
Todd did not begin to develop his talent for golf until after his family moved to Carey, N.C. There he won the state high school championship three times in his four-year career, competing against the likes of 2012 U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson. He went to Georgia on a golf scholarship and helped the Bulldogs win the 2005 NCAA title on a team with PGA Tour players Chris Kirk and Kevin Kisner.
Despite being gone for 17 years, Todd hasn't lost his passion for Pittsburgh sports. He follows the Steelers and Penguins fervently and said his dream foursome would consist of playing with Jack Nicklaus, Michael Jordan and Mike Tomlin. When he talked about getting married at the Ritz Carlton Lodge at the Reynolds Plantation resort in Greensboro, Ga., he noted, "That's where Ben [Roethlisberger] has a house."
"I'm a big Mike Tomlin fan," Todd said. "I think he's done a pretty good job. The draft was solid for what they needed.
"But I love Pittsburgh sports. I remember growing up painting my face black and gold, the Neil O'Donnell Super Bowl interceptions; I have a lot of memories of the Stanley Cup days. I still pull for those two teams pretty hard."
Palmer on the mend
One month after thinking he might need surgery to relieve back pain caused by spinal stenosis, Palmer is feeling much better and said he will not need an operation.
Palmer, 84, went to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., after the Masters and was told by doctors there that physical therapy should help alleviate a lot of the discomfort he was feeling.
Palmer had difficulty walking and finishing the nine-hole Par 3 Contest in April at the Augusta National Golf Club, causing him to consider surgery.
"I'm fine," Palmer said at his office in Latrobe. "I'm doing physical therapy and I feel great. They put a shot in there and it helped. They decided that this physical therapy, if I continue it long enough, it might help me."
Curiously, Palmer said the only tournament from which he ever withdrew -- the 1969 PGA Championship in Dayton, Ohio -- was because of back pain. He said he initially hurt his back playing in a tournament in 1966 in New Orleans and "it really never left."
Said Palmer, "I continued to play and never did anything [about it]. I went to every doctor in the world and they never did anything. Only recently did they surmise it might be stenosis."
Local teen has prime chance
At 17, Luke Miller is not the youngest player in the country to advance to a sectional qualifier for the U.S. Open. But he is the youngest from Western Pennsylvania -- even though he doesn't always live here.
Miller will be in Columbus, Ohio, Monday for a 36-hole sectional qualifier at two clubs -- Scioto and Brookside -- hoping to beat out a slew of PGA Tour players for one of the spots into the U.S. Open that begins in 11 days in Pinehurst, N.C.
It might seem like déjà vu for Miller, who watched his older brother, William, fail to qualify for the U.S. Open several years ago at Scioto.
"I'm really excited," said Miller, who was one of four players to make it through a local qualifier at Valley Brook CC in McMurray.
"Watching my brother when he was 18 play at Scioto, seeing the golf course before, the confidence where my game is right now, I'm going to go and try to have some fun."
Miller and his family live in Venetia in the summer, but he has gone to Lakewood Ranch High School in Bradenton, Fla., the past three years, helping his team win the state championship each year.
But Miller said he thinks he might stay here for his senior year and go to Peters Township High School.
"This is where I grew up; I've been around all my friends," Miller said. "I thought I could get better and prepare for college by going to Florida."
Miller turned 17 in April, but he is not the youngest player trying to make it to the U.S. Open.
Two 15-year-olds -- Easton Paxton of Riverton, Wyo., and Andrew Orischak of Hilton Head, S.C. -- also advanced to the sectional round. So did six players who are 16.
While Miller is the youngest from this area, Oakmont professional Bob Ford, 60, is the oldest player in the country to reach a sectional qualifier.
Ford and Nevillewood's director of instruction Kevin Shields will play in a 36-hole qualifier in Purchase, N.Y.
Mike Van Sickle, a medalist in the local qualifier at Valley Brook, will compete in a sectional qualifier in Rockville, Md.
How about that?
There is nothing ordinary about the holes-in-one registered by Al Piesik of McKeesport.
He had his fourth career ace May 23 at Youghiogheny Country Club, his home course, and it came at No. 5, a 154-yard par-3, with a 5-wood.
That should not be surprising. All of Piesik's holes-in-one have come at a No. 5 hole.
His first ace came at the same hole in 1991. In 2007 he had another hole-in-one at the fifth hole at Diamond Run Golf Club in Sewickley. Several years later, he had his third ace on the same hole at Diamond Run.
"All on a No. 5 hole," said Piesik, a 22-handicap.
But that's not all.
Piesik's first hole-in-one at Diamond Run came during a shotgun start and No. 5 was his opening hole. His second ace there also came during a shotgun start and No. 5 was his final hole.
"So my first shot and my last shot were holes-in-one," he said.
Dissa and data
• World Golf Hall of Fame member Nick Price has committed to play in the Constellation Senior Players Championship at Fox Chapel GC. Price is the fifth Hall of Famer in the field, along with Hale Irwin, Bernhard Langer, Sandy Lyle and Colin Montgomerie.
• The 36-hole Tri-State Open will be Monday and Tuesday at New Castle CC. Amateur Nathan Smith is defending champ, but he will be competing in the sectional qualifier in Purchase, N.Y.
• Beginning with the 2018 championship at Shoal Creek (Ala.), the United States Golf Association will play the U.S. Women's Open on dates earlier than the U.S. Open. The U.S. Women's Open has been held before the U.S. Open only three times in its 69-year history, most recently in 2001.