ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO/WQRF) — Many of the best pro golfers in the world will be teeing it up next week for golf’s next major the PGA Championship at the Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, New York. Right there teeing it up with them will be one of our own, Chris French.

French is a Byron native and a former two-time All-American at Rock Valley College who now lives in Rockford. He’s a PGA Club Pro and the Golf Program Manager at the Aldeen Golf Club in Rockford. He’ll need a little break from his day job though next week to travel to New York for what now becomes the high point of his career.

“Yea, I think so,” said French. “Obviously my first major. Hopefully not the only one, but definitely the first.”

French is one of 20 PGA club/teaching pros around the country who earned exemptions to the PGA Championship by finishing in the top 20 last week at the PGA Professional Championship in Mexico. He tied for 17th by finishing two strokes under par. He finished strong with a final round 68.

“I kind of in the front nine was bouncing back and forth between birdie-bogey, birdie-bogey, and I got it going on the back nine,” said French.

French came close to qualifying for the PGA Championship two years ago when he was in the hunt at the PGA Professional Championship in Port St. Lucie, Florida. He just missed out by two strokes when he tied for 29th.

“I think that’s kind of made me realize that I do have the game to make it.”

“I honestly wasn’t playing that great heading into last week, because we’ve had pretty bad weather this spring. It’s hard to prepare, and you’re playing against guys that played in climates year-round.”

French says he has only attended one PGA Championship. That was as a spectator in 2010 when it was held in Wisconsin at Whistling Straits. He has never been to Oak Hill.

“I don’t know anything about it,” said French of Oak Hill and the golf course. “I’ve watched a fried egg video on it (the course). “That’s about it so far.”

French will leave for Oak Hill this Saturday and get some practice rounds in. Until then, he’ll try as best as he can to stay sharp.

“Hit as many balls as I can. Play a few holes in the evening. Chip and putt as much as I can.”

When next Thursday arrives and it’s time to compete at the PGA Championship French will try to make the most of the opportunity.

“I think more than anything just try to have fun. I obviously have high expectations any time I tee it up, but it would be pretty ridiculous for me to go in there thinking I’m going to win the thing. So just try to have fun for the week, and if I can make the cut, I think that would be a win.”

Here’s another perk to French qualifying for the PGA Championship, it automatically puts him into the final qualifying event for the U.S. Open in June.

French becomes the first local man to compete in one of the four major golf tournaments since Rockford’s Brad Benjamin played in the U.S. Open in 2011 and in the Masters in 2010.