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From the 8/10/11 issue of The Collegian

Danny Balin and Marc Mondelblatt were pledge brothers at the Beta Sigma Beta fraternity in 2000 and 2001, where they became good friends.

Both had been golfing since they were teenagers, but neither took the sport too seriously in college and did not play for the Penn State golf team.

Little did they know, they would eventually forge a partnership on golf's premier professional circuit.

The Class of 2004 golfer and caddy team of Balin and Mondelblatt will compete in this weekend's PGA Championship at the Atlanta Athletic Club in Johns Creek, Ga.

Despite not playing for his college, Balin still played regularly and perfected his craft. He didn't start competing in tournaments until he was 23, Mondelblatt said, but he is now an assistant golf pro at the Burning Tree Country Club in Greenwich, Conn..

"Danny is pretty much a natural," Mondelblatt said. "Most guys who golf their whole lives don't get the chance to play in a major."

Mondelblatt was a finance major at Penn State, and he went on to work for a hedge fund in New York and an energy company in Denver after he graduated. But, he was laid off when the economy took its downturn.

Still, he had caddying as a backup skill and returned to it after he lost his jobs.

"I'd always had a good understanding of the game," Mondelblatt said.

Balin and Mondelblatt remained friends after college, and when Balin heard that Mondelblatt had lost his job, he reached out to him with a caddying offer.

"I got in touch with Marc and he was happy with the offer," Balin said. "Now, we just keep getting better and better together."

Mondelblatt has helped the play of Balin by simply being a friendly presence and understanding his game.

"Danny usually reads his own putts, but I help mostly just by being there for him to talk to," Mondelblatt said.

In an individual sport, sometimes having a familiar face nearby can be a benefit.

"Golf can be a lonely game," Balin said. "It helps a ton having Marc out there with me. He always knows when to ask questions and give me a little confidence. He helps me stay in the moment."

Now, the duo turns their sights to Johns Creek and the major championship.

Balin qualified for the PGA Championship by finishing fourth with a score of nine under par in the PGA Professional National Championship in June at the Hershey Country Club.

Balin and Mondelblatt are already in Johns Creek preparing for the tournament. Balin has played the course four times since he has arrived at the Atlanta Athletic Club.

The length of the course will be one of the deciding factors in the tournament. The Highlands Course, where the tournament will be played for the first time since 2001, is a 7,613-yard par-72 course.

"It's an awesome course," Balin said. "You really gotta hit the fairways and hit them straight. There aren't many holes where you can just attack the pin."

Balin and Mondelblatt agree that the experience Balin received by already playing in a PGA Championship will be invaluable this time around.

"The first time I played in one of these, I was star-struck," Balin said. "Being in the ropes with the greatest golfers in the world — Tiger [Woods], Phil [Mickelson], [Martin] Kaymer, [Lee] Westwood — it was an eye-opener."

Now that he's been there, he knows how to deal with the pressures that come with a major tournament.

"I know how much time to spend on the course and away from the course," Balin said. "That's one of the most important things."

Balin is already getting some national notoriety. On Monday, he was featured on the Golf Channel's "The Golf Fix with Michael Breed," an instructional show. Balin used to work for Breed at the Sunningdale Country Club in Scarsdale, N.Y.

Balin will be a part of the second threesome to tee off. His group includes American Tommy Gainey and Argentinian Andres Romero, and they begin play Thursday at 7:40 a.m.

When talking strategy for the tournament, Balin stressed that he has to avoid the rough because the course is so long that he can bury himself in it. He'll also be abandoning some wedges for heavier irons.

Still, Balin knows what it will ultimately take to win.

"Hit fairway, hit greens, no doubles, no three-putts," Balin joked. "If I can do all that, I think I'll be fine."