Tales From Q School
November 23, 2012
The good, bad, and mostly the ugly from golf's Fall Classic
The cruelest of bad bouncesIn 2004, Joe Daley casually holed a four-foot putt, the ball tumbling into the hole dead center, at which point it mysteriously bounced back out. The metal cup had been inserted into the hole crooked and his ball hit the edge of it, propelling it back out. Naturally, it proved the difference. He missed qualifying for the tour by a single shot and never made it back to the tour, though his story has a happy ending. Now a Champions Tour player, Daley won the Constellation Senior Players Championship this year.
And his father is an accountantIn 1999, Jaxon Brigman thought he needed to make his short birdie putt on the last hole to qualify, but missed. He dejectedly signed his scorecard without scrutinizing it for accuracy and signed for a 66. In fact, he had shot 65. Turns out that 65 was good enough to qualify, but by signing an incorrect scorecard that added a stroke meant that he missed by one. When he learned of his miscue, he sobbed uncontrollably. "It was almost like a death in the family," he said. He has never earned his PGA Tour membership.
__If at first you don'tsucceed...__There is no greater story of Q school futility than that of the inimitable Mac O'Grady. He failed on 16 attempts at Q school and finally succeeded on his 17th try. He celebrated, according to an apocryphal story told by Gary McCord, by purchasing 16 wood baseball bats, writing the date and location of each Q school, then breaking each of them against a pine tree to get rid himself of the demons.
__ 'I choked'__Q school has been a rite of passage for even future Hall of Fame players, including Curtis Strange, who in his first Q School, in 1976, bogeyed his final three holes and missed qualifying by a stroke. "I choked and I couldn't handle it," Strange told Golf World Editor-in-Chief Jaime Diaz. Strange went on to win 17 tournaments, including back-to-back U.S. Opens in 1988-'89.
When his cruise control brokeTim O'Neal could have coasted to the finish line and qualified for the PGA Tour in 2000, when he had a two-stroke cushion with two holes to play. He bogeyed the 17th hole, however, amping up the pressure. Then he hit his tee shot into the water at 18, setting in motion a string of miscues that resulted in a triple bogey. He missed by two. He has never made it to the PGA Tour.
When 59 isn't good enoughTwo players have shot 59s in Q School, though only one of them capitalized on it. In 2008, Harrison Frazar shot 59 in the fourth round on the Nicklaus Tournament Course and ended up winning the event by eight. In 2000, David Gossett (left) shot 59 on the Nicklaus Private Course at PGA West. He failed to shoot in the 60s in any of the six rounds, incidentally, and failed to earn his PGA Tour card.
Not every cloud has a silver liningRain canceled the final round of Q school in 1996, but not before play had begun and two players, Darron Stiles (left) and Briny Baird, had played their way into the top 40 (40 qualified then). Their move up the leader board was nullified when the round was canceled and they failed to qualify. Stiles would not reach the PGA Tour until 2003. Baird has been a mainstay on the tour since 1999.
Too good for Q schoolBen Crenshaw was among the most decorated college players in history, having won three NCAA individual championship (sharing one with Tom Kite) at Texas, yet he still had to endure the rigors of Q school. He was the medalist in 1973, then in his first PGA Tour event as a professional the following week, he won the San Antonio Open.
Making a splashCliff Kresge has been playing on the PGA Tour off and on since 2001, yet he is best remembered for his Q school performance in the final round in 2000, as recounted here in his bio on PGATour.com: "Gained notoriety during (Q school's) final round. Was lining up a long par putt at the water-guarded ninth green when he backed into the water. Climbed out, missed the putt and made bogey. He managed to finish out the back nine holes in rain pants." He birdied three holes on the back nine, tied for 21st and earned his tour card for 2001. Kresge is back in the Q School field this week.
One putt too manyTodd Demsey needed only to two-putt from 10 feet on the final hole in 1998 to earn his tour card. Instead, he three-putted and missed by one. He would not return to the PGA Tour until 2008. Demsey is in the Q school field this week.
Not meant to beSean Pacetti needed only a par on the 18th hole of the Stadium Course at PGA West in 2004 to fulfill his dream of PGA Tour membership. With his family watching hopefully from the amphitheater surrounding the 18th green, Pacetti hooked his tee shot into the water, leading to a triple bogey. Pacetti has never been a member of the PGA Tour and has played in only five tour events.
Not a good career moveTy Tryon was a heralded Florida teenager, who turned pro at 16 and made history a year later in 2001 when he became the youngest ever to make it through Q Schooland earn PGA Tour membership. In 2002, Tryon, 18, missed much of his rookie season with mononucleosis, played the tour unsuccessfully the following year and has never returned.