DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.--Q school is where dreams go to die. Of the 138 players who teed off Friday at LPGA International in the final stage of qualifying for a 2009 tour card--two have withdrawn--only the low 70 and ties will play Sunday for one of the 20 fully exempt cards, the others going home when 72 holes are completed Saturday.
Some have already given up the ghost, falling too far behind to have a realistic chance, yet they will play on, endure another two rounds because this is what they do: They are professional golfers, and whether or not they gain LPGA status that is how they will always regard themselves.
The players start arriving before dawn, which occurs about 6:30 down here this time of the year, and in the dim light the parking lot is dotted with cars bearing those with early tee times, waiting for the practice range to open at 7. In dark cars the occasional face of an anxiousparticipant is lit by the glow of a cell phone.
Lawnmowers rumble in the darkness, moving across the Legends and Champions courses like giant bugs, their headlights searching the predawn sky for their path. The sounds of the mowers mixes with the clank of irons rattling in a bag being removed from the trunk of car.
Caddies and parents of Korea players squat on their haunches Asian-style behind the glowing tip of cigarettes as the players make parking lot practice swings. Some ponder the reality that has already emerged.
"We're done," says a veteran LPGA caddie, looping for a player who has earned and lost a card multiple times. "We've got no chance, but we've got to play two more rounds." For the pride of the player and the job security of the caddie, it's best the identity of both remain anonymous.
Among those for whom the dream remains very much alive are Michelle Wie, Shiho Oyama and Stacey Lewis, who tee off together at 10:16 Friday on the Legends Course, the more difficult of the two tracks. Wie and Oyama are leading at 10 under par with Lewis a stroke behind.
If the tournament had ended after 36 holes on Thursday there would have been an 11-way playoff among those at two under par for the final two cards. So assuming the scoring conditions remain the same--and they have been perfect for two days--it appears as if four under par will be the magic number.
Wie, Oyama and Lewis can play even par from here in and pretty much be guaranteed playing privileges for 2009. What will be interesting now as the three are paired together is if they try to win, or merely try to hold their position. That's part of what we will learn in Friday's third round.