FIRE PIT COLLECTIVE
Dear Jay Monahan: Please save Monday qualifiers
Editor's Note: This article first appeared in Fire Pit Collective, a Golf Digest content partner.
Dear Mr. Monahan,
We haven’t met, but I’m Monday Q Info. I write and tweet about Monday qualifiers. Last year, I walked by you on the range at Pebble Beach but was reluctant to say hello. I, of course, had been involved in spats with the PGA Tour, so I avoided eye contact and walked on by. Later that week, a couple of your henchmen stopped me from taking pictures on the range, but that is a topic for another day. I am sure you are extremely busy addressing the future of the PGA Tour, but I hope you can find the time to read this. It is an open secret that elevated events in 2024 will be limited-field tournaments without Monday qualifiers. Before you sign off on that, I have a favor to ask.
At the WM Phoenix Open this week, follow Brett White (above), Andre Metzger (below) and Dalton Ward for a few holes. Those are the three players who Monday-qualified for the tournament. They will be sprinkled in the last groups of each wave. (Monday guys always get the worst tee times.) Walk with them from the 15th green to the 16th tee at TPC Scottsdale. Watch them soak up the most amazing moment of their professional careers as they reach the tee at the raucous par 3.
As you’re well aware, the odds are already stacked against these kinds of players. The odds of becoming a PGA Tour member are somewhere between slim and none. The player credential they received this week may very well hang behind their basement bar in 20 years. The friends they have over will ask about it, and they will gladly retell the moment the crowd on 16 was chanting their name. It will be the 1,000th time they have told it, but their eyes will light up the same way they did the first time.
Maybe they will make the cut in a tournament with a $20 million purse. And maybe they will catch lightning in a bottle. Kenny Knox was selling Amway products out of the back of his car before he Mondayed and won the Buick Open in 1986. Arjun Atwal had just lost his medical status when he won at the Wyndham in 2010 after a successful Monday Q. We all remember Corey Conners winning after getting through on Monday at the 2019 Valero. It jump-started him to becoming the top 30 player in the world he is now.
Find Brett White’s parents and have them describe what they were thinking as they sat by their son’s hospital bed after he was diagnosed with a brain infection that nearly killed him. Ask them what therapy was like five years ago as their son had to learn how to walk again. I have a video of the first time he swung a golf club during therapy. A nurse is holding him up by a gait belt; without it, he would have tumbled over. Ask them if they, at that moment, would have dreamed their son would play in a PGA Tour event.
Talk to Brett’s wife, Natalie, who was nervously eating chocolate-covered pretzels while following my tweets about the Monday qualifier. Ask her how she wore out the refresh button, waiting for the players in the last group to post their scores. Have her tell you about the ticket she bought for the last-minute flight to get to Phoenix, a ticket she couldn’t afford but a tournament she wasn’t about to miss.
Then talk to Andre Metzger’s wife, who has toiled in a full-time job throughout his 16-year professional career so her husband can keep his dream alive. Talk to her about how she juggles her role as wife, mother and unpaid mini-tour travel agent, typically when her husband is off playing an event. Walk with Andre (above) as he heads to the green and look at his sweat-stained Arizona Open hat. He isn’t getting paid to wear the cap; he got it for “free” (the entry fee was about $1,000) when he played in the event last August. Ask him how many mini-tours he has played on. (It’s probably approaching 500.) Then ask him to share some off-the-record stories from the Dakotas Tour. I promise you will laugh your ass off.
Stand to the side of the 16th tee when Dalton Ward (below right) walks to the green. Watch him look around at the over-served patrons. Hopefully, some will heckle him about his stature. (Ward is generously listed at 5-foot-8 on the tour website.) I bet he will soak it all up and have a laugh. If he hits a poor shot, let the boos rain down, as they do on that hole. It is all part of the story. These guys typically play at events with pretty much no spectators. They are going to love the 16th. Trust me.
Check out Andre’s bag; it’s five years old and has traveled in the back of hundreds of rental cars on the backroads of North Dakota. Take note of the logo on Brett’s hat. He posted a tweet looking for companies to help with his expenses for the week. On the side of his hat, you’ll see “Burrito Express,” a small Arizona restaurant chain that paid a few thousand dollars for the space. These folks won’t make much if any of that money back; they are doing it to help a player chase his dream. Look at the new wedges in Dalton’s bag. He just got them from an equipment truck; you have to take advantage of the free stuff when you can.
As you make your walk, think about the combined 35 years these three grinders have played professionally. The miles traveled, the money invested, and the friends who loaned them a few thousand dollars here and there to keep their dream alive. And then, finally, remember that the stories above are from one week. These types of stories play out 26 times a season. A couple of years ago Jay McLuen made the cut after Monday-qualifying for the Sanderson Farms. He has been legally dead twice, and revived, and just a few months before the Sanderson, his wife, Reye, almost died after getting pinned under a tractor.
Then talk to some of your stars about the three players you met on the 16th tee. Talk with Tony Finau. He can relate because it took him seven years to get any status. In fact, he once played in the Monday Q for the Northern Trust. He didn’t beat a single player. Saddle up to Conners and ask how the Valero Monday changed his life. Talk with Seamus Power, who was chasing Mondays just 18 months ago but is now a two-time PGA Tour winner.
I appreciate your position. The top players in the world have always made the PGA Tour what it is. Hogan, Snead, Palmer, Nicklaus, Watson, Mickelson, Tiger and now Rory. I understand that the stars of today are helping shape what the tour will look like for the next five, 10 or 20 years. They see their counterparts with LIV Golf making huge, guaranteed money and want a piece. I don’t blame them. You have to listen to them. They have every right to be demanding, as they are the reasons so many CEOs spend millions of dollars to sponsor PGA Tour events. You’ll get no argument from me on that. My point is that the long shots make the Tour story even better.
You have correctly pointed out that a main advantage the PGA Tour has in this battle with LIV is history. Monday Qs are a part of that history. Yes, they are a small part, but let’s not lose sight of their impact.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. I hope that when you ultimately decide what you want the tour to look like, you will remember the players who are chasing their dreams. They are an essential part of what the tour is all about.
Monday Q Info