Some will argue that the second stage – not the final 108-hole tournament – of PGA Tour Qualifying School is the most pressure filled of the entire process.
While no cards are handed out, those golfers who successfully navigate the 72-hole second stage are guaranteed no worse than conditional status on the Nationwide Tour.
Miss at second stage and it’s time to scramble for playing privileges. That generally translates into secondary circuits such as the Hooters Tour, eGolf Tour and Canadian Tour or resorting to the difficult task of Monday qualifying for Nationwide or PGA Tour events.
So the players at the six second-stage sites last week had plenty of incentive, hoping to be among the 156 or so golfers to tee it up at the PGA Tour Q-School final tournament Dec. 1-6 at Orange County National in Orlando. The low 25 and ties will receive PGA Tour cards for the 2011 season. The next 50 are fully exempt on the Nationwide Tour, with the remaining golfers having conditional status on the Nationwide Tour, where the top 25 money leaders will automatically gain status on the PGA Tour for the ensuing season.
Several past USGA champions and USA Walker Cup participants advanced to the final, including two who shared medalist honors.
The following is a brief synopsis from each site:
Redstone Golf Club (Member Course) in Humble, Texas
James Driscoll of Wellesley, Mass., the 2000 U.S. Amateur runner-up and a member of the 2001 USA Walker Cup Team, posted a 13-under-par 275 total to share top honors. Driscoll got off to a strong start with rounds of 66-68 to solidly put himself in position to be among the low 19 and ties from the site.
“I putted really well for the four days,” Driscoll told PGA Tour.com. “I didn’t hit the ball all that great and a lot of times I didn’t know where it was going, but the course was wide enough that I could get away with a few misses.”
Two past USGA champions failed to advance from the site. David Gossett, the 1999 U.S. Amateur champion and Walker Cup participant, missed advancing by one shot at 3-over 291. Chez Reavie, the 2001 U.S. Amateur Public Links champion, finished at 5-over 293, while past Walker Cup participant Brad Elder carded an 8-over 296.
Southern Hills Plantation Club in Brooksville, Fla.
Talk about a feel-good story. Billy Hurley, a member of the 2005 USA Walker Cup Team and a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, registered four sub-70 rounds to share medalist honors at 18-under 270. The Annapolis, Md., resident closed with a pair of 67s to easily advance to the final stage.
A little more than a year ago, Hurley was employed on a Navy cruiser ship based in Singapore. “Obviously my game has come back quicker than I thought it would,” Hurley told Golfweek.com. Hurley is now in position to be playing the PGA Tour in 2011.
“I haven’t really sat back and thought about it,” said the 28-year-old Hurley, who turned pro in 2006 while still completing his post-graduation Navy commitments.
Another past USA Walker Cup member, Billy Horschel of Jacksonville Beach, Fla., joined Hurley by firing a final-round 66 to share 13th at 6-under 282. Two recent U.S. Amateur runners-up also moved on: Ben Martin (2009) of Greenville, S.C., fired a final-round 65 to share third (272) and Michael Thompson (2007) of Birmingham, Ala., closed with a pair of 68s to tie for 11th at 281.
Three past Walker Cup members failed to qualify. Kevin Johnson, who also won the 1987 APL and was the runner-up the following year, shot even-par 288. Johnson played on the PGA Tour in 2010. Matt Every, a 2005 Walker Cup member, also carded 288, while 1989 Walker Cup member Robert Gamez withdrew after 36 holes. Bubba Dickerson, the 2000 U.S. Amateur champion, also failed to qualify (289).
Bear Creek Club in Murrieta, Calif.
Cameron Tringale of Las Vegas, Nev., a member of the 2009 USA Walker Cup Team, tied for 10th despite shooting a final-round 77. He wound up at 1-under-par 287, one stroke ahead of 2008 U.S. Amateur champion Danny Lee of New Zealand, who closed with rounds of 70-71. Lee, who won a European Tour event as an amateur in 2009, had failed to advance out of the second stage last year. Canadian-born Richard Lee of Chandler, Ariz., the runner-up in the 2006 U.S. Junior Amateur, opened with a 65 and finished fifth at 283. Lee turned pro after the 2007 U.S. Open at the age of 16.
Two past USGA champions failed to qualify. Clay Ogden, the 2005 APL champion, finished at 303, while 2002 U.S. Junior Amateur champion Charlie Beljan withdrew after 54 holes.
Hombre Golf Club (Bad/Ugly) in Panama City Beach, Fla.
Besides Hurley, the other feel-good story from second stage has to be Erik Compton of Coral Gables, Fla., who has undergone two heart transplants. Compton, a former USA Walker Cup participant, qualified for his first U.S. Open this past June and continued his fine play at Q-School, posting a 4-under 280 to place seventh.
Another former Walker Cup player, Nicholas Thompson of Coral Springs, Fla., closed with rounds of 69-69-70 to share eighth at 3-under 281. Thompson, whose younger sister Alexis won the 2008 U.S. Girls’ Junior and played on the victorious USA Curtis Cup Team earlier in 2010, has been a full-time PGA Tour player the past three years.
Two past Walker Cup participants, Lee Williams and Len Mattiace, failed to advance, shooting 289 and 291, respectively.
Bayonet and Black Horse (Bayonet Course) in Seaside, Calif.
Past USA Walker Cup participant Brock Mackenzie of Seattle, Wash., shot a final-round 65 to share sixth position at 10-under 278. He was joined by 1993 U.S. Junior Amateur runner-up Ryan Armour of Jupiter, Fla., who carded a pair of 67s in rounds two and three, to share 17th at 7-under 281.
Two past Junior Amateur champions failed to advance: Brett Quigley (1987) and Jason Allred (1997). Quigley missed the cut by one shot after shooting a final-round 74 for a 282 total. Allred was done in by a second-round 76 that led to a 285. Past USA Walker Cup member Matt Hendrix wound up at 287. David McDaniel, the runner-up at the 2010 APL, finished at 2-over 290, while Tadd Fujikawa of Hawaii, who in 2006 at Winged Foot became the youngest player to ever qualify for a U.S. Open, finished at 292, despite a final-round 69.
TPC Craig Ranch in McKinney, Texas
Past Walker Cup member Edward Loar carded a final-round 69 to share 10th at 9-under 279.
Nick Flanagan, the 2003 U.S. Amateur champion, failed to advance, shooting 287. Past Walker Cup member Kris Cox made a last-day run with a 66, but missed the cut by one shot at 283.
Two other past Walker Cup members, Kyle Reifers and 2007 British Open champion Drew Weaver, posted 289 and 290, respectively.
David Shefter is a staff writer for the USGA. E-mail him with questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.