In March of 1996, Paul Stankowski got into the BellSouth Classic in Atlanta as the sixth alternate. He won his first PGA Tour tournament in a playoff with the formidable, Fred Couples. He came out of nowhere. This was very inspirational to me because I was going to try to do the same thing in my very first Monday qualifier—in Atlanta—just two months later.
Some years before that, there was this little kid in San Rafael, California named, Zack Miller, who was such a natural talent they did feature articles on him in the county paper. His coach, Al Hand, said he was just trying not to mess him up. My contribution was that in my one and only round with him, I taught him how to fix his ball marks on the green. Years later, I stumbled across him playing in the American Junior Golf Association Championship at my home club here in Arizona, but he’d grown so much I had to have his mother point him out to me. He went on to Stanford and then the Nationwide Tour.
Stankowski and Miller are both playing in this week’s Q-School which starts today at Orange County National Golf Center and Lodge, on the Crooked Cat (7,493 yards) and Panther Lake (7,350 yards) courses; 166 guys playing six rounds for 25 PGA Tour cards. 166 guys with people they may not know or even remember, who have stories about them…and who will be hoping. Because it means so much, it’s a very personal tournament, a very personal time of the year.
And a very quirky time of the year. In 2000, Joe Daley hit a short putt dead in the middle of the hole, but it hit the cup liner in the back of the hole and ricocheted back to him. He missed his card by one stroke.
The fact that this is a six-day event is bad enough, but because it’s played on two courses, the players have to play at least two practice rounds as well. Eight straight days of golf; walking. Stankowski, wily old veteran that he is, tweeted that he played 27 holes on Monday and would play the remaining 9 on Tuesday. A half day’s rest is an edge in a marathon.
The first tee time is 8:00 AM and Stankowski is in it. Miller is at 8:30 and everyone will be on the courses by 10:10. That seemed so soon for something so big. If they’re five-hour rounds, the last round will all be over by 3:10 PM.
The Golf Channel doesn’t begin broadcasting until the fourth round on Saturday. It’ll be 1:00 to 4:00 PM (Eastern) Saturday and Sunday and 12:30 to 4:00 Monday.
It’s always worth watching.