The Hardest Q-School in Golf

Back in my Monday qualifying days, up to 144 of us would assemble in whatever city that week’s tournament was being played for a chance at glory. During daylight savings time, it was 156 guys. One round to determine who the four Monday qualifiers were going to be.

Back then, 68 would almost always get you in and 69 at least into a playoff for the fourth spot. So 3-under par for the right to go extra, sudden death holes. If you lost, you would at least win an alternate spot. In my early tenure, it was an alternate spot into the tournament; in my later years it was to be an alternate for the four Monday qualifiers (any one of whom would tee it up with a 102 degree temperature for the paltry last place money but a world of experience). 

Even then 68 was no guarantee. I’ve previously shared the story of PGA Tour player, Morris Hatalsky’s first Monday qualifier. He was in the morning wave in Naples, Florida. The low round was 65 and Hatalsky and another guy shot 66. He returned to the course some hours later to see how the afternoon wave fared and as he walked up to the scoreboard, his 66 still had him in the field. Finally, the last group came in and they shot 62, 63, 64, the morning 65 got the fourth spot and Hatalsky was down the road with his 66.

A risk that reduced our odds significantly was that if any Monday qualifier got into the tournament and actually won it, any time that guy was in the field for the duration of his one year winner’s exemption, we were only playing for three spots.

Then there was the year that two fairly well known PGA Tour guys were coming out, but without enough money to automatically be exempt. So they changed the field size from 78 to 81 and took away two Monday qualifying spots to make room for them. We were then down to playing for just the two remaining spots.

After nine years of trying, that was a major factor in my decision to end my efforts to play on the Champions Tour.

The other way onto the Tour was through Q-School. In those early days, the Tour was very popular and everybody and his brother who thought they could play wanted to take their shot. So there were six regional, four-round qualifiers across the country. Each field was about 78 players and about 12 or so guys would get through to the final.

About 78 or so guys would get to the final including PGA Tour players looking for a second life. Eight of them would come away with fully exempt cards and eight would win conditional cards; the conditional players would get in when the field was not filled by the usual suspects. The year after I left this game, Q-School no longer offered a Tour card, it merely qualified you to play in the Monday qualifier. If you weren’t Q-School qualified to play on Mondays, you had to show up for the Thursday qualifier for the Monday qualifier.

Because I wasn’t so involved in it anymore, I lost track of the changes in subsequent years. Until now.

The 2013 Champions Tour Q-School is being played here in Scottsdale at the par 71, TPC Scottsdale – Champions Course, just across the street from the Stadium Course which hosts the Waste Management Phoenix Open. And this time, they’re playing for Tour cards. The top 5 players get fully-exempt cards, the next 8 get conditional cards and the top 30 and ties will be eligible for Monday qualifying.

One of the things I noticed in skimming the entry list is the number of PGA Tour players in the field. And quality players at that. There are a total of 23 former PGA Tour and Champions Tour winners in the field.

And after the first round, the competitiveness of the field is already evident:

There are 4 players tied at 7-under par 64

There are 4 players tied at 6-under par 65

There are 6 players tied at 5-under par 66

There are 5 players tied at 4-under par 67

And there are 13 players tied at 3-under par 68

And 16 more under par for a grand total of 48…out of 78.

It’s going to be a pretty tough week for 73 guys.

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3 Responses to The Hardest Q-School in Golf

  1. Guy Ruthmansdorfer says:

    This just goes to show how many good golfers are on the senior tour. Even more how many good golfers are struggling to make the tour. Many people think as a 1,2 handicap or even scratch that they could compete with professionals on any tour. Good luck. What do you think the average handicap on senior tour? Compared that with the fact they are playing courses harder then joe average. What is the difference stroke wise senior tour with average good golfer?

    • Bill Rand says:

      Took me some time to respond to this, Guy, because you prompted me to begin a search for something that doesn’t exist; I could find no place that listed Tour handicaps. At least your question also managed to befuddle a Tour media contact who said he’d check with the Rules guys.

      It finally dawned on me this morning that there is no way to calculate a “proper” USGA handicap because that requires the use of the course rating and slope. Since each Tour plays composite tees that even change from round to round, it’s not worth the effort to prove what we already know, “These guys are good!”

      The tours do provide each player’s Scoring Average that gives us some insight. It’s no surprise that the 2013 leader is Fred Couples at 68.64. That’s the average! The rest of the top five are: (2.) Bernhard Langer, 68.92; (3.) Kenny Perry, 69.21; (4.) David Frost, 69.49 and (5.) Tom Lehman, 69.58.

  2. Guy Ruthmansdorfer says:

    I think the general public thinks that the senior tour is a lesser tour with tour pros losing their talent. Your average score shows that a scratch handicap golfer doesn’t cut it on the senior tour. I guess that was my point more so then handicap. THESE GUYS ARE REALLY GOOD. Even at 50 years old and up the best amateurs can’t compete.