Many golfers miss Q School cutPublished 4:26am Monday, July 8, 2013 Updated 6:29am Monday, July 8, 2013
Editor’s note: This column was originally written in July of 2008.
Somewhere around middle school, we had a career day, in which people of various professions talked about what they did, and what the career prospects were of the field they were in.
Thinking I had some ability in golf, I attended the seminar on professional sports, where a former minor league baseball player and a gym teacher who attended the San Francisco 49ers training camp talked about how difficult it was. I asked about golf, and while they obviously were in different sports, they assured me becoming a professional golfer was even more difficult.
If had been written back then, if I were them, I would have simply handed out the book, “Tales from the Q School” as assigned reading, and then told them to come back and talk to me. The book by John Feinstein – perhaps most famous for the book “A Season on the Brink,” featuring former Indiana Hoosier coach Bobby Knight and his tirades – was as telling as they come as to how difficult it is to get on, and stay on, the PGA Tour.
For those unfamiliar, Q School is short for the PGA Qualifying Tournament. Of the thousand or so who attempt to qualify for the PGA Tour through Q School, only the top 25 actually make it. Feinstein’s book chronicles a handful of players through the school’s three stages. (By the way, it used to be a “school” to teach PGA golfers things such as course etiquette, but they have long eliminated that portion of it.)
Perhaps the parts most interesting to me were the stories about golfers who were in their late 30s, even early to mid-40s who had not made the PGA Tour, and were still attempting to make it. Golf is different from other sports, such as football or basketball. You don’t need to be big, fast or particularly strong. And age does not deteriorate golf skills nearly as quickly as it does in other sports. In fact, because golf is such as mental game, often players get better as they get older.
Thus, “Tales” chronicles the backgrounds of many players who, over the last 15 years between graduating from college and today, went through the roller coaster ride to get where they were. For example, a player might have attempted to qualify for the PGA Tour, didn’t make it, went on a few mini tours (call it the off-off-Broadway of professional golf), decided to hang it up and sell cars or work at a golf course, got the itch again, and decided to give it another shot.
And those guys are competing against players who were at one time successful PGA Tour players, but have found that their game slipped, forcing them to try out again. For example, the book followed the fortunes of Larry Mize, a former Master’s champion forced to go through Q-School again. As it turned out, Mize did not make it.
There’s good reason why these guys go through the torture of Q-School. Because the PGA Tour has multi-million dollar purses, the guys you haven’t heard of – guys like Ken Duke, Harrison Frazar and Robert Garrigus – still win close to $1 million per year on the tour. And that doesn’t count the sponsorship and endorsement money.The only problem is that, because the benefits are so great, there are many, many golfers that want to be on the tour, and only so many slots. Thus, you have to be very, very good to be even in the hunt.
If you want proof, I asked a guy on Tuesday who would be considered among the top five players at Pebble Lake Golf Course if he would consider trying out for Q-School. His comment, “I might try to carry a guy’s bag there.”
What was fascinating, though, was that, despite the fact that these guys are 10 to 20 strokes better than your average 8-10 handicapper (like myself), they still have the same struggles – can’t get the putter working, can’t keep drives straight, can’t get the “demons” out of their heads.
If “Tales from the Q-School” did anything, it confirmed the idea that, if I get to taking golf too seriously, I can remember that, no matter how good of a round I’m having, I’d still better stick to my day job.
Joel Myhre is The Journal’s general manager. E-mail him at email@example.com