I have received three sponsor’s
exemptions over the years when competing on the PGA Tour and it is an odd
feeling. You feel a sense of gratitude toward the sponsor, but among your peers you
can’t escape the feeling that you haven't qualified to play as virtually
everyone else has.
When Michelle Wie plays LPGA events in 2009, she will feel more
comfortable and should receive warmer treatment from her peers because after Q-School they’ll now
see her as an equal and not a novelty act with a sponsor's exemption. We can all remember our first
year in junior high or high school and how awkward it was to initially fit in.
Michelle has had to deal with being the newcomer as well as some jealous feelings from her
peers at the financial perks she has received--in addition to the exemptions--just to play in some events.
For her to go through Q-School and actually "earn" something on her
own will carry much weight with her peers and more importantly with her own
psyche. Michelle’s family didn’t take the route Earl Woods chose for Tiger,
where Tiger learned to win and dominate the junior and amateur ranks before
becoming a professional. By turning pro so early, Michelle missed the lessons
that winning teaches: one of the most important is how to parlay your early
wins into even more success. Q-School is probably the most grueling experience
of any sport. For Michelle to go through the first stage several weeks ago and
now to go through the final five rounds and play well is a real accomplishment.
The pressure from Q-School is unparalleled within the game. It is either “Yes,
I got my card" or "No, I missed it.” As I look back at my own
experiences from successfully making it through two Q-Schools, and missing
about eight times, my strongest memory is the raw emotion of it all. I remember
coming off the 108th and final hole one year realizing I had made it. I got
into a cart with my wife to ride back to the clubhouse and I was overcome by an
ecstatic feeling of accomplishment. However, we shared the cart with a player who had missed by one shot.
Tears were streaming down his face at the effort he had put into accomplishing
his dream and the realization that it wouldn't happen. Controlling my
happiness and also coming up with words of encouragement and empathy for my
fellow competitor is something that still stirs strong emotions.
Q-School stories of horror and disaster are countless and I am sure that
Michelle was thinking some of these thoughts Saturday night as she approached her
final round. She had a large cushion and could afford a poor round, but the mind
is powerful and some of the negatives that can creep in are almost enough to
make you freeze up. We all probably remember the scorecard mistake by Jaxon
Brigman several years back. Brigman made it on the number the last day but had
an extra stroke on his card that he didn't catch and had to accept the higher
As a coach it is difficult to follow your students at Q-School as you want so
badly for them to have the success they are striving for. All you can do is
prepare them and do your best to share from your experiences what you believe
they will need to do to pass the test. As I watched Michelle to see if she was
going to make it, I was also watching two of my students and their progress. I
have helped Molly Fankhauser with her short game over the last four months. After almost keeping her card as a rookie this year, Molly decided to go back to
Q-School and finished comfortably in the top 10. Lisa Ferrero is a very
talented girl who had a solid year on the Futures Tour. She was 3-under par
through two rounds of Q-School and in good shape but had a tough third round and ended up
missing by a few shots. She will need to go back to the Futures Tour and see if
she can improve and get one of the top five spots from the money list that will
give her direct access to the LPGA and not have to go through Q School next
I hope Michelle and Molly use their Q-School experiences to achieve even more
success on the LPGA Tour next year. They sure earned it. (Photo: David Walberg/SI) Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher Brian Mogg is director of instruction at Golden Bear Club at Keene's Point in Windemere, Fla.