Current U.S. Amateur champion Colt Knost, four-time PGA Tour winner Duffy Waldorf and former U.S. Ryder Cup members Steve Pate and Chris Riley were among the 129 golfers advancing past the second stage of PGA Tour qualifying on Saturday.
The top 20 golfers, plus ties, from six Nationwide Tour sites advanced to the Nov. 28-Dec 3 Qualifying School finals at Orange County National in Winter Gardens, Fla., for a chance to gain full-time status on the PGA Tour for 2008.
There is no prize money paid in the second stage, and the first qualifier has no advantage in the next round on the 20th, but failure to advance leaves most golfers without many attractive playing options in 2008.
Knost turned professional less than two months ago, but he didn't have any trouble figuring out what his second stage advancement meant to him and the others. They are all guaranteed some playing status on either the Nationwide or PGA tours next year.
Waldorf said: "I'm just a squirrel looking for an acorn." He has won $10 million on the PGA Tour over nearly two decades but hasn't won in seven years and needs to get through Q-School to stay fully exempt. "There are a lot of good players out here, and most of them hit it way past me, but I was able to get the putter going and I was ready for some tournament golf," he said.
Waldorf's six-under 65 was the second lowest final round score of the second-stage qualifying round at TPC-Craig Ranch, just outside Dallas. Joining Knost and Waldorf from the Craig Ranch section were two-time PGA Tour winner Notah Begay, whose once-stellar career has been derailed by back troubles, and former PGA Tour members Hunter Haas and the medalist, South African Cameron Percy.
"The round I shot yesterday (66) was my best round of the year," said Begay, who played mainly on the European Tour in 2007. "I knocked in six putts from six to eight feet today for par, and that really helped as well."
He may have benefited from a good luck text message from former Stanford teammate Tiger Woods after his third round. "I'm real excited were I am right now. This is definitely a step in the right direction for me and my career."
Waldorf got a phone call from Tom Pernice Jr., a good friend and veteran Tour player, after his first round at Craig Ranch. Pernice urged him to get back on the PGA Tour as soon as possible. Waldorf, a noted wine collector, said the second stage advancement was much more nerve racking than any of his Tour victories, but he planned a special celebration.
"I'll probably drink a red to celebrate, but it's a long way home so I have plenty of time to decide which one."
Just missing out on advancement at Craig Ranch were the former Big Break contestants Anthony Rodriguez and Michael Nicoletti, who fired the low round of 64 in the final round but still missed the finals by two shots.
In Dade City, Fla., the 2001 U.S. Amateur champion Bubba Dickerson was the medalist. Also advancing were former PGA Tour winners Jim McGovern and Carlos Franco. Among the other players making the finals were Tommy Toles and Josh McCumber, the son of longtime Tour member Mark McCumber.
The former Tour winners Garrett Willis and Robert Damron failed to advance.
At Panama City, Fla., Richard S. Johnson blew away the field by 13 shots, opening with a 62 and cruising home to win medalist honors. Also advancing were Pat Bates, the former Oklahoma State star Casey Wittenberg and Gibby Gilbert III, the son of the longtime PGA and Champions Tour player.
Missing the next round by a single shot was Guy Boros, the son of U.S. Open and PGA Championship winner Julius Boros.
At The Woodlands in Kingwood, Texas, Mark Walker was the medalist, followed by former Tour players Chris Smith, Zoran Zorkic and Canada's Ian Leggatt.
The site also featured some of the highest profile misses, including Mark Brooks, the 1996 PGA Championship winner; Len Mattiace, the 2003 Masters runner up; former PGA Tour winners David Gossett, Joel Edwards and Neal Lancaster; and the noted teacher Mac O'Grady.
At the Maricopa, Ariz., site, Kevin Streetman and Chris Kirk were the medalists, and the former U.S. Amateur winner Ricky Barnes missed by a single shot.
Y.E. Yang took medalist honors at the Oak Valley, Calif., site, but he was closely followed by Bob May, who staged a memorable PGA Championship playoff duel with Woods in 2000 but has battled back problems.
Also qualifying for the finals were Riley and Pate along with Daniel Summerhays, who won on the Nationwide Tour this year.
Oklahoma State star Pablo Martin, who won on the European Tour this summer as a college student, and T.C. Chen, who lost a memorable duel with Jack Nicklaus in the 1980 U.S. Open, failed to advance.