Kingwood Country Club, near Houston, hosted second-stage PGA Tour Q-School qualifier in mid-November. The top 20 players and ties in the 72-hole event were to advance to the final stage at PGA West in La Quinta, California. Due to heavy rains, tournament officials reduced the course to a par 68 and had players use some foward tees.
After two rounds, Bryce Molder, one of my students, stood T46, three shots out of the top 20. In a rainy round three, Bryce was 5 under through 16 holes with a 4-footer for the birdie on the 17th--now three shots under the top-20 cut line--when the horn blew to stop play. Then he got the news: Officials had decided to cancel the rest of the event and use the 36-hole totals. You can imagine Bryce's disappointment.
"There was a lot of discussion , and a lot of options were considered," said Steve Carman, who administers Q-School for the Tour "We looked at moving to other sites in the area, but they were in similiar situations. It's a very difficult decision because you know you are playing with people's lives and careers."
That's exactly the point, and the PGA Tour sold these guys out. Each player would have done anything for a fair shake at a Tour card. The Tour does whatever it takes to complete 72 holes for a regular event: Why not do the same for Q-school when the final stage was still two weeks off? Why not move the last two rounds to Dallas, four hours away, where another qualifier was being held in better weather? Or simply postpone it a few days?
I think the Tour doesn't care about new young players and sees its qualifying system as nothing more than a necessary evil. Why else give free passes to the final Q-Schol stage for Tour players who finish 126-150 on the money list, which only helps regurgitate so many of the same names year after year--never mind that these guys can't seem to keep their cards.
It's time for the PGA Tour to level the playing field and stop subsidizing certain players through Q-School. Ge rid of stage exemptions: Make every player survive three weeks and 14 rounds, and may the best men win.
Like his fellow competitors, Bryce paid $4,500 to enter Q-School. The Tour isn't sending him a rain check for the two rounds he didn't get to finish, but it owes him that and much, much more.
"Championship course" was once a privileged moniker. Now it's slapped on any layout no longer than a pitch-and-putt. Here's the real meaning: a course that in a tournament setup has all the qualities necessary to challenge the world's best players. I'd say that close to 50 percent of PGA Tour venues fail this standard.
Hosting a Tour event is now at least as much about infrastructure as it is course design. You need enough space for corporate tents, grandstands and parking. Such practicalities, while necessary, shrink and dilute the candidate pool.
As fans of great courses, pros often visit other local tracks early in tournament weeks. Some of the most popular stops are Seminole Golf Club in Juno Beach, Florida; Quaker Ridge in Scarsdale, New York; and Vaquero Country Club near Dallas. In a perfect world, each would host a Tour stop--and so would my favorites, L.A. Country Club, Troon North in Scottsdale and Florida's Boca Rio. A man can dream...