Backspin: New rule adds to Q-school intrigue

Backspin: New rule adds to Q-school intrigue

Matt Every
John Mummert/ USGA

The drama of Q school is a familiar one. On the one hand you have this year’s victor at Orange County National in Orlando, 38-year-old two-time Tour winner Frank Lickliter, who lost his game after changing his swing but dominated the final stage after back-to-back 62s in the first two rounds. On the other, there are young guns like Colt Knost, the U.S. Amateur champion, and Chris Kirk, an All-America at Georgia, who didn’t come close to getting their cards.

Neither did former Ryder Cupper Chris Riley, who appeared to be rounding back into form last summer. But this year there was a new twist on the spectacle. It involved Matt Every, the 2006 college player of the year during his senior year at Florida, and Seung-su Han, a junior at UNLV.

After his junior year Every made the cut at the 2005 U.S. Open and earned an exemption into the second stage of Tour qualifying, but he would’ve had to turn pro to try Q school, thus ending his college career. Every petitioned the NCAA to make a change that would allow players to go through Q school and then have 10 days to decide whether to turn pro or remain in school.

College coaches feared an underclassmen talent drain like the one in basketball, and officials hemmed and hawed until it was too late. Every skipped Q school and went back to campus. Shortly thereafter the NCAA ruled in Every’s favor. Thanks for nothing.

Enter Han, a 21-year-old from South Korea who became the first to take advantage of the new rule and thereby the first amateur to reach the Q school final. Boom, instant subplot: What if Han cashed in on the Every Rule while Every himself, having already delayed his dream for a year, missed the mark?

In the end Every fell two shots short of making the PGA Tour, finishing 33rd, while a third-round 79 dropped Han to the bottom of the field. (He finished 149th.) That leaves Every with fully exempt status on the Nationwide tour and Han with conditional status (which means perhaps 10 starts) and a decision to make.

There were other notable names in play at Q school. Bob May, the foil for Tiger Woods in the 2000 PGA at Valhalla, saw his comeback from back surgery fall short as he finished 27th. Gibby Gilbert III, grandson of former Tour winner Gibby Gilbert, placed 93rd.

Casey Wittenberg, the runner-up at the 2003 U.S. Amateur who left Oklahoma State after only a year and spent ’07 on the Hooters tour, placed 80th and at least upgraded to the Nationwide. His gallery included longtime friend and LPGA pro Paula Creamer… On the LPGA tour ’07 rookie Jane Park, 20, won the qualifying tournament.