PGA Tour  
'Q' School 

Tournament Story:

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This years 2005 PGA Tour 'Q' School is again being played at the Orange County National Courses. Click Here for our exclusive 2005 (for 2006 season playing privileges) 'Q' School coverage!:

2004 (Fall 2003) National Qualifying Tournament Story from Orlando Florida. (Tuesday Dec. 9th, 2003)

The 2003 -2004 PGA Tour National qualifying golf tournament, (Q school finals), are now finished with the qualifying school having determined those who've gained their playing privileges for the 2004 PGA Tour golf season.

The grueling six round affair required each competitor to play Orange County National's Panther Lakes and Crooked Cat golf courses a total of three times each over the six rounds.  The top 30 finishers and ties attain rights to play on the PGA Tour in 2004, while the next 70 finisher's attain full Nationwide Tour playing privileges.  Those player's finishing out of the top 100 gain conditional Nationwide Tour eligibility in descending order of their finish there.  The Q school is a tough mental test with six rounds and every day guys going up and down and wondering what will be that final number come Monday?  (-That makes it to top 30 and playing privileges in 2004). 

Both golf course's were 'tightened up' for the Q school with an over seed of rye over the dormant bermuda cut at about 4 inches in the primary rough and around the greens as well.  The Crooked Cat course was more wide open over low rolling hills with up to 60-foot elevation changes as it winds through natural oak hammocks, pine forests, scenic wetlands and glistening freshwater lakes. A ' heroic' 7,295-yard from the tips.  From the 'tips' the second hole is 240 -50 to reach the fairway on the par four second hole, and 244 and 245 to reach the par four 12th and par 5 17th hole's fairways!  In Thursday's second round playing there we had to use two four woods on the par three's -#13 and #6, and two three irons on the other's!

Panther Lake, although appearing more 'manageable' on the score card with options of 6816 actually was the harder of the two with more mature greens (5 years vs. 2 years) than Crooked Cat.  The tour staff was able to get the Lake's  greens hard and  'lightening' fast compared to Crooked Cat's and with more slope in them.  (I've seen U.S. Open greens not much harder than these were.)  While the front nine will test your skill as the course weaves through natural Florida wetlands placing a premium on accuracy, the back offered a different challenge. There you will find very un-Florida like changes of elevation, and pine tree lined fairways reminiscent of the Carolinas .  

The first hole at the Lake's is a par with a sloping elevated and large blind green.  The second is a very reachable par five -a par four and a half if you will.  The third hole is a brutal 490 yards as well played from the back tees with a forced second shot carry over a creek that sits 10 yards from the front of the green.  If you play the third early in the day with wet Florida dew or any wind in your face you have to consider laying up in this tournament where you must make birdies and avoid making any big numbers!  It's an (unfair!?) par four and one half. While the phrase you will use every club in your bag is often over stated, my player (Kevin Na) did just that on Wednesday in firing a two under par 70 in the wind there.  (We had to lay up and take a bogey five early on number three!)  
Weather was a factor this week with wind the first day (Wednesday) blowing from the northeast and switching over to the East at 15 -20 mph for about 9 of the 18 holes being played there making the first day scoring rather difficult.  With a lot of par four's on the Crooked Cat course at 450 yards plus, PGA Tour officials had to be careful to set up the course and the tee's fairly as the same tees and pins must be played for two day segments as one half the field competes on each course each day.  Many of the par three's are also long holes and must be set up accordingly.

Friday's round three was played in 78 degrees and overcast with a mist that fell early softening up the greens and good round three scoring was reflected there.  (Round two was a decent (for low) scoring day with wind blowing south southeast at only about 10 mph and resulted in lower scores.)  Weather Saturday for round four was tough with a temperature of 52 as a high and the wind out of the north at 15 to 20 MPH which resulted in the highest scoring day so far!

Sunday's round was still a little unseasonably cold with a north wind but scorable.  Monday's final round was played in even better weather reaching the upper sixties and sunny with a light wind out of the north but the pressure was on.   If you were in the hunt and not real close to the 'bubble' number to make it which turned out to be -7 under par to attain your card, then you can free swing it a bit and try to shoot a good score and get a lower card number.  If you are close to that number you must still play in a somewhat smart aggressive mode and try not to go out and 'protect' what you think you have.  If you are behind and need a good (and under par round) to make it into the top 30 then you have to approach it so.  All three modes require patience as well as focus and desire to get it done.

Former six time winner PGA Tour veteran player Steve Pate led a 'charge' of veteran players who got their playing status back to the 'big show' with a good performance at Q School.  That list includes former tour winners Russ Cochran, Grant Waite, Trevor Dodds, tour veterans Jay Delsing (with caddy Corey Pavin on the bag), and Michael Allen.  As well as a return to the PGA Tour for Brian Gay, John Maginnes, John Riegger, Omar Uresti, Deane Pappas, Danny Briggs, and Brian Bateman.  Tjaart Van der Walt and Daniel Chopra both qualified after falling out of the top 20 at the Nationwide Tour Championship this past fall.  

Q School Champion Mathias Gronberg leads a list of foreign contingent who's never had status to play on the PGA Tour before qualifying Monday.  That list also includes Arjun Atwal, (two time winner in Europe this past year and the first native from India to qualify to play on the PGA Tour), Hirofumi Miyasi, (Japan), and 20 year old Korean -American Kevin Na.

Players not making it into the top 30 and ties gain Nationwide Tour status and get a shot at finishing top 20 there in 2004 which will get them playing privileges for the 2005 PGA Tour season.  Those with cards won this week will have to finish in the top 125 on the 2004 PGA Tour money list to retain their playing rights into 2005 or return to Q School a year from now.

So who were some of those 'winning caddies' this week at Q School?  There was Jerry Higgenbottom caddying for Steve Pate, (formerly Mark O'Meara and a former Master's and British Open winning caddy).  Veteran caddy Russ Craver (formerly most notably with Larry Nelson and two major championships in the 1980's), on Michael Allen's bag.  Veteran caddy Jerry Knap with Danny Briggs, caddy Bill Docker working for Trevor Dodds (then won Greensboro together in the late '90's), veteran tour caddy Kenny Butler with Brian Gay, Daryl Smith with John Riegger, veteran caddy Mark Crunden working for Danny Ellis, veteran and long time tour caddy Carroll West working for Boyd Summerhays (Bruce's nephew), former Bel Air Caddy, UCLA standout, and U.S. Open Champion Corey Pavin caddying for Jay Delsing, along with your's truly working for 20 year old Kevin Na, to name just a notable few.  

All the caddies winner's and other's this week had a long and tedious 10 to 14 days of pressure packed hard work.  And that's how the cookies crumbled.  The west coast swing will be full of veterans and new-bies looking to strike their fortune and fame as working caddies on the PGA Tour in 2004 and chasing what more often than not turns out to be somewhat limited and elusive success.  

Bob Whitbread

This years 2005 PGA Tour 'Q' School is again being played at the Orange County National Courses. Click Here for our exclusive 2005 (for 2006 season playing privileges) 'Q' School coverage!:






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