This past weekend I accompanied Tom to his Monday qualifier in Duluth, Georgia. I really didn’t know what to expect, but what I had in my minds eye wasn’t even close to what I experienced.
You’d think these PGA Tour qualifiers would be very formal. Business-like. Staunch (for lack of a better word)…and not without some sort of fanfare surrounding them. Kind of like what we experienced at USGA events or even at the 2nd stage of Q-School in Scottsdale. In reality it wasn’t unlike a West Michigan Golf Association event…except I feel like there is a little more “excitement” at a WMGA event and honestly the courses the WMGA hosts their tournaments at are nicer! Now granted, the club for this qualifier was a “plan B” so perhaps the original course would’ve been a little nicer. It was actually kind of funny how it came to pass that the qualifier would be held there. When Tom called the first course about a week and 1/2 before to make a practice round tee time, he was told by the pro-shop that they “weren’t allowing any practice rounds”. Excuse me? How can you host a Champions Tour Qualifier & not allow practice rounds?? Tom thought it was really odd…I suggested he call his contact at the Champions Tour Office to find out if that’s normal. The next day, before he had a chance to call, he got a text message from the Champions Tour stating there was a change in qualifying venues! If I had to guess (and I basically do because we don’t know the reason)…I’d have to say the Tour didn’t take to kindly to the course deciding it wouldn’t allow practice rounds! Me thinks they won’t be getting any Tour events there in the future! Which brings us to the Plan B course. It was okay…it actually reminded me a bit of the way The Highlands used to be. It was a very nice clubhouse, but a little dated. The course was built in 1964 and the clubhouse retained some of its original character. The golf course reminded me of a Northern Michigan course. The fairways were in less than stellar condition but the greens were perfect as was the sand in the bunkers. The fairways were almost burnt looking in a lot of places & there was no real “rough” to contend with. It was a bit tight & had a couple good risk-reward holes though.
Most all the guys know each other at these things…and have a pretty good dossier to support them being there. The exception would be some of the guys who qualified like Tom did via Q-School & possibly the guys who qualified by making it past the Thursday pre-qualifier (I think only 4 of them advanced). The rest are former tour players (Web.com, PGA Tour, Champions Tour) who have had some sort of success that allowed them to bypass pre-qualifying. Take for example one of his playing partners this past qualifier; Grant Waite. He won the Kemper Open in 1993 and finished 2nd to Tiger Woods at the Bell Canadian Open in 2000. Granted that was a long time ago…but there’s a reason he’s at the qualifier with Tom. He earned his place and certainly isn’t done competing.
It becomes obvious that Tom really is something of a unicorn out there…and for sure…the whole experience is nothing like we (or at least I) expected. Not at this point. I’m sure, however, that the actual events will be more what we’re used to in as much as the organization, professionalism & overall atmosphere is concerned that we experienced in USGA events which is just another reason to want to get there!
Pictures below are of the qualifier course in Duluth, GA.