2002: Q-School: Tortures and trials
La Quinta, Calif.
The PGA Tour’s Q-School was a torture test that doubled as a golf tournament. Never before have so many golfers been eaten alive. I think the tournament director was named Hannibal Lecter.
If I were a teen-ager, I would tell you Q-School sucks. However, because I detest that verb, I will say it another way: Dump the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament. End it. Scrap it. Discard it.
The Q-School is an inferior test of golfing ability. It is six rounds of golf with a gun to the head. It is one week of a golfer’s life in which his body has to be perfectly healthy, his mind has to be exceptionally clear and his skills must be unerringly sharp. Mess up that one week, there’s a terrible penalty: a wait of one agonizing year to pursue the monster all over again.
Jeff Quinney, the 2000 U.S. Amateur champion, woke up one morning before this Q-School final with no feeling in his right leg. Diagnosis: a cracked vertebra. Regardless, he decided to play hurt. After shooting 283 in his second stage qualifier, he was 27 strokes higher at 310 after four rounds here. That score was better than exactly nobody in the field.
I have never felt as embarrassed for athletes in any sport as I have for some of these golfers. Scott Simpson captured one U.S. Open and lost another in a playoff. Forced to attend Q-School to retain his playing privileges, he self-destructed in front of a gallery consisting of one scorekeeper and at least four spectators. He suffered an undignified death by bogey. The same goes for seven-time PGA Tour winner Bill Glasson and six-time winner Steve Pate. I assume that when Pate says, “I wouldn’t walk my dogs on these courses,” he is referring to Q-School in general rather than the PGA West facility in particular.
Hey, Q-School gets inside your head. It is like a worm inching its way toward your brain. Poor Scott. Poor Bill. Poor Steve.
It is intriguing to me that the Pope of Ponte Vedra is intent on keeping old guys around on the Champions Tour, which has a laughably restrictive qualifying format, and yet kicks them off the PGA Tour at an alarming rate. Two years ago, Bob May orchestrated a monumental battle with Tiger Woods at the PGA Championship. Now he’s at Q-School. It doesn’t seem right.
OK, so be it. If performance is our slogan, then let’s live by it. Here are my suggestions for the new PGA Tour.
44 Eliminate Q-School. A one-week examination of birdies and bogeys is insufficient. The consequences are too important to be decided at this loony bin. Of course, the PGA Tour will lose approximately $4,800,000 in revenue generated by entry fees. (There were about 1,300 players this year, each paying between $3,500 and $4,000, depending on the stage where they started). To be fair, the Tour does award $1,157,500 in prize money and must pay for course rentals and other expenses.
44The top 125 will remain the magic number on the PGA Tour, although the demise of Q-School will free up 35 spots, 20 of which will be given to the Nationwide Tour.
44This means that the top 40 money winners on the Nationwide Tour will earn their PGA Tour cards for the following year. This will add significance to the secondary tour and insure that the best young
players have a legitimate chance to qualify for the big tour.
44Still to be allocated are 15 spots. Using the Official World Golf Ranking, 10 will go to the 10
highest-ranking players who desire to take advantage of them. As members of the PGA Tour, they must play a minimum of 15 events a year.
44The remaining five spots will go to winners of major championships (such as Simpson) and multiple Tour winners (such as Glasson and Pate) who are not otherwise exempt. Major champions come first, and priority is determined by number of victories.
44Obviously a qualifying tournament must be held for the Nationwide Tour. This is the lesser of two evils (the big, bad bugaboo being the current PGA Tour
Like I said, Q-School sucks.