Q-School lays bare Tour hopefuls’ emotions

Skip Kendall during the 2010 Puerto Rico Open.

Skip Kendall during the 2010 Puerto Rico Open.

WINTER GARDEN, Fla. – Skip Kendall instantly changes the channel when he sees Q-School coverage on his TV.

“I never watch it,” Kendall said. “I don’t want to be near it.”

The 108-hole PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament makes for intriguiging television. Viewers get to see raw emotions as players achieve long-time dreams or suffer heartbreak. Often a single stroke determines which side of the spectrum a player finds himself on.

But Kendall, who has played the final stage seven times, doesn’t want to relive the emotions associated with Q-School. Nor does he want to watch his colleagues struggle with those same thoughts.

“Even the times when (Q-School) was in Orlando, and I live here, I wouldn’t go to the course,” Kendall said.

“I wouldn’t even come to the equipment trailers if they wanted me to come out to do some testing. I’d say, ‘You have to come to me. I don’t want to be anywhere near the place.’ It just gives you the heebie-jeebies.”

Q-School used to not be the media spectacle that it is today. Sure, it used to attract some local newspaper writers. Then the Golf Channel started televising the event in 1995. Now, thanks to the Internet and sites such as Twitter, followers can get constant, real-time updates on all the successes and failures that make Q-School so dramatic.

Increased media attention is just another challenge for today’s Q-School participant. Say a player is on pace to earn his PGA Tour card after two good rounds. The last thing he wants to think about, especially with 72 holes remaining, is what a PGA Tour card would mean to his career.

“It’s hard to answer those questions,” said Patrick Sheehan, a six-time finals participant. “Guys are going to answer them the way everybody answers them. They’re going to throw out every cliche in the book, ‘one shot at a time,’ all that other stuff. It’s hard to answer those questions truthfully, ‘Yeah, I’m going to be really nervous.’

“I don’t think you ever get the true thought process of a player in certain situations.”

Q-School’s increased exposure means players arrive at the event with a memory bank already full of negative images, such as Tim O’Neal’s final-hole triple bogey in 2000, which cost him his PGA Tour card.

“It’s everything it’s built up to be,” said William McGirt, a two-time finals participant.

With that said, players have to do their best to block out those memories. “If you treat it any differently than any other tournament, you’re setting yourself up for failure,” McGirt said.

And if you fail, it’s for the whole world to see.

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