A new look is coming to Champions Tour Qualifying School.
At the next meeting of the Champions Tour Division Board, scheduled for June 26, it’s a virtual slam dunk that a measure will be approved to overhaul how qualifiers for Champions Tour events are determined.
Although Tom Purtzer, a Champions Tour director, noted at last week’s Senior PGA Championship that “the particulars aren’t really out yet” and “some of the i’s need to be dotted and some of the t’s need to be crossed,” expect changes starting with the Q-School in November.
The top finishers at Q-School will not, as in years past, receive exempt status for the following season. Instead, a number expected to be 30 or 35 will earn berths in weekly qualifiers that would be played on Monday or Tuesday. The number of Monday qualifiers earning spots in that week’s event will be increased from two to nine.
“The guys that it affects, about 90 percent are in favor of it,” said Leonard Thompson, also a Champions Tour director. “The ones it doesn’t affect, some don’t like it.”
In essence, Qualifying School will be for players who have no status. Although the specifics are still being worked out, it would be for players who have never won a tournament on either the PGA Tour or Champions Tour, or for players who have not made a specific number of cuts (100 or 150 is being debated) in their career.
“I think it would be a good move because it would open the door for a lot more people, if they play well, to go out there and play and prove themselves instead of a one-shot deal for those seven spots one time a year,” said Darrell Kestner, head pro at Deepdale Golf Club in Manhasset, N.Y., who missed earning conditional status at last year’s Q-School by a shot. “A lot more locals would enter (qualifying), and there would be a lot more interest because of that local flavor when someone played their way into the tournament.”
Kirk Hanefield finished second at 2005 Q-School, but just turned 50 May 24, leaving him an abbreviated season in which to keep his playing privileges.
“I think there are positives on both setups,” Hanefield said. “Whether it affects me, time will tell. I’ve got a very short season and I have to play well in order to enable me to play in as many tournaments as possible this year, to make as much money as I can, so I don’t have to go through that Q-School process again.”
The Champions Tour has wrestled with eligibility criteria for years, and Purtzer admitted that the upcoming change isn’t seen as a perfect solution.
“The worst thing that can happen is that it really doesn’t work and we’ll go back to the way it is this year,” Purtzer said. “But if a guy misses the school, or if you don’t play well during the one week of school, you’re basically out a year. He’s going to go try and qualify for two spots on Monday? I don’t think so.
“I don’t know that there is a good answer to the school, but we’ll see. We’re just trying something different, trying to get an opportunity for more guys. That’s the bottom line.”