The PGA Tour’s decision to delay until 2013 the drastic changes to Q-School and the Nationwide Tour could have an impact on college golf. Why? The delay gives players more time to consider the changes’ ramifications.
The proposed changes – which would make only Nationwide Tour cards available at Q-School – first became public in February, and were scheduled to take effect in 2012. Any player that wanted to attend the “old” Q-School would’ve had to attend Q-School months after learning of the news. Deciding when to turn pro should not be done hastily. As the year progressed and full details of the new PGA Tour qualifying system had yet to be released, it became less likely that players would turn pro to avoid a system they were unsure would ever be put in place.
The delay to 2013 gives players plenty of time to ponder their future. College seniors will get one more crack at the “old” Q-School, but college juniors (the Class of 2013) will have to weigh the new qualifying format when deciding whether to turn pro early.
Under the new format, PGA Tour cards would be awarded through a season-ending series that pit the top players on the Nationwide Tour against players at the bottom of the PGA Tour money list. Players who aren’t members of either tour would have to earn money on either tour to gain access to the series. Nonmembers, such as players fresh out of college, would have to rely on two unreliable sources – Monday qualifying and sponsor exemptions – for starts on the PGA and Nationwide tours. By contrast, Q-School, which represents the preferred way for new pros to earn PGA Tour cards, is open to anyone that pays the entry fee.
Here’s what we could see happen during the 2012-13 college season. I think we’ll see a few players leave school next year, but not a wholesale exodus:
• The status quo: There are plenty of players who want to get a degree and enjoy their four years in college. The new Q-School format will not impact their decision.
• Players attend Q-School as amateurs: Players who are unsure if they want to leave school early may attempt Q-School as amateurs, allowing them to return to school if they fail to earn a card. A player fortunate enough to earn status on the PGA or Nationwide tours would have to turn pro shortly after Q-School to accept his card, though. Coaches may not like losing their stars midseason, but it’s surprising more players don’t currently take this route. It’s relatively risk-free, outside of Q-School’s four-figure entry fee, of course.
• Players turn pro early: The Q-School changes may be enough to convince a player not intent on earning his degree to leave school early. This option is best for coaches because it lets them know before the season that one of their players is leaving.