LA QUINTA, Calif. – Harris English has developed into the top rookie prospect in this year’s Q-School because he started focusing not on the path, but the destination.
That sounds philosophical, but actually refers to his process on the putting green. He adopted it this spring when he began working with instructor Mike Taylor. English’s attention now is on the spot where he wants the ball to enter the hole.
“I’m just trying to get up there and let it happen naturally and not try to force anything,” English said, “and just stay comfortable.”
English would do well to keep that same attitude this week, at arguably the most pressure-packed tournament of the year. English is in an enviable position at Q-School, though. He already knows his destination should he not earn a PGA Tour card. He’s exempt on the Nationwide Tour after winning on that circuit as an amateur earlier this year.
“It’s a great situation to be in,” English said. “I’m going to try to play well, and if I don’t, it’s not the end of the world. If you would’ve told me in the spring that I would be in this position, I would’ve called you crazy.”
English won the Southern Amateur and Nationwide Children’s Hospital Invitational in consecutive weeks this summer. The victories earned him a spot on this year’s U.S. Walker Cup team. After turning pro, he was runner-up at the Nationwide Tour’s WNB Golf Classic and third at the Miccosukee Championship. He finished 65th on the money list in just five starts as a pro, and easily would’ve earned his PGA Tour card had he been professional for his victory. Instead, he’s at Q-School.
Many players who’ve graduated from Q-School the same year they participated in the Walker Cup have fared well on the PGA Tour. Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler, Jeff Overton, J.B. Holmes and Cameron Tringale recently accomplished the feat. Anthony Kim (2006) and Webb Simpson (2008) turned pro one year after playing the Walker Cup, then aced their first Q-School.
English credits his success to that change in his putting. The ballstriking always has been there. He had college victories at Isleworth, the former training ground of Tiger Woods, and Olympia Fields, site of the 2003 U.S. Open. Those are two of college golf’s top events at two of the most demanding courses that collegians face.
“He’s long and hits towering long irons,” said Nathan Smith, English’s Walker Cup teammate. “He chews up 7,500-yard golf courses. That’s the game today.”
Those same words can describe Hudson Swafford, a fellow Q-School competitor who roomed with English at Georgia. Swafford turned pro after the Bulldogs’ runner-up finish at this year’s NCAA Championship and won the eGolf Professional Tour’s HGM Hotels Classic in August.
English and Swafford are paired together for Q-School’s first two rounds. They still room together, only now in a condominium in St. Simons Island, Ga., that was owned by former Bulldog Chris Kirk, who won this year’s Viking Classic on the PGA Tour. Former Alabama player Gator Todd, who also is in the Q-School finals, also lives there. Todd is the son of former NFL quarterback Richard Todd.
English is rooming this week with former Georgia teammate Brian Harman. Harman is making his first Q-School finals appearance, ensuring that he’ll earn status on the PGA or Nationwide tours for the first time since turning pro in 2009. He is a former U.S. Junior champion and represented the U.S. in the 2005 and ’09 Walker Cups.
Swafford also proclaims to be pressure-free as Q-School begins. After all, he started the week with no status and is guaranteed to spend his first full pro season on at least a Nationwide Tour card.
“Everything from here on is a bonus,” Swafford said. “You just try to play well, add it up at the end of the week and see where you fall.”