Andrew Putnam’s three semesters of Spanish classes at Pepperdine may come in handy if he has a successful week in South Florida. He’s among the participants in this week’s Q-School for PGA Tour Latinoamerica. There’s a strong incentive to earn status for this tour’s inaugural season, which begins in Mexico in September.
The top five finishers on PGA Tour Latinoamerica’s Order of Merit will earn Web.com Tour cards for 2013. That perk isn’t offered by any other mini-tour. Putnam also said lower mini-tour purses and difficulty in Monday qualifying for Web.com Tour events convinced him to give this new tour a chance. Earning status on any tour, especially one that offers playing privileges on a higher level, is the first goal of any new pro, said Putnam, a former Pepperdine All-American.
“It’s another opportunity to gain a tour card,” he said. “I think it will be a good opportunity because it is a new tour, so there probably won’t be a ton of guys playing it because they probably haven’t heard of it.”
Last week’s PGA Tour Latinoamerica pre-qualifier was canceled due to a lack of entrants, and this week’s event does not have a full field. There are 140 players competing at Doral (Fla.) Resort’s White Course for 15 full cards and 10 conditional cards. The tour already conducted one Q-School in June in Argentina. Former Florida All-American Andres Echavarria, the 2011 SEC champion, shared medalist honors.
Some familiar faces in this week’s field include former Texas A&M All-American Bronson Burgoon, the hero of the Aggies’ 2009 NCAA title team; two-time PGA Tour winner John Inman, the 1984 NCAA champion; Drew Kittleson, the 2008 U.S. Amateur runner-up; Chan Song, a Georgia Tech All-American and brother of former LPGA players Aree and Naree Song; Jesse Mueller, who finished 51st at this year’s U.S. Open; Tim O’Neal, who revived his career with three victories earlier this year in Morocco; Will Strickler, a PGA Tour member in 2011; Martin Ureta, the 2005 U.S. Amateur Public Links runner-up; and two sons of PGA Tour players, Angel Cabrera Jr. and Olin Browne Jr.
Call them PGA Tour pioneers, trying to earn their way onto a new tour in a region unfamiliar to many Americans.
PGA Tour Latinoamerica was created last year by the PGA Tour as a feeder circuit to the Web.com Tour. It was created through a partnership with the region’s existing tour, the Tour de las Americas. PGA Tour Latinoamerica’s 11 events will each have a purse of either $150,000 or $125,000. The season begins with consecutive events in Mexico in the first two weeks of September. The tour, which concludes in December, also will visit Colombia, Brazil, Argentina, Peru, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.
Kittleson also said the five Web.com Tour cards were the biggest inspiration to try and ply his trade on this new tour.
“I’m also going to play PGA Tour Q-School and European Tour Q-School,” Kittleson said. “I just figure the more chances you have to get status, the better your odds get. I’m going to go through this Q-School so I at least have the option of going to Latin America and playing for those five Web.com Tour cards.”