Q-School: Second-stage recap
BROOKSVILLE, Fla. – Jay Williamson lay awake at 4 a.m. Saturday, anxiously awaiting his tee time for the final round of Q-School’s second stage. It doesn’t matter that the tournament awards no money or trophy and is witnessed by only a few dozen people.
It can keep even a veteran player from a good night’s sleep, even when he has a huge cushion with just 18 holes to play, as Williamson did. He started the final round tied for the lead, eight shots inside the cut line.
Williamson held on for victory, shooting a final-round 69 Saturday at Southern Hills Plantation to finish at 18-under 270.
“It’s amazing the stress I feel at 42 playing this game,” Williamson said. “I’ve got three young kids, so my perspective is a lot different than the 20-year-olds I played with this week. I’m not proud of myself very often, but I’m proud of myself that I was able to do this.”
Williamson, and 20 other players, advanced Saturday from Southern Hills to the Q-School finals Dec. 2-7 at Bear Lakes Country Club in West Palm Beach, Fla. The top 25 finishers and ties there will earn PGA Tour cards. Williamson relishes the opportunity.
"I have a pretty good record at Q-School," he said. He tied for 18th at last year's finals to keep his PGA Tour card.
All participants in the finals are guaranteed at least conditional Nationwide Tour status. Many players must return to mini-tours if they fail at second stage, which is why it's often considered the most pressure-packed portion of the Q-School process.
Williamson finished 184th on this year’s PGA Tour money list, but shot four consecutive rounds in the 60s this week, making 23 birdies and just five bogeys.
“I just didn’t do the stupid things I’ve done all year,” Williamson said.
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Jess Daley, a college teammate of Luke Donald, made birdie on his final two holes to advance on the number. He used a 6-iron for both birdies, hitting his tee shot at the par-3 17th to 9 feet and his approach to the 480-yard 18th to 6 feet. Daley’s final-round 70 gave him an 8-under 280.
“It’s unbelievable to finish that way,” said Daley, 31, “but awful to put myself in a situation where I had to birdie the last two holes to advance.
“I had a bit of an odd peace kind of come over me when I was over the ball on 17, and the same thing on 18. ... I somehow cleared my mind, because I was so nervous.”
Daley will have a home-course advantage at the Q-School finals. He is a Bear Lakes member, and earned his PGA Tour card there in the 2001 Q-School. He played on the Nationwide Tour from 2003-‘07 and has spent the past two seasons on mini-tours.
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Robert Gates has seen the best and the worst of second stage in his two Q-School attempts. Gates, who wrapped up his college career at Texas A&M in 2008, made bogey on the final hole of his second-stage qualifier last year to fail to advance by a shot.
“I don’t think depression would be the right word,” Gates said of his reaction to last year’s near-miss. “It was something darker than that.”
This year, he played his final 11 holes 3 under to advance with a shot to spare. Gates birdied Nos. 8, 9 and 12 to shoot 70 and finish at 9-under 279.
“There was a lot of grinding out there,” Gates said, “but I got through it.”
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As with any qualifying tournament, there are heartbreak stories. Steve LeBrun finished bogey-double bogey to miss advancing by one shot. LeBrun finished No. 196 on the Nationwide Tour money list, leaving him with no status for next season.
Four-time PGA Tour winner Joe Durant tied for 22nd; the top 21 and ties advanced to the finals. If one of the four players that finished at 280 had finished one shot higher, Durant, LeBrun and two other players would’ve advanced to the finals.
Durant was done in by a double bogey on his 71st hole, an error that erased birdies on Nos. 15 and 16 that put him inside the cut line. He shot 71 to finish at 7-under 281.
“It was in my control and I just didn’t handle it well,” Durant said.
Durant stood in front of the scoreboard for more than an hour after completing his round, spending most of that time standing in one spot with his arms crossed, alternating his gaze between his phone and the scoreboard.
He finished 182nd on the money list this year.
“The whole year’s been disappointing, but this is the topper,” he said.
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Durant wasn’t the only former PGA Tour winner not to advance. Dean Wilson, Frank Lickliter, Robert Gamez, Eric Axley, Mike Heinen, Jim Gallagher Jr., David Gossett and Grant Waite also failed to advance, as did Erik Compton and Ty Tryon.
Leif Olson won a BMW earlier this year for a hole-in-one at the Canadian Open. Olson, who earned his card out of last year’s Q-School, also failed to advance.
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Ted Potter, Jr., earned another crack at the big leagues with his 15-under 273. He tied for third after winning his first-stage qualifier by four shots. Potter, a two-time Hooters Tour player of the year (2006, ‘09), is 35 under par in eight Q-School rounds this year. He has a 67.6 scoring average, with six rounds in the 60s.
This will be Potter’s third trip to Q-School finals. He earned Nationwide Tour status the other two times, but has made just three of 44 cuts in his two full seasons on the circuit.
He was 20 years old when he played the 2003 Q-School finals; he missed 24 of 24 cuts the following season on the Nationwide Tour. He also played the circuit in 2007.
“Hopefully it’ll go a little bit better than it has in the past,” he said, “but I’m definitely looking forward to next year.”
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OTHER SITES: Jim McCabe looks at the good, bad, ugly and disheartening tales from the entire second stage of PGA Tour Q-School.
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