Caddie Waldman advances in Q-School

Brett Waldman and Camilo Villegas at the 2009 PGA Championship.

On his time away from the job, Brett Waldman enjoyed some golf. Back to work this week, he’ll also enjoy some golf.

Of course, the vantage point will change.

The caddie for Camilo Villegas – who enters this week’s Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club at 25th in the FedEx Cup standings – Waldman last week was on the other side of the golf bag at TPC Canyons in San Antonio.

He was swinging the clubs, not carrying them.

“I hadn’t played anything legitimate in about eight years, so I had to go to the pre-qualifier,” Waldman said. “But I decided the day before the deadline to give it a shot.”

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Caddie Brett Waldman and Camilo Villegas at Pebble Beach.

He entered that annual grind called PGA Tour Q-School, and because it coincided with time off plus a locale not far from his home in Hurst, Texas, Waldman found it convenient. He also found a little bit of the old game, for reasons that confound him.

“I hadn’t practiced or done much for months,” Waldman said. “I didn’t know what to expect.”

Arriving at TPC Canyons, Waldman didn’t even know how many spots were available. When he heard there were 40, the veteran caddie assessed the landscape – tough course, tournament pressure – and figured his chances improved dramatically. And though he struggled with the putter, Waldman shot 72-78-72-70, tied for eighth, and breezed.

Technically, he’s moved on to the first stage, though it sounds better to call it what it is – he’s involved in a four-stage process, and he’s made it past the first one.

In all, the PGA Tour Q-School has six pre-qualifiers. Three were played last week, three more are ongoing, and while it doesn’t generate the attention that the first, second and final stages do, the pressure is all the same.

Waldman was one notable name who made it through, but there were others involved. Brett Munson, for instance. The Golf Coaches Association of America Collegiate Player of the Year in NCAA Division II, Munson finished T-7 at a site in Nebraska. Nephew to the late and great New York Yankees catcher Thurman Munson, Brett played at North Alabama.

Not so fortunate was Travis Wadkins, son of Lanny. Breezing along inside the cut, Travis played his last four holes in 5 over to miss by one.

• • •

AMERICANS IN EUROPE: The annual Q-School is under way in Europe, also, and while it’s been said for years that more American youngsters should go this route for the sake of their competitive spirit, let’s offer a round of applause to the handful or so who did just that this time around.

Former collegiate standouts Trent Leon (Oklahoma State) and Michael Schachner (Duke) both breezed through the first stage in France, while Oregon native Scott Harrington, a one-time Northwestern player, got through with a T-13 finish in Germany.

At London Golf Cub, Ben Fox advanced while a quartet of Americans – Nico Bollini, David Johnson, Matthew Rosenfeld and John M. Kelly – got through in Portugal.

It wasn’t all good for the small contingent of Americans, however. Tyson Alexander fell short at London GC, Aaron Goldberg was among a handful who did not advance in France, Jhared Hack failed to make it through in Scotland, Brad Tilley did not qualify in Portugal and Michael Welch found heartbreak in Germany.

Playing beautifully, Welch was T-6 through 54 holes, but closed with a 79 that included a triple bogey at the 72nd to miss by three.

Via text before he boarded a plane to head back to the U.S., Welch confirmed that it was a bitter pill, but he embraced the positives. “It will make me become a stronger player and person,” he wrote.

Welch won’t have much time to dwell on the European effort, because first stage of the PGA Tour Q-School experience is just a few weeks away.

• • •

WGC PAYDAYS: Alistair Presnell has earned $114,322 in 20 Nationwide Tour tournaments. He won $214,300 for just four days’ work on the PGA Tour, placing T-6 back in March at the CA Championship.

But if you think he’s the only one cheering for the presence of those World Golf Championships, think again. There’s no shortage of those at the big-league level who must be giddy that these limited-field, no-cut, free-pay, no-sweat things are still being staged.

Leading the cheers for this year’s Accenture Match Play, CA Championship, and Bridgestone Invitational are:

  • Ian Poulter. He’s made $2,079,664 in 15 tournaments, but 72 percent of it ($1,503,250) came in the WGCs, thanks in large part to his Match Play win.
  • Sergio Garcia. It was pretty much a lost campaign for the precocious one – except for the WGCs, that is. He earned $624,500 in those three tournaments, or 67 percent of his season’s take ($936,845).
  • Padraig Harrington. He was a puzzle once again this season, but the WGCs rewarded him nicely – a total of $597,599, or 43 percent of his total stash ($1,381,453).

MONEY MATTERS: Speaking of money issues, Vijah Singh could add to his total with fall tournaments, but as of now, he is at $1,242,142 for the season. Toss in last year’s take of $1,276,815 and his combined two-season pay is $2,518,957.

OK, nothing to turn back, right?

But to consider how far things have slipped, consider that Singh made more than $2,518,957 in each of his previous nine seasons (2000-08). His total take during the 2000-08 stretch: A whopping $52,199,522, for an average of $5,799,947.

In other words, the Big Fijian knows pay cuts.

Tough times atop the money list: And on another money matter, could the Arnold Palmer Award recepient be facing a dramatic fall off?

Since 1999, the winner of the PGA Tour money title has made no less than $5,687,777 and seven times he has been $7 million or more. (Of course, “he” means Tiger Woods and Singh, as they have owned the money title since 1999 – eight for Woods, three for Singh.)

With $4,753,727, Matt Kuchar tops the current money list. He’s in the Tour Championship and figures to play in the Sea Island tournament, so the opportunities to fly over $6 million are there.

Still, in seven of the past eight years, the leading money-winner has been at $6.9 million or more, and it seems hard to see that happening this season.

Not that we’re going to pass the hat or anything.

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