Euro Q-School becoming a bigger option

Patrick Reed

Patrick Reed was on the Nationwide Tour, following the path of many young pros, when another tournament caught his eye on the television. It was the European Tour's Nordea Masters in Sweden.

Reed had turned down a sponsor exemption into the event, opting instead to travel to Columbus, Ohio, for the Nationwide stop. The scenery surrounding Stockholm's Bro Hof Slott GC helped convince him to sign up for Q-School on both the European and PGA tours, though.

Q-School is one of professional golf's most dreaded rites of passage, but more North American players like Reed are choosing to accept the challenge not once, but twice, this fall. The first stage of European Tour Q-School was held several weeks ago. Reed advanced, and is among the many who are beginning their quest for a PGA Tour card at this week's first-stage competition.

"Watching on TV all the different places they go and the different kinds of courses, I thought it would be a fun thing to do," Reed said. "Watching Rory (McIlroy) and all the younger guys starting to come over here and do well kind of made me realize maybe they have something over there that we don't. When I was over there, I realized it was how hard the weather was. The first day of Q-School, I get out there and it's 50 degrees, raining and blowing about 30 (mph). You have to be mentally strong and you definitely can tell where your weaknesses are."

Reed was one of about a dozen United States players to advance out of the first stage of European Tour Q-School. Dodge Kemmer and Scott Pinckney, two of the first Americans to sign with Chubby Chandler's International Sports Management group, also advanced, as did Canadians Matt Hill and Nick Taylor and former USGA champions Byeong-Hun An and Sihwan Kim (An and Kim are Korean, but attended high school and college in the United States). Peter Uihlein is signed up for the second stage of European Tour Q-School. He was exempt out of the first stage for making the Open Championship cut.

Europe was a destination for Americans without PGA Tour status in the past. The Nationwide Tour, which began in 1990, gave more Americans reason to stay stateside, though. The success of young Europeans such as McIlroy and the interconnection between golf's international tours seem to have convinced more Americans to travel abroad, as have easier international travel and communication. The recent success of European Tour members has made the tour's stature rise. There was once a debate about which was the stronger circuit, the European or Nationwide tour. That's no longer a question.

"I think a lot of North American players are waking up to the idea that there is a lot of quality golf being played outside of the U.S.,” said IMG Golf vice president Kevin Lynch. “Events outside the U.S. are getting better and more accessible. This is a very positive trend for global golf, and with the PGA Tour dipping its toe in the water in Asia, Latin America, etc., the trend will continue. However, at the end of the day, a professional golfer is not going to travel just to travel. They will travel if they see opportunity.”

The PGA Tour is still the first choice for many North American players. That will be confirmed by an upcoming scheduling conflict. The second stage of European Tour Q-School is in the first week of December, the same time as the final stage of the PGA Tour's qualifying process. But Europe is a preferred plan for some over domestic mini-tours, which offer smaller purses, no Official World Golf Ranking points, limited media exposure and just a handful of exemptions into Nationwide Tour events. Success on the European Tour can lead to starts in majors and World Golf Championships.

These are hardly the first North Americans to try to qualify for the European Tour. What stands out about the players that crossed the Atlantic this year is the strength of their resumes. Uihlein, who is scheduled to turn pro after the 2012 NCAA Championship, is the 2010 U.S. Amateur champion. Reed, of Martinez, Ga., was a first-team All-American who led Augusta State to consecutive NCAA titles. Hill won the 2009 NCAA Championship and was Golfweek's College Player of the Year. His countryman, Taylor, was the 2010 Ben Hogan Award winner as the top player in college and amateur golf. Kim won the 2004 U.S. Junior and was a first-team All-American at Stanford. An was the 2009 U.S. Amateur champion before playing one season of college golf at Cal. Pinckney, of Anthem, Ariz., won the 2010 Trans-Mississippi Amateur and qualified for this year's U.S. Open as an amateur. Kemmer, of Wichita, Kan., won the 2009 Scratch Players Championship.

While overseas for Q-School, Kemmer won the EuroPro Tour. He's the first American to win on that circuit, which is a step below the Challenge Tour. Kemmer considered signing with Chandler after watching the 2010 Open Championship won by Louis Oosthuizen, an ISM client, and listening to commentators' descriptions of Chandler's fun-loving and successful stable, which also includes McIlroy, Charl Schwartzel and Lee Westwood.

That's just one reason more Americans are crossing the Atlantic to add another Q-School test to their schedule.

• • •

Here's a look at notables teeing it up in first-stage PGA Tour qualifiers this week:

Oct. 18-21

The Club at Irish Creek, Kannapolis, N.C.

• Jon Curran, a former Vanderbilt player who is Keegan Bradley’s roommate in Jupiter, Fla.

• Tadd Fujikawa, the pint-sized Hawaiian who starred at the Sony Open

• Scott Marino, the brother of PGA Tour player Steve Marino

• Adam Mitchell, a member of the United States Walker Cup team in 2009

• Corey Nagy, the leading money winner on the 2011 eGolf Professional Tour

• Patrick Reed, the leading player on Augusta State’s back-to-back NCAA title teams

• • •

Grasslands Golf & Country Club, Lakeland, Fla.

• Brandon Brown, the leading money winner on the 2011 Hooters Tour

• Laurie Canter, who turned pro this year after becoming one of England’s top amateurs. He is a former winner of both the South African and Spanish amateurs. He represented England at the 2010 World Amateur Team Championship

• Phillip Choi, who turned pro this year after his sophomore season at Florida. He Monday qualified for last week’s McGladrey Classic.

• Chan Song, a former Georgia Tech player and brother of Aree and Naree Song

• • •

Stonebridge Ranch Country Club, McKinney, Texas

• Federico Cabrera, the son of former Masters and U.S. Open champion Angel Cabrera

• Jay Haas Jr., who caddied for his brother, Bill, during the latter half of the 2011 season, including Bill's $11.4 million payday at the Tour Championship

• Drew Kittleson, the 2008 U.S. Amateur runner-up

• Ty Tryon, who earned a PGA Tour card in 2001 at age 17. He’s qualified for the past two U.S. Opens and had conditional Nationwide Tour status, missing eight of nine cuts.

• Brett Waldman, the former caddie for Camilo Villegas who played the Nationwide Tour this season. Waldman has made just three of 18 cuts this season.

• Christopher Ward, the 2010 Big 12 Conference champion at Texas Tech

• • •

Dayton Valley Golf Club, Dayton, Nev.

• Philip Francis, the 2006 U.S. Junior champion

• Jin Jeong, the 2010 British Amateur champion and low amateur at the 2010 Open Championship (T-14)

• Dodge Kemmer, a former Stanford player who recently advanced out of the first stage of European Tour Q-School and became the first American to win on the EuroPro Tour. Kemmer has signed with Chubby Chandler’s International Sport Management agency

• Gregor Main, the former UCLA All-American who was medalist at the 2011 U.S. Amateur and former winner of the Southern Amateur

• Clay Ogden, the 2005 U.S. Amateur Public Links champion

• Warren Schutte, the 1991 NCAA champion at UNLV

• • •

Deerwood Golf Club, Kingwood, Texas

• Bronson Burgoon, the former Texas A&M player who hit a gap wedge within inches of the hole to clinch the 2009 NCAA Championship for the Aggies

• Tom Carter, who won three Nationwide Tour titles in 2003 to earn a PGA Tour promotion. He has made just one Nationwide Tour start in the past two seasons.

• John Peterson, the 2011 NCAA and Jones Cup champion who also finished runner-up as an amateur at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Invitational

• • •

Oct. 19-22

Auburn University Club, Auburn, Ala.

• Emiliano Grillo, a 19-year-old Argentine who was a 2009 and 2010 AJGA first-team All-American.

• Jonathan Randolph, a 2010 first-team All-American at Mississippi

• Kyle Scott, a second-team All-American this past season at Georgia Tech

• Lee Williams, who represented the United States at the 2003 Walker Cup

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