No Q-School changes until at least '13
College seniors can breathe a sigh of relief. Golfweek has learned that the PGA Tour’s proposed Q-School changes will not be implemented until at least 2013, giving prospective touring pros another opportunity to earn a Tour card through Q-School.
The PGA Tour had planned to implement in 2012 wholesale changes to Q-School and the Nationwide Tour (“The Forecaddie,” Feb. 18 issue of Golfweek), but prolonged debate about those modifications has forced the Tour to put the plan on hold.
“I think that’s 2013 for sure on the Q-School/Nationwide Tour restructure,” Nationwide Tour president Bill Calfee told Golfweek. “We’re working on the specifics of seeding and points, how you bring the players from the two tours together for the final three events of the year. We’re definitely making progress.”
It is too late to get the new system in place for the 2012 season, Calfee said. The Tour would need a new qualifying procedure in place before the start of the season so players know what's at stake at season’s end. The plan is to now have the new qualifying structure in place in 2013, meaning next year would be the final year under the current qualifying system.
The proposed changes would make 50 PGA Tour cards available through a season-ending, three-tournament series that pits the Nationwide Tour’s top players against those at the bottom of the PGA Tour money list. Players would be ranked before the series based on their finish on their respective money list; the top 50 players at series’ end would earn PGA Tour cards for the following season.
While the general structure for the qualifying series seems to be in place, there has been debate about how to rank players who’ve spent the year competing on tours with disparate purse sizes.
That series of tournaments would be the only way for players without status to qualify for the PGA Tour. Under the new system, only Nationwide Tour cards would be available at Q-School. Players who are not PGA Tour or Nationwide Tour members can gain access to the season-ending series by earning money in tour events. Nonmembers must rely on sponsor exemptions or Monday qualifying to gain access to events, though. Q-School is open to anyone who pays the entry fee.
Under the current system, 25 PGA Tour cards are available through the Nationwide Tour and 25 are available at Q-School.
The PGA Tour Policy Board gave preliminary approval in March to the Q-School and Nationwide Tour changes. The proposal, which was in its early stages when it was first approved, needs to be ratified by the Policy Board, which meets in October.
The new Q-School/Nationwide structure isn’t the only developmental initiative that has been delayed. The PGA Tour’s proposed Latin American tour, which would provide Nationwide Tour cards, will not begin until at least the fall of 2012. It was hoped the tour could begin in early 2012, but an umbrella sponsor has not been found, Calfee said.
“We’re still looking for an umbrella sponsor,” Calfee said. “I know there are some companies that are still interested, but we haven’t sold it, so until we do, we’re still in the preliminary stages. I think 2012 at this point is fairly unlikely, although we could start in the fall or in the winter. I wouldn’t rule it out, but I think it’s getting less likely the longer we go here.”
The PGA Tour wants to change its qualifying structure to help sell the Nationwide Tour’s umbrella sponsorship. Nationwide Insurance’s sponsorship is scheduled to end after the 2012 season; the Columbus, Ohio-based company has said it will not renew its contract because it has become a sponsor of The Memorial, which is played in nearby Dublin, Ohio.
The PGA Tour claims the changes to the qualifying structure would better connect the PGA and Nationwide tours, and address concerns about the readiness of Q-School graduates to compete on the PGA Tour. The Tour prefers the Nationwide Tour’s seasonlong format to Q-School, which rewards cards based on one week’s performance. Nationwide Tour graduates traditionally perform better on the PGA Tour than those who earn playing privileges via Q-School, according to statistics cited by the Tour.