Qualkenbush, 16, learns from 4th Disney experience
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – J.J. Qualkenbush has been a pro-am participant at the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic at Walt Disney World for four years now.
The 16-year-old, who first took part in the event at the age of 13, has played with the likes of Paul Goydos, Kevin Streelman, Troy Kelly and Tom Lehman.
He has grown quite a bit since his first pro-am here at Disney – and so has his game.
“I’ve matured a lot, and I’m able to hit it farther,” Qualkenbush said. “My handicap has also gotten better, so that’s helped make it more of a challenging experience.”
It’s an experience that many junior golfers don’t get. And Qualkenbush has become somewhat of a regular here at Disney.
He was paired with Gary Woodland during Thursday’s first round on the Palm Course. The two combined to shoot 2 under – Tampa Bay Rays pitcher David Price, who was paired with John Rollins, carded a Thursday-best 12 under – but Qualkenbush still took away a lot from the experience.
“I learned that you have to persevere through all of your mistakes,” Qualkenbush said. “(Gary) shot 73 and had a rough day. For me, that’s a low score, so it just shows that every shot matters out here.”
Also in Qualkenbush’s foursome was Camilo Villegas, who shot 7-under 65.
“That inspired me to want to get better,” Qualkenbush said. “I also learned that on this course, you have to be a player and not so much a strategic ball-striker because it’s made for birdies. That’s why Tommy Gainey is up there (on the leaderboar)]. He’s a player.”
Qualkenbush will be paired with Gainey on Friday. The pair will tee off No. 1 at 11:05 a.m.
“That’ll be pretty cool,” Qualkenbush said.
The La Quinta, Calif., native, who will graduate in the spring of 2014, is a regular on the Southern California PGA Junior Tour. He has made all 15 cuts this year and most recently tied for third at the Toyota Tour Cup Series event at SilverRock Resort on Oct. 7.
His next big junior tournament is the Toyota Tour Cup Series Championship on Dec. 15-16 at PGA West in La Quinta. Qualkenbush’s home course is the TPC Stadium course at PGA West.