The second stage of Web.com Tour Q-School may be one of golf’s greatest mental challenges.
Pass through and you simply get a chance to earn a full Web.com Tour card. Fall short and you might have to look abroad for playing opportunities.
David Branshaw didn’t seem to have any nerves in this pressure-cooker.
“I’m too old to worry about this stuff,” Branshaw said.
His attitude paid off as Branshaw closed the Brooksville, Fla., second stage site with three consecutive 68s for a 14-under 274 – a total that earned him a tie for 14th and a pass through to the final stage on the number.
He did it at 49.
Branshaw was last on the PGA Tour in 2007 and hasn’t completed a full season on the Web.com Tour since 2011. Yet here he was grinding against a field where some of the players were less than half his age.
By this juncture, most have given up the pro golf dream, are still playing on the PGA Tour or are preparing to turn 50 and try their luck on the PGA Tour Champions. A 49-year-old still grinding it out for a Web.com Tour card is rare, but Branshaw benefits from an open-minded approach.
“(My goal) is just get competitive again. If I can get competitive again, that’ll make me happy,” he said. “Put me anywhere to play, and as long as I compete, I’ll be fine.”
Branshaw turned pro in 1991 and began surfacing on the Web.com Tour in the late 1990s. His first full season on the circuit came in 2002, and he earned his first win that year at the Gila River Classic. He made it through PGA Tour Q-School in 2003 and played on the PGA Tour three of the next four years. But he returned to the Web.com Tour in 2008.
He finished an agonizing 26th on the money list that season (top 25 earned PGA Tour cards) and would drop down the money list each of the next three years.
Halfway through the 2011 season – a campaign in which he would miss 15 of 24 cuts and fail to record a top 10 – he came to the realization that he was no longer having any fun.
“You play enough years on the (Web.com Tour), you get tired of it,” Branshaw said. “It’s like repeating fourth grade over and over and over.”
So Branshaw mostly eschewed the tour pro life over the next two years.
Branshaw tried Q-School in 2011 and played golf casually from time to time. As he pondered his fate, he came to the conclusion he was tired.
“I just wasted away a couple years,” Branshaw said. “Maybe I needed to get recharged, maybe that’s what it is. I burnt myself out.”
That changed. Branshaw had made it into one Web.com Tour event in 2012 and another in early 2013 and then decided to try to Monday qualify for the 2013 PGA Tour Travelers Championship. He made it. In his first PGA Tour start in six years, he fired an opening 67, made the cut and finished in solo 69th.
“I missed being out there,” Branshaw said. “I wanted to play after that.”
Branshaw failed to advance past the second stage in 2013, 2014 and 2015. He finally got through second stage in 2016 and finished T-72 at the final stage of Q-School.
But one day, his right shoulder locked up. Months after securing conditional Web.com Tour status, he had to undergo surgery and was out for the year.
Branshaw competed in three Monday qualifiers this spring but didn’t play again competitively thereafter until a mini-tour event the week before second stage. He didn’t ramp up his practice until two weeks before second stage as he was busy helping his wife recover from surgery.
Yet he passed through and is onto a final-stage site (Whirlwind Golf Club in Chandler, Ariz.) where he earned his first of two Web.com Tour wins.
Branshaw doesn’t have a specific plan. Is the PGA Tour Champions a possibility? Sure. For now, it’s simply do his best at final stage and see what he can do on the Web.com Tour. And if he can somehow qualify for the PGA Tour again …
“Why not? Play it when you’re 50,” Branshaw said. “If you’re still able to do it, do it.” Gwk