At Korn Ferry Q-School, a favor for a friend and a crushing DQ

Korn Ferry Tour

At Korn Ferry Q-School, a favor for a friend and a crushing DQ

Korn Ferry

At Korn Ferry Q-School, a favor for a friend and a crushing DQ

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T.J. Mitchell has spent the past year playing mini-tour events and Monday qualifiers. Mitchell’s stock is rising, however, and after a tie for fifth at a Korn Ferry Tour second-stage qualifier, the 30-year-old moves on to next month’s finals in Winter Garden, Florida

“It’s awesome, just knowing that I have a chance going into finals to better the status,” Mitchell said after the final round at Southern Hills Plantation in Brooksville, Florida. “It was definitely nerve-wracking the first three days. For some reason today, I was very calm and Joey (Garber) kept me in the moment.”

Garber is a former University of Georgia teammate who carried Mitchell’s bag for the four-round event. He also accompanied Mitchell to a first-stage qualifier in Nebraska. That’s a rare commitment for a player charting his own professional journey.

Garber, 28, played mostly on the PGA Tour in 2019. After turning professional in 2014, a year after Mitchell, Garber broke through for his first Korn Ferry Tour title at the 2018 Rex Hospital Open. It led to a full PGA Tour card for the following season.

At Southern Hills, it took a 72-hole score of 10 under to earn one of the 23 advancing spots. Mitchell tied for fifth at 13 under. Braden Thornberry, the former world No. 1 amateur, was also on that number.

Also of note in Brooksville, which was one of five second-stage qualifying sites, 17-year-old Akshay Bhatia came up six shots short of advancing. He got off to a strong enough start with an opening 68 but didn’t break 70 again.

Bhatia turned professional after the Walker Cup in September, but in three PGA Tour starts on sponsor exemptions over the past two months, he has missed the cut every time. He has another sponsor exemption into the RSM Classic in two weeks thanks to his Jones Cup victory last February.

Scores: Murrieta | Plantation | Dothan | Brooksville | McKinney

Former Michigan State player Donnie Trosper was the only amateur to advance from Southern Hills. Two other amateurs scored a spot in the finals from other sites: Kansas senior Andy Spencer out of Murrieta, California, and Duke senior Chandler Eaton out of Dothan, Alabama.

Eaton, who made the cut at the U.S. Open in June, was instrumental in Duke’s Golf Club of Georgia Collegiate victory last month, which helped push the Blue Devils to No. 5 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings.

Perhaps the most crushing story to come out of second stage was Luis Gagne’s disqualification for failing to sign his scorecard after the first round. The former LSU player, who tied for low amateur honors at the 2018 U.S. Open, violated Rule 3-3b for failing to do so, and thus was disqualified. He had posted a 1-under 70 at Plantation Preserve Golf Club in Plantation, Florida.

“Hard lesson to take today when I forgot to sign my scorecard,” Gagne wrote on Instagram. “Absolutely devastated and something I’ve never done before. Can only look forward and plan for the future.”

Korn Ferry Tour Final Qualifying will be played Dec. 12-15 at Orange County National in Winter Garden, Florida. Players who advance to Final Stage are assured a Korn Ferry Tour card for the following season, and the top 45 finishers (and ties) at Final Stage are, according to the Tour, “assured a healthy number of starts in the first part of the following Korn Ferry Tour season.”

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