February 25, 2000
Every profession presents at least one major barrier to entry. For example, the Delaware bar exam is one of the toughest in the country. For most law school graduates there are only three chances to pass the three-day test, and a one-year wait between each exam.
The PGA Tour is no different. Its “bar exam” is a qualifying tournament, usually called the Q School. It’s an annual 6 round, 108-hole marathon, held in late fall. For each of the last ten years only the top 35 finishers (plus ties) earned their tour card. Those who miss the cut wait a year for another chance, or try their luck on the Buy.com Tour.
David Gould, a well-known golf writer, did many aspiring Tour professionals a big favor with his new book, Q School Confidential (St. Martin’s Press, $25.95 SRP).
In this fascinating study, Gould describes the daunting process by which hundreds compete each year for the chance to play golf at the highest professional level.
High school golfers or others who daydream about making it to the big time should read this book. It’s a welcome reality check.
Mixing old tournament documents with compelling anecdotes from players and tour officials, Gould details the 35-year history of tour school.
The qualifying tournament grew out of the late 1960’s split between the PGA hierarchy and the new breed of Tour players, who had no intentions of working as club pros. Gould shows how these tensions helped develop the current system. As television revenue grew, so did the need to create a rational method for permitting entry into the lucrative tournament fields.
Q School may be brutal for the participants, but at least it is an essentially fair test of ability.
Readers are treated to a wide range of character studies in performance anxiety, grace under pressure, and outright crack-ups. The successful experiences of well-known golfers such as Peter Jacobsen and Mark McCumber are interspersed with tales of woe. Eric Epperson flamed out in the 1995 school with six bogeys in the last nine holes. Jerry Kelly, now does very well on the Tour, previously missed his card at Q School by one shot two years in a row.
Mac O’Grady made it to the big time on his 17th attempt, an example of perseverance to which Gould devotes an entire chapter.
Gould also explains the big difference between the tour school and other professional entrance examinations. Even if players pass the Q School, there is a better than even chance of going back again.
Earning their Tour players’ badge only gives the players a chance to play about 20 PGA Tour events throughout the next season. If the new professionals don’t earn enough to stay in the top 125 on the money list, they must return to Q School.
On the other hand, the potential rewards for playing on the PGA Tour are tremendous. No wonder so many put themselves through the torture.
Gould writes well about an aspect of golf that is not as well known as other parts of the PGA Tour. He filled in the gap nicely.
On March 11 at 10 a.m., the Sussex Family YMCA will hold a one-hour golf clinic taught by Steve Smith, Director of Golf at The Golf Park at Rehoboth. Smith will cover the basics of the grip, stance, and set-up, as well as help with slicing and hooking. At the Fitness Center, Tina Johnson will also give instruction on specific exercises to help the golf game. For more details, call the Y at 302-227-8018.