Would-be pros head to PGA qualifications

October 17, 2013 

Qualifying School is in session for aspiring professional tour players.

Golfers from around the country have been at it since late August and early September when the pre-qualification stage began at various sites.

This isn't new to anyone.

What is new this fall is just where those players are aiming to end up.

Unlike in years past, the end game isn't a PGA Tour card. Rather, players are competing for Web.com Tour membership.

This might seem like a slap in the face to those who that have pipe dreams of writing their own Cinderella story that begins with tough beginnings by grinding on the mini-tours with just enough money to scrape by, only to navigate the treacherous Q-School to land in the millionaire's club at golf's elite level.

It isn't.

Consider how often a player gets through the entire Q-School ride (multiple stages), only to fail during a year of tour life because they weren't ready.

It happens more than you'd think.

Those players end right back at square one; depending on how poorly the year went, plotting their career through the mini-tour lifestyle of paying large tournament entry fees only to see a fraction return on their investment if they play well.

Then they have to fork out Q-School costs with the hopes of getting hot for one of those precious qualifying berths at each stage just to get a chance to win that tour card back again.

So let's consider that actual cost.

If the conservative $40,000 figure is used for a year's worth of multi-day events on mini-tours around the country, where you spend roughly $1,500 per event on entry fees and travel costs (hotels, air or car and food), then a player needs to finish in

the top 20 to make a little profit.

For instance, a recent NGA Hooters event in the Orlando area would absolutely put a dent in a west coast golfer's pocketbook if they didn't play well.

The entry fee was $800 for the three-day tournament. The other expenses make it about $1,500 (if not more) to compete in the event. Say you played well enough to post an 12-under par 204 total. That would have gotten you a tie for fifth place and just $1,263 back into your account.

Yes, you lost money at the expense of playing a lucrative multi-day tournament where first place was more than $4,000.

Basically, you had to win to make it worth your while.

And had it gone wrong, the ramifications from playing poorly do immeasurable damage to one's confidence. Golf is a cerebral game steeped in mental acumen.

Tiger Woods held a large advantage at the elite level, due to his uncanny superiority in the course six inches between his ears, for many years until his confidence was shattered following his personal life scandal that unfolded in the media.

So while it might seem like a bummer that golf's authority figures altered the advancement to the PGA Tour by sending players from Q-School to the second-rung Web.com Tour, it's actually a good thing.

Players can now get accustomed to tour life on a smaller scale.

The competition is still really strong and the cost is obviously high, but the learning curve isn't as harsh.

Golfers can learn how to win tournaments on a professional stage, which can be used down the road if or when they find themselves staring down Woods or Phil Mickelson on a Sunday final round.

While golf isn't a perfect sport for pros to make it in, the new way of sending players through to the Web.com Tour should lengthen their careers by making them prepared when they do advance to the PGA Tour.

Until then, it's grind, grind and grind some more.

Jason Dill, sports reporter, can be reached at 745-7017 or via email at jdill@bradenton.com. Follow him on Twitter @Jason__Dill

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