A former desert high school star takes on PGA Tour qualifying

Most golf fans, even the hard-core fans, don’t pay much attention to the pre-qualifying stage of the PGA Tour’s qualifying process. After all, pre-qualifying is just for players who have absolutely no status with the PGA Tour whatsoever. Raw rookies, fresh out of college, are generally the players in the three-day pre-qualifying events.

One of those events will be played in the desert next week at the Norman Course at PGA West, and there will be eight local players in the field of 74. But one of those players might be worth watching.

Ben Murray was a star golfer at La Quinta High School, the same school that produced Anthony Kim, now a three-time winner on the tour. In 2007, Murray helped led the Blackhawks to a CIF Eastern Division title and was named The Desert Sun’s spring male athlete of the year. From there he went to TCU for a year before transferring to UC Irvine, where he continued his golf career.

Now, out of school, Murray is ready to take his first shot at the PGA Tour, or at least the Nationwide Tour. And the first step for that will be in the pre-qualifying tournament just a few miles from where he used to play his high school golf.

If you aren’t familiar with the process, players in the pre-qualifier advance to the official first stage of qualifying, along with players who are exempt out of pre-qualifying. From there golfers advance to the secnd stage and are joined by golfers who are exempt from first-stage qualifying.

Golfers who get out of the second stage advance to the finals, along with (again) players who are exempt from first and second stages. That includes PGA Tour players who have lost their playing cards this year. The finals will be held at PGA West in La Quinta this year.

Just reaching the finals will get a player no worse than conditional exempt status on the Nationwide Tour. The top 25 players will earn exempt status into the PGA Tour next year, with the rest of the approximately 150 players earning full or exempt status for the Nationwide Tour next year.

That’s the gauntlet that Murray will begin next Wednesday at the Norman Course. It’s a long journey, and one that few players complete in their first try. But it can be done, and maybe some home cooking in the desert will help Murray in his efforts.