PGA Tour clarifies new qualifying process

Finally, the PGA Tour has announced details of how it will blend players from the Tour and the PGA Tour into a three-tournament series that will award exemptions to the PGA Tour. And what will be the replacement for the PGA Tour’s current qualifying process is still going to award the top players from the Tour.

Starting in the fall of 2013, the top 75 players from the money list and players from 126th to 200th on the PGA Tour money list will play a series of three tournaments,with all 150 players (plus a handful of more players through other qualifying criteria) starting from scratch for the series. A total of 50 PGA Tour exemptions will be on the line.

But, and this is important, the top 25 players from the Tour will earn a PGA Tour exemption no matter where they finish in the series. Currently, the top 25 players from the old Nationwide Tour earn PGA Tour cards, and the PGA TOur officials decided (with plenty of input from the players) that those 25 players needed to continue to earn exemptions.

What is important is that where those players’ finish in the series will still determine their so-called “number” for the next year. The better they play, the better their exempt number. Finishing dead last in the series will give a top-25er the worst possible status for the 2014 PGA Tour.

While this is all fine and good, there are still lots of folks, and I would be one of them, that aren’t crazy about the changes. The PGA Tour is still kind of taking away the Cinderella story possibility for the out-of-nowhere player to earn a Tour card as a raw rookie. By utilizing the Tour as the only real method to get to the PGA Tour, the PGA Tour has certainly done good work in positioning the Tour to get new business opportunities, including the new sponsorship. And the Tour does have a better record of having players stick on the PGA Tour than the Q-school does. But there is a lack of spontaneity to the process. It all feels a little too business-like.

But it’s done and the PGA Tour isn’t likely to change its mind now.

By the way, still no word on where the three tournaments in the qualifying series will be played. It might be nice to have one at PGA West, where the Q-school had been played so often and will be played again this December.


Calling all really good female golfers . . . .

So, you’re a talented woman player who would like a chance to show that to the world. The Kia Classic in Carlsbad is looking for you.

The Kia Classic is holding a pre-tournament qualifying event on March 1 at La Costa Resort and Spa, the home of the LPGA event to be played March 22-25.

All you need to do to play in the qualifying event is be an amateur female golfer with a handicap of 2 or lower. Players must provide their name, phone number, handicap and GHIN or other verifiable handicap information to Kia Classic marketing coordinator Chad Seufert at

Entry fee for the qualifier is $50 and space into the qualifier is on a first-come,  first-serve basis. Only two golfers from the qualifier will earn berths into the Kia field.

Good luck.


Some Q-school notes after Friday

–Sam Saunder, grandson of Arnold Palmer, is tied for 73rd after the third round of the six-day event. That position would give him a Nationwide Tour card for next year, which would be his first full exemption to a PGA Tour-sanctioned tour. He has two rounds left on the Nicklaus Tournament Course, considered the easier of the two courses this week.

–Jeff Hart of Solana Beach isn’t in the Q-school field this week, but he has the distinction of having played in the Q-school finals the most since 1990. That’s 16 trips to the finals. The player with the most trips in the field this week is Chris Tidland, with 13 trips.

– A player with some local ties but not as many as some other players is Jason Allred, who spent one year at Palm Desert High School before moving back to Oregon. Allred, a former U.S. Junior Amateur champion, is tied for 73rd.

–There are a few famous caddies in the field this week, too. Robin Freeman of La Quinta, the only golfers to win Q-school twice, is on the bad of La Quinta’s Alex Coe. He joked that if Coe wins, it should count as a third win for Freeman. Also, San Saunder’s caddie is the son of a former LPGA star, Laura Baugh.

–What does conditional status on the Nationwide Tour mean? Well, maybe not a whole lot for a player. Will Claxton finished 139th in the Q-school last year and was conditional for the Nationwide this year. He had nine starts and made four cuts, finishing t17 at the Mexico Open for his best performance. Claxton, who has one PGA Tour start at this year’s Transitional Champions (a tie for 67th) is the Q-school leader through three rounds this week. That should get him more than nine starts next year, assuming he holds onto some full status after Monday.

–Through three rounds this week, the Nicklaus Tournament course has s scoring average of  70.945. The Stadium Course has an average of 72.382. Most of the upper half of the field will play two rounds at the Nicklaus Course over the next three days.

—Three players have withdrawn from the event through three rounds, Andre Stolz,  Brendan Pappas and  Marc Turnesa.

Champions Tour qualifying is really, really tough

Maybe the toughest thing to do in professional golf is not qualifying for the PGA tour, but qualifying for the Champions Tour.

With fewer playing spots in each tournament, and with a desire to make sure the tour is stocked with marquee names, getting to the Champions Tour is close to impossible for the man off the street who also happens to be a professional golfers.

The Champions Tour is holding three regional qualifying events this week across the country, and one of them is at Primm Valley Golf Club. If you have ever driving the I-15 to Las Vegas, you would know Primm Valley as the two courses on the left side of the freeway as you approach the California/Nevada border.

In the 71-player Primm Valley field will be several Coachella Valley golfers, players who have either been on the PGA Tour at one time or who have been mini-tour players looking for a big break to join the big names on the 50-and-over circuit.

Local players in the event will be Mike Barblatt of Rancho Mirage, Wayne Byrd of La Quinta,  Paolo Fasseri of Indio, Robin Freeman of La Quinta and Jerry Howse of La Quinta.

If any of those players get to the finals, they will then play for the right to Monday qualify for the tour. Unless of course they have a huge week and earn one of the limited full exemptions to the 2012 Champions Tour.

It was once said — okay, it was said by a player who had failed to qualify for the senior circuit — that the Champions Tour is pretty close to a closed shop. It’s not a closed shop, but it is awfully tough to get on the tour.


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.