The PGA has decided to do away with qualifying school in its present form, starting with the 2013 season. I object.
Previously, the PGA divvied up its new tour spots between Q-School survivors (six aneurysm-inducing rounds) and Nationwide Tour survivors. But next year, the PGA will change the way that players outside the Top 125 money winners earn their tour privileges.
At the end of August, before the “playoffs,” the Top 125 will be locked down. The Top 75 Nationwide players and the players between No. 126 and No. 200 on the PGA Tour money list will play a three-tournament series in October. The Top 50 in those three tournaments will earn PGA Tour privileges. The other 100 will be returned to the Nationwide Tour. The December Q-School will qualify players to join the Nationwide Tour.
So, we will be deprived of young college players such as Dustin Johnson, J.B. Holmes and Rickie Fowler going directly to the PGA Tour and writing their own Cam Newton-type success stories. Straight to the Nationwide Tour with you young folks (unless you can earn enough money in tour events to qualify for the October series, in which case … ah, forget it).
And we will be deprived of stories like 2007 U.S. Amateur champion Colt Knost, who thought he had barely missed qualifying last year at Q-School, even weeping, only to find out that he had made the cut.
So what is the cause behind this change? PGA Executive Director Tim Flinchem claims that Nationwide graduates have greater success on tour than Q-School grads, and statistics prove it. But the real reason — no surprise — is money.
First, Nationwide is pulling its sponsorship after this year, and the PGA will have to find a new sponsor for the “feeder tour.” A system that puts more promising young players on the tour and makes it even more relevant to PGA Tour qualifying is a stronger draw for sponsor dollars.
Second, those late-season tournaments — the “Fall Series” events that take place after the playoffs — have groused about their lack of relevance, and their sponsors were rumored to be threatening to pull out. Now, not only will these events help set the field for the next year’s PGA Tour, but the season will officially start in October, so that these events will also help the next year’s golfers qualify.
(Of course, this adds a frantic note to the 2013 season, where golfers will have only eight months to establish their eligibility for the 2014 season, but that is part of the cost of doing business.)
In fairness, the October events will probably have all the drama of Q-school — in particular the last round of the last tournament, where the roster of Tour-qualified golfers will change with every bogey and birdie. Still, the Q-school, with its six days of progressively hellish stress, has served golf and its fans well.
Can’t we have both? What is sport if not prevailing through the deepest ordeal and then attaining the heights? Those moments make golf the great sport, the un-qualified success, that it is.