Motorcycles and 2008 Q-School First Stage at St. Johns Golf & CC

2009 PGA TOUR Qualifying School- First Stage, Second Round St. Johns Golf and Country Club in St. Augustine, FL. Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008 DSC03680It was a beautiful day and I always wanted to go so I hopped on my Suzuki Volusia motorcycle and drove the 25 miles or so down to St. Johns Golf and Country Club in St. Augustine, FL. I found the course easily enough and sort of coasted onto the property so as to not disturb the golfers with an unexpected roar of my 805-cc engine. I knew I was in the right place as I casually watched three golfers on the fairway to the right. I observed three full swing shots and one thrown club even before I parked my bike. This is it! The qualifying school of the PGA TOUR. Some of these guys aren’t so good and will not make it to the big show in 2009. Most of these guys will not make it for sure. The odds are against it. Eighty players today at this first stage site and the 23 best and ties will make it to the second stage. At that next stage the competition naturally increases but also dramatically increases with really good accomplished players exempt from the first stage. Ditto for the final stage- more really good competition. What’s that saying… the grindstone depending on what you are made of will either make you shine or completely consume you. DSC03676If you are one of the lucky 25 players to successfully emerge from Q-School with full exempt status then there is some more competition on the PGA TOUR. The top 125 on the 2008 money list- the world’s best players will be there waiting for you. So too will the other new guys- the top 25 GOLD graduates of the Nationwide tour. The PGA TOUR- to be one of the fortunate 175 golfers to make it there would be an incredible lifetime and professional achievement. As I strolled through the parking lot up to the clubhouse I knew this was no ordinary amateur event. I passed the reserved parking spot with the sign Men’s 2008 Club Champion David French. The parking spot was vacant. Usually the club champion with reasonably good skills and intimate knowledge of the golf course would compete in any tournament held at his club. Why not take a gamble and see what would happen? But here in Q-School the ante up fee is $4500. Evidently he chose not to go for it and his friends elected not to ante up and sponsor him either. Likely a good day job. I have been told many times by many whom have witnessed my Jim Furyk-John Daly like swing to “keep my day job.” I understand completely but am never one for taking good advice. How about you? DSC03677This is technically a PGA TOUR event even though there are no spectator shuttles from East Timbuktu. Thank you very much. There is no welcoming corporate sponsor's tent or merchandise tent the size of Macy’s department store that you have to walk through. There is not one picture of Tiger Woods and sadly there are no concession stands. This is a dry tournament. But this is the PGA TOUR. There I said it again. I will see guys today that make it. Then I can say I saw them at the very start of their PGA TOUR career! As I walked though the manicured hedges I noticed the large clock at the apex of the clubhouse. It looked like the one on the Hill Valley courthouse in Back to the Future. The clock read a quarter to twelve as I approached the front doors of the clubhouse. Almost High Noon- it is time for these players to realize their dreams and their future or head back to their past. DSC03678The pairings for rounds 1 & 2 are posted on the glass door. This reminds me of college way back when they posted exam results outside the professor’s door. I cross-reference the posting with what I printed out from the web site. All 80 players are present and accounted for- 26 threesomes and 1 twosome. Guess where they placed the twosome. You guessed it right in the middle of the pack. Those two are hoping for a fast pace of play! Walking through the modest clubhouse to the pro shop area I was in search of a scorecard with a hole routing map. I am in luck as the man behind the counter produces a scorecard. But out of luck as it has no map on it. Those little maps are especially important to make your way around a course that you have never seen before. I go out the backside of the clubhouse and find the scoring area. There will be no results posted on the front door at the conclusion of play. This is an impressive professional looking scoring area. The calligrapher did a nice job posting the first round results from yesterday. I see a guy by the name of Phil Eich from Maitland, FL shot a red hot 9-under 63 in the first round. Three guys with their last name starting with ‘D’ were next at 65- Jesse Daley, Chip Deason, and David Denham. There are 29 at 70 or better. Doug Dvorak of Windermere, FL had the highest score of the first round, a 78. Not only is it only the second round but it’s the first stage. Long road. Only the players that play consistently well over a long period of time will advance to the PGA TOUR. There’s a notice posted to Qualifying Tournament Participants informing them that the Next Number Nearest 50 eligibility category on the Nationwide Tour may be subject to a reshuffle in 2009. I have no idea what this is about or what it means. There is a name and the phone number of a guy at the PGA TOUR to call if you have any questions. There is legalese everywhere isn’t there? Seeing a handful of people standing on a knoll between two greens I suspect them to be Nos. 9 and 18. I ask someone because I can’t figure it out from the scorecard without the routing. They confirm that it is indeed the 9th and 18th greens. The earlier club throwing I witnessed occurred on the 18th fairway. With water now visible to me short left of the green that was likely the impetus for the observed behavior. Not a great way to finish the round. Luckily or unluckily there is no cut at Q-School during the 72-hole tournament. Everyone plays all 72 holes. The cut at the end of the tournament however is final and irreversible at least for the coming year. I walk out to the knoll to observe a little of the action. It is a convenient place to watch with clear views of the approach shots and the putting greens on both par-4 holes. One guy chips up to the 9th green and 3-putts from 10 feet. He has a nice green shirt on though and looks like a professional golfer. Boy those 3-jacks can really kill the mojo especially if you have a good round going. They are shuttling players from No. 9 to No. 10 and from No. 18 to No. 1 having started off both tees. The shuttle driver comments that the greens were running 13 on the Stimpmeter earlier this morning. With the 20-MPH wind and sunshine they are likely drier and much faster by now. I meet a guy that looks like Lee Trevino. His son is competing in the tournament. I learn that his son chose a friend to caddie for him instead of his father. Dad was on his bag for the last two tournaments on the Tarheel Tour.  He won one and finished second at the Tour Championship. Hey they didn’t name the television show “Son Knows Best.” Maybe this guy is Lee Trevino I began to think. He can talk fast and has something to say. In reality his name is Rod Curl. A name I am only vaguely familiar with but should know. He beat Jack Nicklaus by one stroke and won the 1974 Colonial National Invitation in Fort Worth, TX. He is the first full-blooded Native American to win a PGA TOUR event. I asked him if people ask him if he is Lee Trevino. His reply was “yeah about 65,000 times a year.” His son Jeff comes up No. 18 fairway. Rod calls his son’s second shot short and right to the right side hole location. “He’ll go for the hole for sure.” He is half-wrong, as the ball is long and right. It comes to rest in the proverbial jail on a knoll with all downhill to the hole and not much green to work with.  Luckily the lie is decent. The son bumps the ball down the hill and it nearly escapes the rough releases a bit and leaves a downhill 15-footer for par.  The father comments that he would have flopped the ball to the hole taking six out of the equation if the ball gets caught up in the rough. The son drains the 15 footer for par. The father goes over to the son and congratulates him on the par-save and likely the round as he flashes back a handful extended downward indicating the son shot 5-under 67 today. He’s grinning wider and smiling more than I ever saw Lee Trevino do as well he should! How good is that? What an experience to visit Q-School at a golf course close to you. You might even meet or see a former PGA TOUR winner play. Either way you will see the golfing stars of tomorrow! DSC03679By the way- Phil Eich followed his first round 63 with a 72, 74, 71 finished 1-under tied for 8th and made it to the second stage! All three of the first round ‘D’ 65s- Jesse Daley, Chip Deason, and David Denham made the grade too. Doug Dvorak followed his first round 79 with a 69 but then had rounds of 80 and 78 finishing plus-18 tied for 75th. He did beat 2 other guys and a DQ and WD. Jeff Curl followed his 72-67 start with a 69 and 70 finishing 2-under and tied for 5th. Matt Borchert from Windermere, FL beat the pack by 4 strokes winning the Qualifier with a 16-under par performance! Four guys tied for 21st so technically one extra golfer made it through this qualifying site. I wonder if he will be the new Tiger Woods of the 2009 PGA TOUR? Andy Reistetter is a freelance writer. For three years he followed the PGA TOUR volunteering for the tournaments and working part time as a spotter for NBC Sports, CBS Sports, and The Golf Channel. He resides in Ponte Vedra Beach where he is hoping to land a position in the golf business that allows him to pursue his passion for the game of golf and everything associated with it. Check out his website Andy's Golf & Travel Diary and feel free to e-mail him at