The Last Q-School

By Ryan LavnerOctober 16, 2012, 8:40 pm

LAKELAND, Fla. – Welcome to The Last Q-School. It’s the final time that qualifying school offers direct access to the PGA Tour. It’s the final time that, in theory, a golfer can go from washing carts to courtesy cars. This is a place for up-and-comers and also-rans and has-beens, sure, but it will always be a place for dreamers, too.

Meet Anthony Aruta. He’s a 32-year-old club pro from Long Island. He was playing so well in area tournaments this summer, he decided on a whim that this would be the year that he finally attempts Q-School. “It’s worth a try, right?” he asked.

Only problem: It’s expensive – like, $6,000 expensive (if you have to go through pre-qualifying, which he did), and Aruta didn’t have that kind of disposable income. A few members from the Mill River Club in Brooksville stepped in and offered to foot the bill.


PGA Tour Q-School first stage sites and scores


“If this doesn’t work out, then I’ll go do what I normally do,” Aruta said Tuesday, after an opening-round 69 at Grasslands Golf & Country Club in the first stage of qualifying. “And if it does, well, I guess I’ll have a different life for a while.”

A different life? The thought still seems unimaginable to David Branshaw.

This is his 16th Q-School. Sixteenth. He only arrived at that number after counting on his fingers for 45 seconds. He apologized for the delay. After a while, you see, the sites and the checks and the scores begin to run together.

“There’s always a little bit of nerves,” he said of Q-School. “You gotta perform in this tournament – there’s no next week. You gotta do it this week.”

This has probably been the most difficult year of Branshaw’s career. His numbers aren’t gaudy, but he’s one of the most accomplished players competing at this site.

He’s made 191 starts on the Web.com Tour, winning twice – most recently in 2005, at the Tour Championship – and amassing more than $1.05 million in earnings. (He’s also earned another million and change on the PGA Tour.) Just last year, Branshaw was playing full-time on the then-Nationwide Tour, but he lost his card after missing the cut in 15 of 24 starts.

Now, he can’t even get a spot in those same fields. Now, he’s stuck playing one- and two-day events on the West Florida Golf Tour. Now, he’s just one of 78 players who hopes the putter cooperates for four days.

“It’s been a long year for me,” he sighed.

On Tuesday, Branshaw, 43, wore a yellow shirt and baggy khaki pants. He surveyed chip shots with a towel slung over his left shoulder and a cigarette dangling out of his mouth. He shot 71.

A caddie? Nope, not here. Couldn’t find one. All the good loopers are in Jacksonville, he says, for the Web.com event. Or they’re in Georgia, for the Fall Series tournament. “I could get one of my buddies at home,” Branshaw said, “but he’s working. He’s got a job.”

So, instead, Branshaw dropped $200 on a new Sun Mountain push cart. And after each round, he’ll break the thing down and cram it into the trunk of his car and make the 50-minute drive back home to Tampa, which is fine, except it serves as a reminder that he doesn’t want to be at Q-School in the first place.

“It’s confusion,” he said. “I don’t understand it. I had a bad year (in 2011), but so what? I always had a safety net, and they took it away. Is there no category for someone who has made so many cuts (111)? I don’t think I should be here.

“It’s very frustrating, you know, but that’s golf. If you don’t play good, you don’t have a job. Such is life, right? You don’t do good in your job, they can fire you, right? There are no more second chances.”

No more second chances. Joey Lamielle doesn’t quite believe that, at least not yet.

This is his sixth Q-School, and he still has vivid memories of his first one, in 2006, right here in Lakeland, the fall after he graduated from Florida Gulf Coast University.

He was so nervous standing on the first tee on the first day, he said, “I couldn’t feel my legs.” That day he shot 79, but he would rally over the final three days to advance. Two years ago, he needed to run off seven consecutive birdies – 90-foot putts, near-hole-outs from the fairway – just to make it on the number. Now, though, he’s 30 years old, a mini-tour regular, and a guy “constantly looking for the next buck to go out and play.”

So, seriously, why does he keep attempting Q-School?

“Because I’m stupid,” he said after an opening 71, only slightly joking. “It’s a dream, you know? Each year, I feel like I’m closer and closer and closer. Without a doubt, it’s a grind. I can’t tell you how many times, especially in the past two years, that I’ve said, ‘I’ll give it one more week and I’m done.’ Absolutely there have been times when I’ve wanted to pack it in and I’m frustrated and I’m pissed. But that’s golf and life.

“Every time I get to that low point, it seems like I’ll go shoot 64 out of the blue. It keeps teasing you. The man upstairs has a sense of humor, I guess. He likes to see how many times he can kick me in the face before I don’t get back up. But there’s no quit in me, man. No quit.”

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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.


CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.

@tommyfleetwood_1

A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.