Inevitably the talk got around to the 2000 Q-School at PGA West, probably the most bizarre of its kind in recent (or any) memory.
Three names immediately dominated the conversation and not one of them was Australian Stephen Allan, the so-called Baby-Faced Assassin who won medalist honors in the 108-hole crucible. Nor was one of them Tim ONeal who, with two holes to play on the final day needed two bogeys to get his card. ONeal finished bogey, triple bogey.
The famously infamous three: Joe Daley, David Gossett and Cliff Kresge.
Only Kresge, of the three, would survive that Q-School and earn his playing privileges on the PGA TOUR for 2001. Daley would miss by one stinking shot. Gossett would fade into obscurity but not before doing something that almost certainly will never be duplicated.
It was still early days when Kresge, grinding like a Harvard law school student during final exams, began walking backward, in a crouch, while reading a putt. Before Kresge, or anybody else knew what had happened, Kresge had toppled off the railroad ties and into a Pete Dye water hazard. Total submersion.
Fortunately for Kresge the water wasnt deep. But he was soaked. It made Woody Austins Aquaman performance at this years Presidents Cup look tame by comparison.
Also, fortunately for Kresge, there was a TOUR official in a cart nearby. Kresge threw him the keys to his car and told him where he could find his vehicle. The instructions: Get my rain pants and a dry pair of shoes out of my trunk.
Kresges playing partners had already teed off on the next hole when the official arrived with the goods. Kresge hastily teed off before being DQd. Amazingly, he birdied the hole. Pretty soon the desert sun dried out the part of him that was still wet. And by Monday he had splashed his way to a ticket to the PGA TOUR in 2001.
Update: Kresge finished 113th on the money list in 2007 and will be back out in the Big Show for 2008.
Daley wasnt so lucky. On Saturday that week he was easing along at 16-under par and near the top of the leader board. On his 17th hole of the day, a 158-yard par 3, he pulled a 7-iron into the water and played his third shot to 18 feet.
His first putt slid four feet by, leaving him with a 4-footer for double. The putt dropped into the hole, hit the top edge of a defective cup liner and bounced out.
Damndest thing Ive ever seen, he would later say.
One cynic in the press room predicted, on the spot, that Daley would miss getting his card by a shot.
After six rounds 417 was the number. Daley finished with 418.
He hasnt been heard or seen on any of golfs big stages since.
All Gossett, a former U.S. Amateur champion and one-time winner on the PGA TOUR, did was fire a Saturday 59 that included his first ever hole-in-one and 11 birdies on the Nicklaus Private course at PGA West. It moved him from 129th to 25th with two rounds to go.
After the 59 his agent ordered him not to talk to reporters. Then he changed his mind. For his part, Gossett never appeared certain of anything those final two days. Not one of his other five rounds was better than 70. He failed to get his card.
Today, David Gossett has no status on the PGA TOUR. He made one cut in seven tries on the Nationwide Tour this year and missed the cut both times in two starts on the PGA TOUR.
Anyway, pretty soon the conversation at the rib shack moved on. Golf people dont like to dwell on haunting stories.
There will almost certainly be more sad tales this week out at Orange County National where Q-School is underway and wraps up Monday.
But the 166 guys fighting for 25 spots will have to go a long way to top the Q-School train wrecks of 2000.
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