NAPLES, Fla. – Rickie Fowler is among golf’s youngest stars, but count him in the old guard.
Fowler, 22, likes PGA Tour Q-School just the way it is and is wary of a new proposal that threatens to end the qualifying system as we know it.
“I’m strongly for Q-School staying the way it is,” Fowler said after his Thursday pro-am round at the Franklin Templeton Shootout. “It’s not exactly a broken system.”
There’s a buzz in the player ranks with news emerging that the PGA Tour is considering a new qualifying system for membership. According to a plan outlined by The Associated Press, there is a proposal to create a new three-tournament series in the fall to determine who wins PGA Tour cards. Under that proposal, the top 75 Nationwide Tour money winners and 75 players from the PGA Tour who did not retain their exempt status (Nos. 126-200 on the money list) would compete in the three-tournament qualifying series.
Under the proposal, the Tour would no longer award PGA Tour cards to the top 25 on the Nationwide Tour money list and the top 25 at Q-School. Instead, the top 50 from the new qualifying series would earn cards. A new version of Q-School would then be held to fill out the Nationwide Tour.
Under this proposal, top amateurs would still have a direct path to the PGA Tour by earning top-125 money through sponsor invites and other special access to PGA Tour events. There’s even consideration for allowing amateurs to play their way onto the Tour without declaring themselves pros until they’ve reached the money required to earn exempt status.
Fowler believes he’s not alone among young players wanting to protect the old-guard way of Q-School.
“I definitely feel like a lot of young guys feel the same way I do,” Fowler said. “It seems like the new qualifying system would protect guys on the PGA Tour, and that it would shut the front door to open qualifying. There wouldn’t be the same direct path to the PGA Tour for college players and mini-tour players the way there is now.
“If Q-School went away, it would definitely cut off a path for those college players who aren’t the top three or four players coming out of college.”
Fowler nearly earned his PGA Tour card playing on sponsor exemptions at the end of 2009, but he ultimately secured his card in Q-School that winter.
Steve Stricker, a PGA Tour Policy Board member, said after his pro-am round Thursday that there is still room for meaningful discussion and tinkering before the board decides the matter. The plan could come to a vote as early as next month.
“There isn’t a final plan yet,” Stricker said. “We want to make sure whatever the plan is, that it meets everybody’s needs, because we’re talking about livelihoods. We all know it’s important.”
Stricker said he is hearing support for change from fellow players, but he’s also hearing concerns.
“I thought it would be a nice idea if we still allowed 10 or so spots through Q-School to get out on Tour, and then take more spots from the Nationwide Tour,” Stricker said. “I think that might be a happy medium.
“Stats have shown the 25 guys who come out of Q-School don’t really fare that well, so maybe knock it down to 15, or 10 guys, and then maybe take more guys from the Nationwide Tour. That way, you have a compromise. That’s in the talks, too.”