Drama Class Is In


Tis the season. Oh how I love the 'season.' Holidays, indulgent feasts, visits from relatives (OK, not everything about the holidays is perfect), and gifts, lots and lots of gifts.
And if you happen to be a golf commentator, and if you happen to like drama, and if you happen to work for The Golf Channel, then the holiday season brings one superb gift ' Q-School.
Sometimes as a commentator, you have to dig for relevant things to add during coverage of regular season tournaments. Sometimes its especially difficult during the early-round coverage. In other words, sometimes I actually have to work, do research, and attempt to be creative. Well, Ho Ho Ho, not this week.
At Q-School, the story tells itself. Even though its impossible to predict who, what, when, and where the drama will happen, rest assured it WILL happen. Whether its Cliff Kresge falling into a lake, Tim ONeal triple-bogeying the final hole to miss the PGA Tour by two shots (both of which happened in 2000), or Roland Thatcher needing a par on the final hole to realize his lifelong dream - only to find his approach shot on the roof of the clubhouse (2001) - its going to happen.
Q-School stories become legendary through the years. Just about every locker-room story of golfs ability to cruelly and unusually punish will invariably end in someones recollection of some particularly gruesome Q-School carnage. The tragedies are virtually endless. The odds of this type of history repeating itself this year are higher than Annikas winning percentage. And odds are exactly what Q-School is all about.
The only way to beat the odds at Q-School is to not enter. Save the $4,000 entry fee and take a trip to Vegas, buy lottery tickets, or get a deal on Enron stock. Anything but Q-School.
Can you imagine 1,300 aspiring Tiger-beaters who have ponied up the dough for the opportunity to be completely miserable for six days and six very, very long nights? Of those 1,300 entrants, only 171 were lucky enough to advance to the finals. The odds already stink. Of these 171, only 35 (and ties) will complete a successful Q-School campaign. The overall odds: 1 in 37. But it gets better.
If youre one of those ridiculously lucky 35, then you get the chance to play on the PGA Tour and live happily ever after, right? Not so quick.
Of the 36 graduates from last years Q-School, only 10 finished in the top 125 on the money list and kept their card. Another six finished between 126-150 and kept some minimal status. But 20 ended the year with nothing, and 26 are right back where they were a year ago - on the way to Q-School.
But really, just how tough can this Q-School thing be? I mean, all the good players are already on tour or have graduated from this years Buy.com Tour. Q-School is just a bunch of dreamers who really cant be that tough to beat, right? Think about it, last year a kid who gets carded for R-rated movies got his PGA Tour Card. A piece of cake for a good player right? Sure'whatever you need to tell yourself.
Of the 171 players at finals, 19 are PGA Tour champions already. Theyve combined for 51 official victories. Eleven players have played in the PGA Tour Championship ' you know, that year-end tournament signifying extreme talent and consistency throughout a year. 59 players in the field have combined for 88 victories on the Nationwide (formerly Buy.com/Nike/Hogan Tour), and nine players have won on both tours. Theres even representation from the past Ryder Cup competitions and a U.S. Open champion. And thats not even counting the hordes of talented players who werent fortunate enough to advance to finals.

Q-School is hell ' period. Its not so much about accomplishment, its about survival. Every player in the field has spent the better part of their lives dreaming about playing on the PGA Tour. All those endless hours playing around as a kid thinking that this next putt or that next chip was for some Tour title. First, junior tournaments, then high school golf, followed by college. Everything that youve ever worked toward for your entire life is at stake this one week. But thats not even the cruel part.
The cruel part is that if you dont get it done this year, you only have to wait another year for the chance to do it all again.
Actually, nobody leaves Q-School finals empty-handed. Every player who advances to finals is guaranteed at least some minimal status on next years Nationwide Tour. But thats another story of odds. Thats a year-long grind trying to earn one of only 15 spots on the following years PGA Tour.
Playing in Q-School can certainly be a nightmare, trust me here, I speak from experience.
In my very first Q-School final in 1990, I dumped it into the water on the second-to-last hole, made double bogey, and missed my card by two shots. What a horrible break I got on that par-3. I had a bad lie on the tee.
As nightmarish as it can be for the players, the truth is that it makes for some incredibly good TV. And as much as I enjoy broadcasting Q-School, thats not even the best part of the week.
As golfers, weve all idolized somebody. My hero was always Arnie; for others its Jack, or Trevino, or Hogan, or Tiger.
But as a commentator, I also have idols. And being an on-course commentator, theres only one godfather, one person to idolize. Theres one man whose nickname is synonymous with, and responsible for, inventing on-course commentary and hell be working with us this week. And ironically his most famous quote is eerily fitting this one cruel week. Although he uses it in describing a single particular shot, it could apply to the whole Q-School process.
'Hes got no shot.'
Well said, Rossy.