Last week, that time became now.
Almost two months after the long and tedious marathon that is PGA Q-School began, Staton put the finishing touches on securing his card for the 2002 season at Bear Lakes Country Club in Florida. Jess Daley, a Canadian Tour rookie this past season, also nailed down playing privileges on the worlds showcase circuit, while Ian Leggatt, who wound up 133rd on the PGA Tour money list this past year, regained his status with a fifth-place showing at final stage.
After four seasons on the Canadian Tour where he clearly established himself as one to watch, Staton was firing on all cylinders last week, carding rounds of 69-67-69-67-63-71 and winding up in a tie for second to Pat Perez at final stage. His play may have raised eyebrows for those who hadnt seen the 29-year-old Ormond Beach, FL native, but up north, few were surprised. A former All-American at Florida State University, Staton won four events, two official and two unofficial, during the 99 Candian Tour season, including the Benefit Partners/NRCS Classic in which he fired a then course-record 64 in the final round.
Last season wasnt exactly one to forget, but it certainly didnt pan out the way he had hoped. Despite making 10 of 13 cuts and managing a tie for second at the Ontario Open Heritage Classic, Staton, by his own admission, wasnt at the top of his game. Off-season laser surgery on both eyes helped him regain his focus, literally as well as figuratively, and Staton bounced back in 2001 with back-to-back 64s over the final two days to win the MTS Classic in Winnipeg before a season-ending triumph at the Niagara Classic. Yes, those who follow the Canadian Tour know Kenneth Staton well. It could very well be sooner rather than later before the rest of the golfing world takes notice.
The recognition is something I dont really think about, admits Staton, who toiled on the Buy.com (then-Nike) Tour back in 1999. If I can play my best, the end result is you will get that recognition. As a rookie, you have to pay your dues and earn that respect, as opposed to guys who have been on Tour for a few years. As he did during the opening two stages at Q-School, Staton gave himself some breathing room early at final stage, avoiding the prospect of having to shoot low on the final day to rubber-stamp his PGA Tour card. In fact, he was one shot up on Perez for the top spot with three holes to play during Mondays final round, but a double-bogey on 16 dropped him to second. From the opening stage on, Staton was, for the most part, on top of his game, and lingered near the top of the leaderboard through all three phases.
I was lucky enough, every stage I had that cushion, so the final round was no more difficult than the first. I didnt tighten up in that situation, as I normally would. I wasnt thinking about finishing in the top three or the top five-I just didnt want to make any big mistakes.
Like so many before him, Staton used his experience on the Canadian Tour as a springboard to the PGA circuit. Now getting set to join the ranks of the best golfers on the planet, Staton is candid when asked how his years in Canada prepared him for the challenges that undoubtedly lie ahead.
It was a great experience for me, you learn what it is like to compete week in and week out against top competition, what it is going to take to win, he said, adding more and more of golfs top prospects will likely be coming north to hone their skills. I learned that I am not going to get worked up about shooting 1 or 2-over, because my confidence tells me that I can bounce back the next day. There has always been a lot of world-class players here, but this year the talent level increased in a big way.
Look at the scores from this year- 58, 61, 62, 63 people should look at the scores and then try to figure out if the guys on the Canadian Tour are good.
Kenneth Staton, among others, has helped prove that theory.
Learn about more of the PGA Tour's 2002 Rookie Class