Earlier this season, when it was announced this would be the final year that Q-School provides a direct route to the PGA Tour, there was an expectation that several elite college players would make the leap to the pro ranks.
That didn’t come to fruition, of course, for a variety of reasons.
In fact, only seven current college players attempted qualifying school. And, more telling, none advanced to final stage.
But as the last Q-School got under way Wednesday, there was no shortage of talented 20somethings who were looking to piece together six good rounds and find their way – or improve their status – on the 2013 PGA Tour.
Here are 10 former collegians to watch this week at PGA West:
Patrick Cantlay: A two-time All-American at UCLA, the 20-year-old decided this summer to forgo his final two seasons and turn pro. As an amateur, he was ranked as the No. 1 player in the world and twice earned low-amateur honors in a major, at the 2012 Masters and 2011 U.S. Open. In 2011, he played in five PGA Tour events and finished inside the top 25 in four of them, including a tie for ninth at the RBC Open. (He also shot 60 at the Travelers Championship and held the 36-hole lead.) This season, he made the cut in eight of 10 PGA Tour starts, but was even more successful in limited action on the Web.com Tour, posting a pair of top-5 finishes and earning enough cash to gain status on that circuit for next season.
Patrick Reed: One of the more remarkable stories of 2012, as the former Augusta State standout Monday-qualified for six PGA Tour events on his way to making 12 starts (the most allowed to a non-member) and earning nearly $303,000. He appeared to save his best golf for last month, when he tied for 22nd and 11th in back-to-back Fall Series events. That red-hot play has continued in Q-School, as he was medalist at first stage and then shared top honors during Stage 2.
: The former Oklahoma State standout has already secured playing privileges on the PGA Tour for 2013, and he did so the hard way. He began this past season with no status on the Web.com Tour but took advantage of sponsor exemptions and Monday qualifiers and earned enough money to finish 19th on the money list – enough to be promoted to the Big Show. Once the No. 1-ranked amateur in the world, the 23-year-old also qualified for this year’s U.S. Open, where he tied for 29th.
Romain Wattel: A name perhaps unfamiliar to those in the States, but the Frenchman has been a fixture overseas for a few years. In 2010, he became only the fifth amateur to win an event on the European Challenge Tour, Europe’s equivalent of the Web.com circuit. (He turned pro afterward.) Only 21, Wattel played a full schedule on the 2012 European Tour, with four top 10s and a T-2 at the Omega European Masters. He tied for 21st at last week’s European Tour season finale, the DP World Tour Championship.
Hudson Swafford: One of three uber-talented Georgia players from the Class of 2011, along with 2012Web.com Tour graduate Russell Henley and budding Tour star Harris English. Swafford, 25, authored one of the most improbable moments of 2012, when at the Web.com Tour’s Stadion Classic – contested on the Bulldogs’ home course – he holed out from a bunker on 18 en route to a closing, course-record 62 and the win. Unfortunately, he closed the season with eight missed cuts in his final 14 starts and finished 27th on the money list, narrowly missing a promotion to the PGA Tour.
Kelly Kraft: This is a huge opportunity for the 23-year-old Texan, who rose to prominence during a spectacular run at the 2011 U.S. Amateur, where he defeated Cantlay in the 36-hole final at Erin Hills. With the victory, Kraft earned exemptions into the first three majors of the year, but decided to play in only The Masters (62nd), believing he could qualify on his own for the other two majors. (He did not.) Upon turning pro, the SMU star made the cut in only two of his eight PGA Tour starts, with his best finish a T-57.
Matt Hill: The Canadian is best known for his decorated college career. In 2009, he won the NCAA Championship and also captured six other titles, which equaled Tiger Woods’ record for most college victories in a season. He turned pro the following year, and the 24-year-old has bounced around many of the mini-tours, most recently finding a home this season on the Canadian Tour, where he won once and earned nearly $50,000.
Scott Langley: The left-hander may be best known for his sterling run in June 2010, when as a senior at Illinois he captured the individual title at the NCAA Championship and, two weeks later, tied for 16th at the U.S. Open. Since then, the 24-year-old has toiled on the mini-tours and tried to cash in on limited starts on the PGA and Web.com tours. This season, he played in a combined seven events on those circuits, and his best finish was a T-29 at the U.S. Open.
Bryden Macpherson: In 2011, he became only the second Australian to win the British Amateur. He left the University of Georgia golf team this past February, midway through his junior season, to focus on his game in Australia, and at the time said he had no regrets about his decision. The 22-year-old turned pro immediately after the Masters, where he missed the cut, and was unable to play the weekend in any of his other three PGA Tour starts, the last of which came in June.
Kevin Tway: The son of former PGA champion Bob Tway, the 24-year-old turned pro in 2011 and has struggled to stick on either the PGA or Web.com tours, making the cut in only two of six starts. He did, however, finish T-5 in a late-season event on the Web.com Tour, but it did little other than to boost his earnings to nearly $25,000. The Oklahoman made enough starts on the Adams Golf Pro Tour to finish 12th on that money list.