LAKELAND, Fla. – Sihwan Kim traveled halfway around the world to play in the PGA Tour’s “Last Q-School.”
Well, the last as we have known it, with this being the final year players can move straight from Q-School to the PGA Tour.
Kim, 23, a former Stanford standout who won the U.S. Junior Amateur in 2004, shot a 4-under-par 68 Thursday to stay atop the leaderboard through 54 holes of the first-stage Q-School qualifier at Grasslands Golf & Country Club in Lakeland, Fla. The top 19 and ties advance to second stage.
Kim turned pro last year and headed to Europe, where, like Peter Uihlein, he earned Challenge Tour status for this year. Kim ranks 30th on the Challenge Tour Order of Merit. Uihlein is 26th. The top 20 at year’s end earn European Tour cards.
“There weren’t too many Americans over going through European Tour Q-School when I was there last year, but there were so many more over there trying this year,” Kim said.
Kim says young Americans are asking him a lot about his Challenge Tour experience, and he believes we will see even more trying to play in Europe next year.
What do the game’s youngest players think of the PGA Tour’s revamping Q-School into a qualifier for the Web.com Tour next year.
“I have heard mixed reactions,” Kim said. “It’s hard, because there has been that tradition where players have been able to go right from Q-School to the PGA Tour. We’ll just have to wait and see if it’s a good change.”
Justin Martinson, 23, a former University of Delaware standout who is second to Kim this week, would like to see Q-School remain unchanged. He likes the dream-come-true scenarios that play out every year.
“It’s going to become much more of a grind to earn your way to the PGA Tour in the future,” Martinson said. “This is the `easy’ way, if you can call this easy, but what they’re doing does make sense. In golf, you’re always conquering one level to show you're ready to move up to the next level. I think doing it that way makes it more likely you’ll stay at the next level.”