The Life of an Alternate Part 2
NORTON, Mass. -- When Michael Clark missed the cut at the Deutsche Bank Championship, played Friday through Labor Day Monday, he did so at great personal expense.
He was the 14th alternate to make the field, and didnt find out there was a spot available for him until Thursday evening. He forked over $1,500 for a plane ticket and hotel and made the trip from Orlando to the Boston area, leaving behind his wife and two children.
With only two hours sleep in reserve, he set out blindly on the monstrous 7,415-yard, par-71 TPC of Boston course Friday morning. He grabbed a local volunteer as his caddie, shot 72, and then shot 74 Saturday to miss the cut by four.
In two weeks, Clark will be assured of a spot in the John Deere Classic. Its a tournament he won just three years ago.
He was in his sophomore season on the PGA Tour when he defeated Kirk Triplett in a playoff at the TPC at Deere Run in Silvis, Ill. That victory guaranteed him a two-year exemption on tour, and immeasurable security.
He finished 56th on the 2000 money list; dropped to 162nd in 01; and was 167th last year.
The descention meant he was no longer fully exempt on tour. He was relegated to the Past Champions category.
He was an alternate.
Each PGA Tour player earns a position on the priority ranking system that is used to select tournament fields.
The Past Champions category is position No. 30.
That means those who have won tour events over the last two seasons have priority over you. And so do those who finished in the top 125 on the money list the season before. And Q-School qualifiers. And Nationwide Tour graduates. And those with major and minor medical extensions.
And if a regular tour field ' which is usally around 156 players in a given week ' can not be finalized with all those players ' and with whomever the tournament might offer invitations ' then officials dig further: To those who finished between 126 and 150 on the previous years money list, and to past winners beyond the top 150.
When youre in these latter categories, there are no guarantees. Youre often reduced to the role of an alternate. You have to wait and see. Wait and see if others dont want to play, or cant. Wait and see if somehow, some way you can try and earn a check ' and possibly gain or regain that security blanket.
Its very hard to schedule; it makes it hard on the family, Clark said. Some guys have tons of money; we watch our money a little bit. To book four tickets at the last minute is very expensive.
So we havent traveled as much as a family together, which makes it tough.
There is structure and order within this alternate world. The tour reshuffles a player's priority periodically over of the course of a season.
Even those who make it through the Qualifying Tournament and the developmental tour to get their PGA Tour card go through the reshuffling process. Over a period of time you can be near the top of the list; another near the bottom.
It doesnt matter what youve done throughout your career. Youre now a number.
Just ask David Frost.
Frost is a 10-time tour winner. He finished inside the top 100 on the money list from 1985-97. But last year he fell to 126th in earnings, missing the magical number by less than $6,000.
You have no position at all. Youre no consideration because you just missed it, Frost said of his status. I thought Id get more invites, because of my time Ive spent out here, tournaments Ive won. But its just amazing how little consideration I actually got.
The 43-year-old South African was first alternate at the Deutsche Bank. He easily got in, and managed to collect $25,400 with his tie for 32nd; thus moving him to 139th on this years money list.
Frost said he banks on playing roughly 20 tournaments a year without full exempt status. This was his 19th start of the season, and the ninth cut he has made.
Theres certainly tournaments that you will definitely get in, because of the whole structure, Frost said. The 126-to-150 (from the previous seasons money list) have their events that they will get into based on the history of the tournament. This one, no one knew, because we havent played here before.
Kent Jones, who was 131st in earnings last year, was the fourth alternate to get the call this week. This is his fifth year on tour, and he has never finished inside the top 125.
Jones has twice played the waiting game onsite at an event. He tried to get into the Byron Nelson Classic and the Western Open, but was unsuccessful in both attempts.
The 36-year-old New Mexican was at home Wednesday morning when the tour phoned to tell him he was eligible to compete.
This year the schedule is a little different, he said. Its been a strange year. Some of the tournaments early I thought I would get in and I didnt. A couple of tournaments late, like (The International) and here, I thought I wouldnt have a chance to get in, and Ive gotten in.
Jones tied for 13th to move to 138th on the money list.
The next month is crucial for those trying to crack the top 125. Many of the games higher-ranked players will be taking time off until the WGC-American Express Championship in early October.
Jones said he anticipates playing the next five weeks, and will hope for spots in the Las Vegas Invitational and the Chrysler Classic of Greensboro.
Its coming down to the last few events of the year, and these few I know Im going to get in, he said.
The only full-field events after Greensboro are the Funai Classic at Walt Disney World and the Chrysler Championship.
The last two, I dont think I have a chance, he said.
Outside of the John Deere, Clark isnt really sure when and where he will play.
After tapping in for bogey on his 36th and final hole at the Deutsche Bank, Clark disappointingly signed his scorecard. But instead of sulking off into the sunset ' and with every reason to do so ' he pulled a red Sharpie from his bag and graciously penned his name to some hats, flags and programs.
After putting the marker back in the bag, he thanked his caddie ' the same volunteer ' for the two days' work. He'll have to pay him out of his own pocket seeing as you don't make a dime when you miss the cut.
From there it was off to the locker room to call his wife to see whether or not he should head home or stay in the Boston area and take his scheduled flight north of the border.
Clark is the third alternate for this weeks Bell Canadian Open; he knows hell most likely get into the field.
But, again, nothing is guaranteed.
Worst case scenario, fly up Tuesday mid-day some time. I dont know. Well have to wait and see, he said.
Waiting and seeing is the life of the unenviable alternate.
Read The Life of an Alternate, Part 1
Hataoka leads Minjee Lee by one at LPGA Volvik
ANN ARBOR, Mich. - After losing in a playoff last weekend, Nasa Hataoka is making another bid for her first LPGA Tour victory.
Hataoka shot a 4-under 68 on Friday, and the Japanese teenager led by one stroke over Minjee Lee after the second round of the Volvik Championship. Hataoka, who is coming off the first two top-10 finishes of her LPGA career, made seven birdies at Travis Pointe Country Club. She began her round on No. 10, and her best stretch came toward the end, when she birdied Nos. 4, 5 and 6.
''I'm really comfortable playing the LPGA,'' the 19-year-old Hataoka said through a translator. ''I've really got confidence now.''
Hataoka made the cut nine times in 17 starts as a rookie in 2017, and she has made significant strides of late. She tied for seventh at last month's MEDIHEAL Championship and nearly won a week ago at the Kingsmill Championship in Virginia.
Hataoka finished the second round in Michigan at 9 under. Lee (69) was also solid Friday. Gaby Lopez (68), Jodi Ewart Shadoff (70) and Lindy Duncan (70) were a stroke behind Lee in a tie for third.
Hataoka did not make a single bogey in last week's three-round tournament, and she didn't have any in the first round in Michigan. She finally made a few Friday, but that didn't stop her from taking sole possession of the lead.
''I kind of feel like not really perfect, but I just kind of try to (be) aggressive,'' she said.
Lee, who lost by one stroke on this course last year, is in contention again.
''I guess the fairways are pretty generous and I think the greens are a little bit on the trickier side to read,'' Lee said. ''As long as your iron shots are pretty solid, I think you're going to be in good position around this golf course.''
Lee birdied the first two holes, and the only blemish on her scorecard Friday came on the par-5 14th. After missing the fairway to the right, she hit an aggressive shot out of the rough that went straight toward a water hazard well in front of the green. She settled for a bogey after taking a drop.
''I thought the ball was sitting OK in the rough, but it must have been a bit funny, or underneath it,'' she said. ''I made a mistake. I thought it was good enough to hit 3-wood there.''
Lee lost last year in Michigan to Shanshan Feng, but Feng will have some ground to make up in her attempt to repeat. She shot 69 on Friday but is still eight strokes behind the leader.
Ariya Jutanugarn was 6 under after a second consecutive 69.
Lopez made only six pars in the second round, tied for the fewest of the day, but her eight birdies and four bogeys put her near the top of the leaderboard.
''It was a little bit of an up and down,'' she said. ''There's so many opportunities out here to make birdie, that the most important thing to do is just to be patient, to be in the moment and not to get ahead of yourself. I think I came back from a couple mistakes that I did.''
In contrast to Lopez, Brittany Lincicome parred all 18 holes Friday and made the cut at 1 under. Paula Creamer (71) triple bogeyed the par-4 13th. She followed that with an eagle on the very next hole but missed the cut by a stroke.
Childhood rivals share Sr. PGA lead
BENTON HARBOR, Mich. - Kevin Sutherland and Scott McCarron have been rivals since their junior golf days around Sacramento, California. The two old friends were back at it Friday at the top of the Senior PGA Championship leaderboard.
''It's honestly, nothing new for us,'' said Sutherland who played in the third-to-last group and birdied his last two holes for a 5-under 66 to match McCarron at 8 under.
McCarron had a 68 in the morning wave to emerge from a championship record group of six tied for the first-round lead.
Sutherland was last year's Charles Schwab Cup winner with his only senior win coming in the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship, while McCarron has six PGA Tour Champions wins, including a major at the 2017 Senior Players Championship.
''We are both (Northern California) guys, played in high school, junior golf, on tour and it seems like a lot on the Champions Tour,'' Sutherland said. ''We were in the last group on Sundays a lot last year. Scott played so well and had an incredible year, and I had a great year, too.''
Sutherland's lone PGA Tour victory came at McCarron's expense in 2002 at La Costa in the Accenture Match Play Championship, when he beat McCarron 1 up in the 36-hole final. As youngsters they played on opposing high school teams located about an hour apart and met often in state tournaments as well as on the California junior circuit.
''It's been happening for 30 years, wait 35 years now, I guess,'' Sutherland said. ''Playing together on a Saturday is a little different. We're both still trying to get in position to win.''
Jerry Kelly shot a 65 to join Tim Petrovic (69), Chris Williams (68) and Joe Durant (67) at 7 under. Durant tied for second last week in the Regions Tradition, also a major championship.
McCarron feels like he is just starting to warm to the task this year. He had to replace his clubs, including a favored putter damaged beyond repair in air transit two months ago.
''I've been putting with a back-up putter I had, but it just didn't feel quite right,'' he said. ''I changed last Sunday at the Regions Tradition and started putting better on Sunday. So I'm using this one again this week and seem to be putting pretty good with it.''
McCarron said the Harbor Shores course played a little tougher in light winds in the second round. He made six birdies and three bogeys.
''I would just like to have a couple of those bogeys back,'' he said. ''But we're in a good position going into the weekend.''
McCarron came to the press center after his round and walked in on a press conference where course-designer Jack and Barbara Nicklaus were being honored by sponsoring KitchenAid with the establishment of a local college scholarship program in their name.
McCarron, who said he has idolized Nicklaus since his youth, played media and asked Nicklaus what he ate when he was near the lead going into the weekend of a major championship.
Nicklaus said if you play well one day, eat the same thing the next day.
''But no hamburgers, or you will play like hamburger,'' he said.
Stuart Smith, the Reno, Neveda, club pro who was tied for the lead after the first round, missed the 36-hole cut with a second-round 83.
''I'll take the 66, 83 and enjoy the 66 yesterday,'' he said. ''You put this one down to just plain old golf. It's a nasty game we play sometimes. Glad I have a day job.''
Wise, Simpson both miss cut at Colonial
The two most recent winners on the PGA Tour, Aaron Wise and Webb Simpson, missed the cut at the Fort Worth Invitational on Friday.
Wise and Simpson both came up short of the 2-over total by a shot following rounds of 70-73.
Wise was safely inside the number before playing his last four holes in 4 over par with two bogeys and a closing double following a trip into the water at the par-4 ninth.
Simpson, making his first start following his Players triumph, similarly struggled coming home, bogeying three of his final six holes.
Other notables who won't be around for the weekend at Colonial include Xander Schauffele (+4), Jason Dufner (+5), Patrick Cantlay (+6), Smylie Kaufman (+13), and Sam Burns (+13).
This is Kaufman's 11th consecutive MC and his 15th in his last 16 starts.
Sr. PGA caddie learns of nephew's heroism in school shooting
Tracy Hubly caddied for her husband, club pro Chris Starkjohann, on Friday at the KitchenAid Senior PGA and learned after their round that her nephew was credited with helping stop the school shooting at Noblesville West Middle School in Indiana.
Jason Seaman, a 29-year-old science instructor and seventh grade football coach at the school, took three bullets but survived as what his aunt called a hero.
“You hear the stories about these shootings and I think about Parkland and the officer that was trained but didn’t go into the school,” Hubly said. “It’s really shocking to think it comes close to your family, but it does."
It’s not unusual for Hubly to caddie for her husband, a teacher at Carlsbad Golf Center and coach of a PGA Junior League program in Southern California. Hubly, who works in the pro shop at Emerald Island Golf Course in Oceanside, Calif., was on the bag when he was low golf professional at the 2009 Senior PGA Championship held at Canterbury GC.
Starkjohann, 61, missed the cut at Harbor Shores with rounds of 76-79—155 and was heading to the Colorado State Open.
“I didn’t hear about it until after my round was done,” Starkjohann said. “Everything happened after I got in.”