To get to the tour, most of us have to go through the scariest, most pressure-packed week of our golfing lives. It is known as the qualifying tournament - Q-School, as most insiders call it. It is three stages of competition, spread out over six weeks, with the third and final stage being six straight rounds of intense golf so unnerving, it actually makes watching the Anna Nicole Smith Show enjoyable!
It is six rounds that you have got to bring it. Play your best to get your card, or you are out. It is the hardest, cruelest test you will ever have to take. We all know that some weeks, our golf is better than others. You can hurt your back, start lipping out 5-footers or break your driver, it doesn't matter. Do it this week, and you are done. It doesn't seem fair. But it is what it is.
I've never been a fan of Q-School with its crap shoot scenario. That is why those that do miss there might actually get a better alternative, at least in the long run. If you miss, you might still get to play on the PGA Tour's Nationwide Tour, formerly the Buy.Com Tour. It is not the big leagues with Tiger and Phil, but it is as good a proving ground as any mini-tour anywhere. Think of it as the triple-A league of golf. You don't win the big bucks, but you put yourself in the best position possible to become a prime time performer.
I have always believed that a year's worth of competition is much better than a one-week qualifier in determining those who move on to the PGA Tour. Major championship winners like Beem, Lehman and Daly proved themselves before they reached the tour, and I'm sure they would agree their experience on the Nationwide Tour was invaluable to their development as players.
These guys know about driving their own cars, and about eating in diners, about cheap hotels, and wives as caddies. To them the courtesy cars are lavish, and the buffets at the big show mean something. And best of all, the top 20 off the Nationwide Tour joins the top-125 money winners off the PGA Tour as exempt players the following year.
I think we need to continue the balance of spots available at Q-School with those from the Nationwide Tour. Maybe even go with more from the Nationwide Tour, because a year-long competition does more to determine future stars than a one-week roll of the dice.
At least that's my take. What's yours?