By Mike Blum
The first stage of qualifying for the 2014 Web.com Tour is complete, with approximately 25 players with ties to Georgia advancing to the second of three stages.
First stage qualifiers were played over three weeks in October at 12 sites around the country, including one at Callaway Gardens, two in the Carolinas and four in Florida.
Around 75 players competed in most of the qualifiers, with about 30 of those players advancing to second stage, which will be played over two weeks in mid-November at six sites.
The finals are scheduled for Dec. 12-17 at PGA West in LaQuinta, Calif. The top finishers will earn exempt status for next year’s Web.com Tour, which is now the only avenue to reach the PGA Tour.
Leading the way among a large contingent of Georgians to advance from the qualifier at Callaway Gardens was Acworth’s James White, a recent Georgia Tech standout. White earned medalist honors with a 17-under 271 total, posting four straight scores in the 60s, including a final round 67, to win by four strokes.
White was one shot behind the co-leaders midway through the final nine of the qualifier, but holed out for eagle on the par-4 15th hole and birdied the par-5 16th. White closed out the 2013 season with a series of strong showings, tying for 2nd in a Web.com event in Knoxville and losing in a playoff on the NGA (formerly Hooters) Tour in Florence, S.C. after shooting 25-under for 72 holes.
In recent Q-school prep tournaments conducted by the NGA Tour, White placed 1st and 2nd in consecutive events at Orange County National outside Orlando, shooting 14-under and 19-under in 54-hole tournaments. White birdied the final two holes to win by one shot, and lost by one the next week despite carding five birdies on the back nine.
Tying for 2nd in the qualifier at Callaway Gardens was Savannah’s Mark Silvers, a recent winner of Golf Channel’s Big Break Greenbrier. Silvers, who has limited experience on the Web.com Tour, led the qualifier after a third round 65, but settled for a closing 72 and a 13-under 275 total with bogeys on two of the last five holes.
Atlanta resident Kyle Reifers, who has played on both the PGA and Web.com Tours, tied for 4th at 276 after leading following the first and second rounds. Reifers opened with a 61 on the Mountain View course, which hosted a PGA Tour event from 1991-2002, highlighted by a course record 27 on the back nine. Reifers was 9-under on the nine after eight holes with seven birdies and an eagle on the par-5 11th, but missed a make-able birdie attempt on the final hole.
Former UGA golfer Adam Mitchell of Atlanta tied for 8th at 279, and recent Auburn golfer Michael Hebert of Cumming was T19 at 280. Ex-Columbus State golfer Andrew Georgiou of Alpharetta shot a final round 68 to tie for 13th at 281.
Covington’s Jonathan Fricke, who won the 2012 and ’13 Georgia Opens, tied for 21st at 283, with recent Georgia Tech golfer Kyle Scott of Decatur T23 at 284 along with Warner Robins’ Chris Wolfe, who played his college golf at Armstrong Atlantic. Wolfe played his last 12 holes the final day in 6-under to shoot 68 and advance with two shots to spare.
Qualifying on the number at 2-under 286 were Wade Binfield of Fayetteville and Jin Chung of Duluth.
Among those failing to advance was Chip Deason of Evans, who was tied for 8th after 54 holes but shot a final round 80, including bogeys on the last three holes, to miss by two at 288. Former Georgia State golfer Joel Sjoholm, who plays on the European Tour, shot a final round 76 to miss by three at 289.
Also coming up short were Georgians Brett Munson, Ryan Chitwood, Chris Johnson and Hyeon Shim, who turned pro shortly after completing a junior career that included a U.S. Junior Amateur title and victories in the Georgia PGA and GSGA Junior Championships.
Advancing from a qualifier in Pinehurst, N.C., were Brent Witcher of Duluth and John Griffin of Alpharetta. Former UGA golfer Richard Scott of St. Simons Island, who played the last two years on the Web.com Tour, missed by three shots after shooting 40 on his final nine. Also failing to advance was former UGA golfer Christo Greyling.
Kyle Peterman of Pooler shot a 68 the final day in St. Augustine, Fla., to jump from 46th to 26th to finish one shot under the qualifying mark of 287. Atlanta’s Brett Lange and ex-Georgia Bulldog David Miller did not advance.
Reid Edstrom, who played as a junior in the Atlanta area before moving on to Auburn, was the medalist in a qualifier at the Woodlands in Houston, going wire-to-wire with scores of 66-70-69-70. He won by three with a 13-under 275 total, carding birdies on three of his final six holes. Edstrom has played several years on the Web.com Tour, including this past season.
LaFayette native John Kimbell, a former Web.com winner in Valdosta, missed by two shots of advancing in another qualifier in Texas.
Four Georgians advanced from a qualifier in Florence, S.C., led by Duluth’s Eddie Lee, who shot 3-under 67 the final day for a 275 total to tie for 17th. Atlanta’s Jordan Mitchell shot 67 and 65 the second and third rounds, but slipped to a 74 the final day to advance with one shot to spare at 277.
Recent college golfers Charlie Harrison (Wake Forest) of Atlanta and Matt Nagy (Kennesaw State) of Buena Vista both advanced on the number at 278. Harrison shot 66-70 the last two rounds with 12 birdies, including the 17th and 18th holes the final day. Nagy birdied three of his last six holes, including the 18th, to make it.
Joe Young of Cochran was among those who failed to advance.
Georgia PGA members Tim Weinhart and Bill Murchison, who have both played on the Web.com Tour, missed advancing from a qualifier in Pensacola, Fla. Weinhart, an instructor with Nuclear Golf based at the Standard Club, opened with a 1-under 69 and finished at 6-over 286 after a final round 73, missing by three strokes. Murchison, an assistant at Towne Lake Hills, struggled the last two days after opening with scores of 73-71.
Brandon Cobb of Louisville, shot 69-69-70 after an opening 76, but missed by one shot at 284. Advancing with a 278 total was Argentine native Tommy Cocha, a 2013 Web.com Tour member who resides in Atlanta.
Mitch Krywulycz, a member of Augusta State’s national championship teams in 2010 and ’11, tied for 6th in a qualifier in Vero Beach, Fla. Krywulycz opened with scores of 68-68 to lead after 36 holes, shooting 73-71 the final two days.
Former Georgia Open champion Jay McLuen of Forsyth was one off the lead after 36 holes and ended up 10th at 6-under 282. Macon’s Taylor Floyd, a teammate of Krywulycz at Augusta State, opened with a 67 and finished T17 at 286. Floyd came into the qualifier off a 2nd place finish in an eGolf Tour tournament in Columbia, S.C., where he shot 13-under for 54 holes to finish one behind the winner.
Failing to advance were recent UGA golfers T.J. Mitchell of Albany and Bryden Macpherson. Mitchell was inside the qualifying line at 217 after 54 holes, but struggled on the front nine the final day and missed by four shots after closing with a 78.
Jamie Arnold of Atlanta advanced in Lakeland, Fla., tying for 13th at 7-under 281 after a final round 69. Also advancing was former Georgia Southern golfer Logan Blondell, who tied for 10th at 280.
Dalton’s Matt Hughes closed with three straight scores of 68 to tie for 3rd in Lantana, Tex., at 13-under 275, two shots behind the medalist. Web.com Tour veteran Michael Sims of St. Simons also advanced, tying for 22nd at 283.
Alpharetta’s Kevin Durkin, who has also played on the tour, missed by one shot at 287 despite a final round 69 that included six birdies.