By Mike Blum
It was a very good week for a sizeable percentage of the large Georgia contingent at the finals of PGA Tour qualifying, especially for those who played on the UGA golf team.
Eight Georgians finished tied for 18th or better in the finals of Q-school, played in LaQuinta, Calif. Of those eight, four are ex-Georgia Bulldogs, among them medalist Brendon Todd.
Several other Georgians came within a few shots of earning PGA Tour cards, including Augusta’s Scott Parel, who spent much of the final round one stroke above the cutoff line for advancing to the PGA Tour and wound up one shot short.
Parel was one of five Georgians to earn exempt status on the 2012 Nationwide Tour, joining seven others who already had secured exempt status for next year. Two others earned non-exempt status at Q-school. (See accompanying story on the web site.)
Here’s a look at the eight Georgians (out of 21 who competed) who will be on the PGA Tour next year did in the finals of the 108-hole marathon, which was played over two courses in the southern California desert and began with a field of 173 players.
Of that total, 27 earned their PGA Tour cards for 2012, with two others among the top 29
looking to improve their status after already gaining PGA Tour eligibility through their play on the Nationwide Tour.
Todd earned medalist honors with a 17-under 415 total, and will be playing on the PGA Tour for the second time in four years. Todd, who has settled in Atlanta after helping lead the Bulldogs to an NCAA Championship in 2005, has had an up-and-down career since turning pro in 2007.
He qualified for the Nationwide Tour in his first attempt and finished 19th on the money list as a rookie, highlighted by a victory in Utah. Todd got off to a respectable start as a PGA Tour rookie in 2009, but after tying for 12th in Memphis, missed his last 10 cuts of the season and was back on the Nationwide Tour in 2010.
Todd went 0-for-13 in cuts made that year, and stretched his string to 26 in a row when he missed his first three cuts this season. Todd made his next five cuts in a row, including three top-20 finishes, but then missed 11 of his next 12 cuts before tying for 10th in Texas.
He finished 84th on the money list and needed a strong showing at Q-school to be exempt on the Nationwide Tour in 2012. Todd improved his position each day in the finals of qualifying, advancing from 71 to 15 to 9th, playing well in some windy, difficult conditions. He was under par in all six rounds and closed with a pair of 68s, earning medalist honors with a bogey-free effort the final day.
Vaughn Taylor was perhaps the most surprising name among the 173 players in the field, never finishing outside the top 100 on the money list in his first seven years on the PGA Tour. The long time Augusta resident and former Augusta State golfer was a 2006 Ryder Cup selection and placed 42nd in earnings in 2010.
But he was never able to get anything going this year and plummeted to 148th on the money list. Needing a big week at Q-school, Taylor shot 65 in first round and was never lower than 6th at the end of the day, ending up T5 at 14-under 418. Taylor shot 69 the final day, locking up his card with six birdies.
Savannah’s Brian Harman will be one of six Georgia rookies on the 2012 PGA Tour, with four of them earning their cards at Q-school. Harman, a 2009 UGA graduate who is now living on St. Simons Island, tied for 8th at 13-under 409. He tied for 2nd in both his first and second stage qualifiers.
A third round 67 jumped Harman from 21st to 7th, and he stayed in the top 10 the rest of the way, closing with scores of 68 and 70. Harman was in contention for medalist honors late in the final round, but went bogey-double bogey over the final two holes. It was his fifth double bogey of the week, but they were more than offset by 31 birdies, including seven on his second nine of the PGA West Stadium course in the third round.
Harman, a two-time Walker Cup team member, 2005 Georgia Amateur champion and former No. 1-ranked junior, has spent most of his first two seasons as a pro playing on the eGolf Tour, placing 3rd and 10th on the money list the last two years.
Kevin Kisner, a 2006 UGA grad, will be back on the PGA Tour in 2012 after tying for 11th at Q-school at 12-under 420. Kisner, was 181 on the money list as a PGA Tour rookie in 2011, closing out the year with his best finish – a tie for 11trh at Disney. He won his second stage qualifier in Houston and continued his outstanding play in the finals.
Kisner, a native of Aiken, S.C., near Augusta, was 11th on the Nationwide Tour money list as a rookie in 2010, including a victory that helped him earn a spot on the PGA Tour this year. He fell just outside the top 25 after four rounds at finals following a 75, but closed strong with scores of 69-67.
Barely six months after graduating from UGA, Harris English earned his PGA Tour card with an impressive showing in his first visit to Q school. English tied for 13th at 11- under 421, with a poor finish in the final round knocking him out of the top 10 for the first time since the opening round, when he shot 68 to tie for 26th.
English was tied for 3rd coming to the final day, but had two double bogeys on his scorecard, including one on the 18th hole that knocked him out of the top 10. His play in the finals of qualifying concluded an eventful year for English, who has moved from Thomasville to St. Simons to add to the island’s growing roster of PGA Tour players.
In 2011, English helped lead the Bulldogs to a runner-up finish in the NCAA Championship, competed on the U.S. Walker Cup team, won a Nationwide Tour event as an amateur and almost won another on the tour in his second start as a pro, losing in a playoff in Texas. In seven Nationwide starts, English had three top-3 finishes, and was T4 in his second stage qualifier in Florida. English, the 2007 Georgia Amateur champion, will be part of a strong PGA Tour rookie class of 2012.
Joining English as a rookie next season is 2007 Georgia Tech graduate Roberto Castro of Alpharetta. Castro also tied for 13th at 421 to improve his status by about 20 spots among the 52 players who earned PGA Tour cards for 2012 on either the Nationwide Tour or at Q-school.
Castro was 23rd on the Nationwide Tour money list in his first full season. He earned status on the tour midway through the 2010 season with a runner-up finish in Wichita. Castro was a consistently excellent player on the Nationwide Tour this year, and turned in another strong showing in the finals of Q-school.
The 2009 Georgia Open champion played some of his best golf in the toughest conditions of the week, and moved up the standings the final day with a bogey free 69. Playing on two extremely penal courses, Castro did not make a double bogey in 108 holes.
Swainsboro native Will Claxton led Q-school after each of the first four rounds, but shot 76-73 the final two days and slipped to a tie for 18th at 10-under 422. Claxton shared the first round lead with a 64 and was the outright leader the next three days after scores of 70-69-70. But he shot 40 on his first nine in the fifth round and was 3-over on his final four holes the next day to drop out of the top 10.
Claxton, who played his college golf at Auburn and now lives there, has been a solid performer on the Hooters Tour since 2006. He saw some action on the Nationwide Tour this year, competing in nine events. Claxton, who made the cut in his first ever PGA Tour start this year in Tampa, is no relation to veteran Nationwide Tour member Paul Claxton.
Among the most surprising showings in the finals of Q-school was that of Duluth’s Scott Dunlap, who returns to the PGA Tour for the first time since 2002. Dunlap has been a
Nationwide Tour member the last nine years after playing on the PGA Tour six seasons between 1996 and ’02.
Other than a pair of wins in 2004 and ’08, Dunlap’s results the last nine years have been
nothing out of the ordinary, although he almost won the BellSouth Classic as a Monday
qualifier in 2005. Dunlap finished outside the top 100 on the Nationwide Tour this past season, and needed to play well in the finals of Q school to retain any significant status on the tour next year.
A fourth round 70 in the toughest conditions of the week vaulted Dunlap from 56th to 21st, and he closed with scores of 71 and 68. He was T29 going into the final round and suffered an early bogey on a par 5, but played the last three par 5s in 4-under to shoot a 68 and tie for 18th at 422. Dunlap will turn 49 before the end of the 2012 season.
Also new to the PGA Tour next year are Augusta’s Scott Brown and former Georgia Bulldog Erik Compton, who both finished in the top 25 on the Nationwide Tour money list.