Final qualifying for the 2018 Champions, LPGA and Web.com Tours will be played over the next two weeks, and Georgia golfers are entered in the fields of all three events.
The Champions Tour qualifying final is scheduled from Nov. 28-Dec.1, with the LPGA holding its final qualifier Nov. 29-Dec. 3. The Web.com will play its final Dec. 7-10.
Four players with Georgia ties are competing in the Champions Tour final, which is being played over 72 holes in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Among the four are Georgia PGA members Sonny Skinner and Paul Claxton, along with Braselton’s Tim Conley and former Georgia Bulldog Tommy Tolles.
Skinner and Tolles both advanced from a regional qualifier in Florida, with Claxton and Conley advancing from a regional qualifier in California.
Tolles placed third in the Florida qualifier with an 8-under 280 total on the Palm Course at the Disney resort, finishing four shots behind the leader after shooting 67 in the final round. Skinner closed with a 69 to tie for 16th at 288. The top 27 players in the field advanced to the finals.
Skinner played on the PGA and Web.com Tours for about 15 years beginning in 1991 before becoming a Georgia PGA pro in 2006. He has played in 30 Champions Tour events since he turned 50 in 2010, all but one of them between 2010 and 2015. He competed in just one Champions event in 2016 and none last year, with several of his more recent tour appearances coming in the PGA Senior Championship.
Since becoming a full-time player in Georgia PGA events, Skinner has been one of the most successful players in the Section, earning Player of the Year honors in 2006 and 2014 and contending for that title a number of other times. He has won the Georgia PGA Championship and Atlanta Open twice each, and has won both the Georgia Senior Open and Georgia PGA Senior Championship since turning 50.
Skinner, from the south Georgia community of Sylvester, has worked as a club pro at Stonebridge in Albany and Spring Hill in Tifton and as a representative for several golf-related companies.
Tolles played on the PGA Tour from 1995-2004, and after playing several seasons on the Web.com Tour, retired as a tour pro in 2009 before turning 50 last year and competing in five Champions Tour events.
In the California qualifier, Claxton finished 12th at 279, shooting a 67 in the final round. Conley tied for 26th at 287 and had to survive a 3-player-for-2-spots playoff.
Claxton, a native of Vidalia, played on the Web.com and PGA Tours for two decades before leaving the Web.com Tour following the 2014 season. As the head pro at Hawk’s Point in Vidalia, Claxton has competed in Georgia PGA events the past few years, and qualified for the 2017 national club pro championship, tying for third to earn a spot in the 2017 PGA Championship at Quail Hollow. The week before playing in that event, Claxton won the Georgia Open at Savannah’s Ford Plantation.
Conley played on both the Web.com and PGA Tours in the 1990s, winning twice on the Web.com Tour, but has been unable to make it onto the Champions Tour since becoming eligible in 2009.
The top 5 finishers from the finals will earn spots on the 2018 Champions Tour.
Qualifying for the finals of LPGA Tour qualifying was Avery George of Perry along with current UGA golfer Jillian Hollis and recent Georgia women’s golf team members Harang Lee and Marta Sanz Barrio. They will join Riverdale’s Mariah Stackhouse and Valdosta’s Dori Carter, who both played on the LPGA Tour this past season.
The finals will be played over 90 holes at LPGA International in Daytona Beach, Fla.
Lee tied for 11th in second stage qualifying in Florida with a 283 total, with George T26 at 288. Hollis and Barrio both tied for 68th at 294 (the top 80 and ties advanced), with Hollis closing with a 69. Jessica Welch of Thomaston just missed qualifying with a 297 total, with current UGA golfer Rinko Mitsunaga of Roswell (300) and Symetra Tour player Jean Reynolds of Newnan (301) also failing to advance.
Stackhouse finished her rookie season on the LPGA Tour 114th on the money list, and will have non-exempt status on the tour next year if she doesn’t finish among the top 20 in finals. The highlight of her rookie season was a tie for eighth in Wisconsin, where she collected more than half of the $81,680 she earned this season. Stackhouse also tied for 24th in Portland.
Carter struggled in 2017, her seventh season on the LPGA Tour, placing 133 on the money list, the poorest showing of her career. Carter, who was 70th in earnings in 2014, did not have a top-30 finish this season, and will have no status for 2018 unless she gains exempt or non-exempt status in the qualifying finals. The top 20 finishers will be exempt and those placing 21 to 45 will have non-exempt status.
Katie Burnett of Brunswick is exempt for 2018 after placing 95th on the 2017 money list. Burnett finished 99, 87, 85 and 73 on the money list her first four seasons.
At least nine golfers with Georgia ties will compete in the finals of Web.com qualifying, which will be played in Arizona over 72 holes.
Advancing past second stage qualifiers were Chase Parker of Augusta, Michael Hebert of Atlanta, Jimmy Beck of Columbus, J.T. Griffin of Alpharetta, Blake Palmer of Dawsonville, Riley Davenport of Woodstock, James White of Acworth and former UGA golfer Joey Garber. Griffin and White are former Georgia Tech golfers, with former Georgia Amateur champion Beck playing his college golf at Kennesaw State.
Also in the finals is Atlanta resident Samuel Del Val, who played his college golf at Berry. Del Val, a former Georgia Open champion, was 76th on the 2017 Web.com Tour money list, missing by $126 of earning exempt status for 2018. Parker (96) and Hebert (100) also finished in the top 100 in earnings on the Web.com Tour this past season.
The top 45 players and ties will be exempt on the tour for the outset of the 2018 season, with those finishing close to the top 45 getting limited starts.