The final edition of PGA Tour Q-school proved to be a tough test for most of the 20 players with Georgia ties who were in the field at PGA West in La Quinta, Calif.
Two 2012 PGA Tour members retained their status for 2013 and two members of Augusta State’s NCAA Championship teams of 2010 and ’11 earned PGA Tour cards with clutch performances.
But things did not go well for most of the other Georgians in the field, including the state’s two most accomplished players in the qualifying finals. Several other long-time tour players fell short, as did most of the newcomers to an event that has essentially been eliminated by the PGA Tour.
This was the last time for a qualifier that enables players to advance directly to the PGA Tour. Beginning next year, the only path to the PGA Tour will be through the Web.com Tour.
Q-school will continue, but only as a means of qualifying for the Web.com Tour. That effectively eliminates youngsters like recent Augusta State team members Patrick Reed and Henrik Norlander, and international players like Dong-hwan Lee and Ross Fisher, who finished 1-2 in the final PGA Tour qualifying finals.
The top 25 finishers from the 2013 Web.com Tour will qualify for the 2013-14 PGA Tour, along with the top 25 from a four-tournament series involving players from the PGA and Web.com Tours.
For the first time, the PGA Tour season will begin in the Fall in order to give the former “Fall Series” group of tournaments full FedExCup status. Beginning in 2013, the season will end at the Tour Championship, making for a reduced schedule for the 2013 season with no Fall Series events.
Reed and Norlander were appearing in the finals for the first time, and both players advanced on the number, which was 17-under par 415 for 108 holes, tying for 22nd.
After a second round 75, Reed was tied for 127th in the field of 172 players, but shot 68-67-68-67 the last four rounds, beginning the final day tied for 46th. Reed competed in 12 PGA Tour events in 2012 as a non-member, earning most of his starts in Monday 4-spot qualifiers. Fittingly, his final round 67 at Q-school came on a Monday.
Norlander, whose first start as a 2013 PGA Tour rookie will be his first on the tour, closed with scores of 68-67 to join his teammate in advancing. The only negative for the two will be that they will start the season near the bottom of the priority list among the 50 players from Q-school and the Web.com Tour.
Retaining their PGA Tour cards for 2013 were Kris Blanks, who tied for 4th, and Erik Compton, who tied for 7th.
Blanks, who was born in Warner Robins and was an assistant for several years at The Landings in Savannah, has played on the PGA Tour the past four seasons, placing 65th on the money list in 2011. But he was plagued by a shoulder injury this past season, which ended for him in mid-July, and ended up 161 on the money list.
After opening with a 65 in the finals of Q-school, Blanks was in the top 10 after every round, closing with a 71 to finish two strokes behind the medalist.
Compton, who played on the UGA golf team in 2000 and 2001, was 165th in his rookie season in 2012 after spending a decade trying to reach golf’s major leagues. He finished three strokes behind the medalist, carding back-to-back 67s the final two rounds after standing T24 after 72 holes.
Five Georgians came within three strokes of a top-25 finish, although three of the five will retain limited PGA Tour status in 2013.
Kevin Kisner, a member of Georgia’s 2005 NCAA Championship team, will be back on the Web.com Tour in 2013 after missing his PGA Tour card by one stroke. Kisner was 168th on the money list after finishing 169 as a rookie in 2011. He will play on the Web.com Tour, where he was 11th in his first season in 2010.
Kisner was tied for 142nd after two rounds at finals, but followed with scores of 66-65-67 to vault to 17th going to the final round. After three birdies, three pars and three bogeys on the front nine, Kisner parred his last nine holes to come up one shot short, tying for 27th at 416. .
Heath Slocum, a PGA Tour member since 2002, missed by two shots at 15-under 417, but will have non-exempt status after finishing 142nd on the money list, the lowest finish of his career. Slocum, who has settled in Alpharetta, has four career wins including a Playoffs event in 2009 and the inaugural McGladrey Classic in 2010. But he will have to split his 2013 schedule between the PGA and Web.com Tours.
Slocum was tied for 10th after 72 holes, but shot 72 in the fifth round to drop to 24th and closed with another 72 to end up T32. Slocum called a penalty on himself in the fifth round after his ball moved on the green, and did not make a birdie after the 7th hole in the final round, taking bogey at the 18th when he needed a birdie to advance.
Tying for 43rd at 418 were Augusta’s Vaughn Taylor, former UGA golfer Brendon Todd and recent Georgia Tech golfer Chesson Hadley.
Taylor, a 9-year PGA Tour veteran and former Ryder Cupper, missed the top 125 for a second straight year, finishing 139th. He was tied for 2nd at 271 after 72 holes, but shot 73-74 the last two rounds with a triple bogey and a double bogey the final day.
Todd was 150th in earnings in 2012, $165 ahead of the player at 151, to barely claim the last non-exempt spot on tour. He will spend most of his time in 2013 on the Web.com Tour, where he finished 19th in earnings in 2008 but did not make a cut the entire 2010 season. Todd shot 67 the final round, but missed retaining his PGA Tour card by three strokes.
Hadley played steadily throughout finals and will be a rookie on the Web.com Tour in 2013. Hadley was 2nd in earnings this year on the eGolf Tour with a victory and eight finishes of 6th or higher.
Duluth resident Scott Dunlap will be back in the Web.com Tour for the 11th straight season after spending the majority of his 2012 season on the PGA Tour. Dunlap, who played well late in the season on both tours, shot 69 in four of six rounds in finals, but missed retaining his PGA Tour card by eight strokes with scores of 74 and 73 the other two rounds. Dunlap turns 50 in August.
Savannah’s Mark Silvers and recent UGA golfer Bryden Macpherson missed by two strokes of gaining exempt status on the Web.com Tour, but both should be able to get into early events on the tour. Both finished at 8-under 424 along with former Web.com Tour player Michael Sims and 2012 Web.com winner Hudson Swafford.
Silvers, coming off an appearance on Golf Channel’s Big Break, shot a final round 73, his only over-par score of the week. Silvers was the leading money winner on the 2011 Peach State Tour and was 3rd this year on the NGA (formerly Hooters) Tour.
Macpherson, the 2011 British Amateur champion, was in contention for his PGA Tour card for 72 holes, but shot 72-75 the final days to fall to a tie for 95th.
Swafford, Macpherson’s UGA teammate, won the Stadion Classic at UGA as a rookie, but dropped out of the top 25 late in the season, missing his PGA Tour card by less than $2,750. Sims, like Swafford a St. Simons Island resident, shot a final round 68 for his best score of the week.
Richard Scott, Paul Claxton and Scott Parel will be exempt on the Web.com Tour after disappointing showings in the finals.
Scott, a teammate of Todd, Kisner and PGA Tour member Chris Kirk on the Bulldogs’ 2005 championship squad, was 53rd on the Web.com Tour this season. He tied for 114th at finals at 5-under 427.
Claxton, a long-time Web.com player with four years on the PGA Tour, shot himself out of contention with a 78 the first round, and finished at 430 after playing his final 54 holes in 8-under. Claxton, a former UGA golfer and St. Simons resident, was 32nd on the 2012 money list after being among the top 25 for much of the season.
Augusta native Parel was 35th on the Web.com Tour, but struggled from the outset at Q-school. Augusta’s Scott Brown, also had a rough week, but will have status on both the PGA and Web.com Tours after finishing 148th in his rookie season on the PGA Tour. Brown was 8th in his first Web.com season in 2011.
Acworth’s James White, the top player on Georgia Tech’s 2011-12 team, made it to finals in his first attempt and had an up-and-down week, finishing T133 at 1-under 431. A second round 77 put White in an early hole, and he will have limited Web.com status. .
Georgia PGA member Bill Murchison, an assistant at Towne Lake Hills, will also have limited Web.com status next year after shooting even par 432 to finish T139. Murchison, who was making his first appearance in PGA Tour qualifying, opened with a 69 and was in line to earn exempt Web.com status after a 67 in the fifth round. But he struggled with an 80 the final day and will likely get only a handful of starts in 2013.