Well, it's the day after the FINAL Q-school process as we know it, and while I failed to keep up to date here (sorry about that!), I did try to follow along when I had a chance (darn work has kept me busy!). Is it okay if I just get to the giddy parts right now?
As you know, I'm a fan follower of all Minnesota Q-school participants - there have been some moderate successes, but since I've been following Q-school, no Minnesota golfer has made it into the Top 25 to earn their card...that's not to say no Minnesota golfer has ever made it (think Tom Lehman!), but we've had dry spell for awhile. Last year, Clayton Rask was looking poised to make a move after successfully passing through the first 2 stages, but the best he could do was get some status on the Nationwide (not Web.com) tour. But in what feels like a little golf gift to me, a Minnesotan has broken through and will have a PGA Tour card in 2013.
Let me introduce you to Donald Constable - a former Golden Gopher (and Texas Longhorn) golfer, Constable was the Minnesota Boys State Champion in both 2005 and 2006 according to his bio on the Texas Longhorns site.
Constable had to start at the Pre-qualifying stage and then through stages 1 & 2 (where many golfers get to start, being exempted through the other stages). At Pre-Qualifying, Constable finished at T-11, with the top 37 and ties advancing to the first stage, despite a final round 77. The Class Club course in Palm Desert, California, was where Constable ended up for Stage 1 qualifying. With only the top 19 and ties advancing, Constable shot 4 rounds under par (70-67-68-70), with only 5 bogeys and 1 double in 72 holes, to take end place and move on to Stage 2.
November 14-17, 2012, at Southern Hills Plantation, was where Constable competed in Stage 2. At this point in the journey, many current PGA Tour players along with other successful golfers have been exempted to this stage of the completion, and getting into the top 19 and ties is just that much more difficult. A few of the notable players in the field included Robert Karlsson, Arjun Atwal, Patrick Sheehan, and former major winner Lee Janzen.
Struggling out of the gate with a +1 (73) compared to the field, Constable found himself in the bottom half of the leader board. His 2nd round 70 (-2) moved him up the standings when the course dealt out several over par rounds. His low round of the weekend came on Saturday with a 4-under par 68 that put him tied for 25th, but only one shot out of where 24 players were at T19 or better.
As he had done in his previous 3 rounds, Constable played the front nine under par with a -3 (33). But the back nine had been more challenging with two +2 38's in his first 2 rounds and an even par 36 in the third. After pars on the first 4 holes on the back side, Constable carded a bogey on the 507 yard par-4 14th to drop back to -2 for the day. But he followed up the bogey with 2 birdies on 15 and 16, with the 16th hole being the 2nd toughest hole on the course. A par came on the par-3 17th and he headed to the 18th, which he had birdied, parred, and bogeyed in each of the first 3 rounds, at -4 for the day. A bogey on the par-4 18th gave him a 3-under 69 for the final round and a total score of 280 (-8) for the week.
As only the 4th group out starting on the front for the day, a group that included 2007 Q-school medalist Frank Lickliter III, Constable would have to wait for the final 8 groups on each side of the course to finish to find out if his -8 was good enough to earn a PGA Tour Card. Six players that had been within top 19 and ties after 3 rounds moved outside of the mark, and 3 players, including Constable, Daniel Chopra, and Niklas Lemke from Sweden, were able to move up into the coveted 19th place or better, with Constable finishing right on the cut line with a T19 finish.
With a great finish, and the help of a few players not finishing as strong, Constable found himself heading to LaQuinta, California, home of the PGA West courses that would be hosting the 6-round final stage of Q-school, with the first round starting on Wednesday, November 28.
Some have called the final stage of Q-school the toughest test in golf. I might argue that just getting to the final stage for some might be the bigger test. Constable has endured 3 rounds at Prequalifying and 4 rounds each at the 1st and 2nd stages, advancing to the final stage on the cut number, and now is about to face the challenge of trying to get into the top 25 in a field of over 160 players. (Note: I don't have access to the hole by hole scores of Donald via http://www.pgatour.com/ - his profile page does not exist, darn it!, so I can only go by round by round final scores from here)
With an opening round of -5 (67), Constable found himself inside the top 10 after the first round. You can't win Q-school after one round, but going low early can help in case of struggles in the next 5 days of golf. A solid -2 (70) in day two was respectable, but with so many players shooting in the 60's in the 2nd round, a 70 moved him back in the pack a bit. Round 3 was another fine 67, and according to press releases by http://www.mngolf.org/, Constable found himself tied for 14th after the 3 days.
The 4th round was another round under par at -1 (71), but put him at T93 for scores for the day. Thanks to his great play for the first 3 rounds, the 71 only moved him down 6 spots for a tie for 20th after 4 rounds and inside the qualifying line for PGA Tour Cards.
Constable carded another 71 (-1) in the 5th round, and for the first time in the tournament he found himself 1 shot out of the top 25 and ties. At T30, Constable was grouped with 8 other players one shot back and there were 7 more players just 2 shots back. Another 15 players were within 4 shots of the score that was the current top 25 and ties.
Monday's final round would result in 6 players falling out of the top 25 and ties and 5 players who were on the outside looking in after the 5th round now holding 2013 PGA Tour Cards. Losing their opportunity to get cards were Edward Loar who was T3 after 5 rounds and dropped to T32 after a 78 that included a double and a bogey in the last 2 holes. Nicholas Thompson also dropped to T32 after starting the final round in a tie for 15th. Vaughn Taylor and Tom Pernice Jr. who both looked solid all week started the final round T17, but Taylor finished T43, and Pernice ended up at T87 with a final round 79 which included 3 doubles, 2 bogeys and only a single birdie. In Pernice's first 5 rounds he only had 6 bogeys and 1 double compared to 19 birdies. Finally, Heath Slocum, started the final round on the qualifying number but ended up at T32, 2 shots from qualifying.
Those that made their move into the Top 25 and ties included Si Woo Kim, a 17 year old from South Korea who will not be able to use his Tour card until he turns 18. He will have to rely on sponsor exemptions or Monday qualifiers to compete on Tour until June 28. Bobby Gates, Henrik Norlander, and Patrick Reed all shot a final round 67 (-5) to land in the Top 25 and ties on the number. Gates was a current Tour player who had a rough fall, missing 6 cuts, and Norlander and Reed are both Augusta State golfers who won a National Championship.
And FINALLY, once again qualifying right on the number (as he did in the 2nd stage) was Donald Constable. He also finished his final round here with a -3 (69) just as he did in the final round of the 2nd stage.
Here is what was from AP writer Doug Ferguson's report on the final round:
The list also includes Donald Constable of Minnesota, who had to go through a pre-qualifier and then three more stages of Q-school to reach the PGA Tour. Constable sweated it out to the very end. Needing a par on the 18th hole of the Stadium Course, he hit his tee shot into an area of thin sand in a bunker, found the far end of the green and lagged a 45-foot to within 5 feet of the cup. Facing the most meaningful putt of his life, he poured it right in the middle.
How would he have felt next year if that putt only meant a spot on the Web.com Tour?
"It's hard to say," Constable said. "Obviously, this is something you're working toward your whole life. It makes it tougher, knowing it's right there and you're so close and one shot can make a difference. It would probably be easier if you were only playing for the Web.com Tour."
Constable is a throwback in other ways. He finished his college eligibility at Minnesota a year ago, but stayed an amateur an additional year so he could complete his degree. He graduated in the spring with a degree in sociology.
Similar to one of my favorite players, Matt Kuchar, Constable decided to finish his degree before moving into the professional golf world, and they also share the title of being the champion of the Terra Cotta Invitational.
I can't wait to follow his journey on the PGA Tour next year and I am going to be rooting for him every week he tees it up.
I know this got a little long (I do then when I'm excited about a story!), but I can't leave Q-school without also giving a shout out to Erik Compton, who shot 6 sub par rounds of 67-70-68-71-67-67 to finish in a tie for 7th. While not having the most standout year with his first year on Tour in 2012, I'm hopeful that we'll see some continued great play from Compton in 2013.
This was a fraction of the journeys and stories that could have been told about the journey through Q-school...over 1,000 guys found themselves on at least a part of the Q-school journey this year...whether it was climbing out of the trenches at the pre-qualifying stage, or being forced to play for their livelihood in the final stage after not making the Top 125 on the PGA Tour this fall. All of the stories will include sacrifice, stress, the highs of success, and anything from a bump in the road to a ball in the water on the final hole to rip the card right out of their hands.
Today, Donald Constable was the story I wanted to tell, because we Minnesotans root for each other! But it won't take too much digging to find more great stories from Q-school.
I don't care what anyone says, changing Q-school was a mistake. Q-school is the story of dreamers...the stories I love. Congratulations to all of the 2013 PGA Tour Card winners...see you on TV!