I always hear stories about guys that miss getting status on the PGA Tour by 1 shot, I’m one of those guys now. It is an interesting how I got there. Over the past three years I’ve done 4 different PGA Sanctioned Qualifying Schools. To further explain, a PGA Sanctioned tour is any tour that feeds into the PGA Tour through ranking or money earned. You have PGA Canada, PGA China, PGA Latin America, and Web.com Tour that fall under this umbrella. I have done all four now, but PGA Latin America is the closest I have been to receiving status as a PGA Tour member.
It started back in December when I signed up for the event. Anybody that has done a Q school knows you have to be ready with the money ($1950 for this event) as soon as the registration opens. It fills up within 10 minutes. It’s crazy! Almost like trying to buy a pair of Jordan’s online when they are released. You get four different sites to pick from, and they place you based on first availably. Any of the sites within the US will fill up first then closest to the furthest away from the US. I signed up a week later, so guess where I got? The furthest site away, which was in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and I was on the waiting list for that. Fortunately I got in within a couple days of being on the waiting list. People start to withdraw from the tournament when they don’t get their 1st pick of the site they wanted. It’s a waiting game after you sign up to see where they send you, which makes it hard to make travel arrangements. Personally, I think we should be able to sign up more than a month in advance to arrange the cheapest travel arrangements possible.
A friend’s mom works for an airline, so he was able to hook me up with a buddy pass which saved me about $700 for a flight. These qualifying schools are the few tournaments where you have to put up a lot of money before you even hit a golf ball. From entry fee, to airfare and hotel, you spend roughly $4000 before you get there. Thanks to my business plan, and several investors I was able to play in this tournament without having to worry about that.
Once I got to Argentina, the first thing I noticed was the language barrier. I guess I went there with the assumption that everybody speaks English ,but that was not the case. I was a ‘deer in headlights’ arriving at the airport, trying to get a taxi and listening to people speak Spanish hundred miles per hour. I was trying to translate on my phone….it was frustrating at first. One of the keys to playing your best golf is to be able to do the things you normally do at home, on the road. When I saw the gym I knew I wouldn’t get the same workout, and I wouldn’t be eating the same foods. However, that is something not only I but every player in the tournament has to deal with, so you charge that to the game. I was only focused on playing the golf course.
I played my two practice rounds great and I was excited, ready for the competition to start. One of the things I’ve learned playing tournament golf is to always give the golf course its respect, because it can humble you real quick! I hit the ball so well in the practice rounds I made the course play easy. As bad as I didn’t want to say the golf course was easy, I eventually gave in when asked about it. When the tournament started, the golf course WAS NOT I repeat WAS NOT easy! It became windy and unforgiving.
The first day was a struggle for me, I shot 75 not really hitting the ball great and missing some putts. I went to the range after the round to work on my swing. Leaving the course that day I felt confident about the next day. Day 2 starts and ends with a 74. Now I am in disbelief, my swing is failing me and I can’t get the putter rolling. However, I remained calm, went back to the range after the round and worked some more.
Day 3, I start off with two double bogeys, +9 for the tournament. I felt defeated! I went numb for the next couple of holes to finish with a three putt on the 9th hole to shoot 41 on the front nine. So many thoughts go through your head at this point. Part of you wants to give up, and the other part is trying to see some kind of hope in all of this. I chose to see the hope and to continue to push. I remember telling my caddie that if I make 11 birdies in the next 27 holes I will make the Top30 and get a card. It was really hard to stay positive at that moment but I knew dwelling on what has already happened was not going to change anything. I finally felt a sense of relief when I started that back nine, and proceeded to shoot -4 on those nine holes. I couldn’t tell you how I did it, but I will say my caddie helped when we started talking about things outside of golf. I realized during that nine holes of golf how much pressure I had been putting on myself. I was finally playing free! I got back to the hotel and my dad asked how I played on the back nine and I said I shot four under and he was surprised. I felt this new freedom and I was so ready to shoot something low the next day to sneak into the top 30.
Day 4, the last day of the tournament, I knew it was going to be a good day before I even put a tee in the ground. I did my normal warmup routine before I started and to my surprise I birdied the first hole. The past three days I started off bogey, bogey, double bogey on the 1st hole. To see that putt go in was rewarding. I finished the front nine at -3. It’s funny because my dad wasn’t there to see it but I could feel him looking at my scores online after nine holes getting excited believing I was about to make a run. I could feel everybody watching. Looking back now, probably something I shouldn’t have dwelled on. I started the back nine knowing that I need to shoot at least two under to make the top 30. However, I stalled out. Five pars in a row then I bogeyed the 15th hole missing a five footer. I was down for a moment but I needed that to happen to light a fire under me. I rolled in a 30 footer for birdie on the 17th hole, and stuck my approach shot on the last hole to 5 feet to make birdie. I knew when I finished that I would end up falling a shot short, but I didn’t care because it was a hell of a comeback!