By Rex Vanderpool
amateurgolf.com Staff Writer
Every serious golfer at one time or another thinks, even if just for a fleeting moment, “I wonder if I could make it as a tour pro?” And every good player has a round here and there where they played well enough to prove themselves right.
We also all look forward to our retirement. For most of us, that includes a lot more golf. At the intersection of “I’m good enough to be a pro Boulevard” and “Lots of time to play more golf Avenue” there lies the house of Champions Tour dreams.
If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard “I’m going to work on my game a bit and try for the Senior Tour when I turn 50”, I wouldn’t need to write this column (and yes, someone does actually pay me to do this, I have the tax forms to prove it)
First, we have to acknowledge why the Champions Tour exists. It is a way for the aging PGA Tour stars to stay competitive and for the tour to make extra money. It also gives golf companies a design and marketing opportunity. Without the Champions Tour, Adams Golf would have gone out of business a long time ago. Plus, I can safely say that the Maxfli Noodle is not designed nor marketed for my game.
The Champions Tour isn’t meant to be a place for amateurs that turn pro at age 50. There has been some precedence for ex-amateurs having success on the Champions Tour. Guys like Bruce Fleisher, who made quite a name for himself a few years ago, are out there.
One of San Diego’s best amateur players, Gerry Simoni, recently turned 50 and went to Champions Tour Q-School. He was kind enough to have lunch with me and tell me about his experiences.
He played in the regional qualifier at the Champions Course in Beaumont, California. It had seventy players of which he estimated only about forty had a realistic chance at the thirty spots available for the final stage. He went on to say that several amateur events he had played in last year had distinctly stronger fields.
When asked how he would rate the level of competition he likened it to playing in the Southern California Golf Association Amateur Championship. That is a strong field by amateur standards but hardly by pro standards.
At a tournament like the SCGA Am you can shoot a couple over par at a fairly easy course and qualify for the championship rounds. At the championship a few under will usually win it. Compare this to PGA Tour Q-School where consistently shooting several under par on fiendishly difficult courses is required.
He said that he was surprised at how calm and not nervous he was. He did admit that he got nervous down the stretch of the third round and got ahead of himself, in his head, and started missing putts. That stretch of bogey golf proved to be the difference because he missed the cut by three with rounds of 77-68-80-75 for a total of 300, twelve over par. The cut line was nine over for four rounds. There are a lot of golfers that can shoot that score.
One format change that I was unaware of is that all of the Q-School qualifiers that end up getting their card from the final stage are only eligible for a weekly Monday qualifier at each tour stop. Those 30-40 qualifiers compete in a playoff for six to 12 spots in each tournament.
To compound the issue further if any of those six to 12 guys finish high, they get into the next week’s tournament automatically and take away a spot from the pool of qualifier the next week.
Also, most sponsorship contracts are pay for play, so you are on your own dime to travel and stay for the tournament and only get paid if you make it into the tournament and perform well. So, it is possible to not only lose your card but your shirt as well during the season.
Despite this when asked if he plans on doing it again, he said “Oh yeah, I’ll do it a few more times, I know I can do it. It’s not about the money, it’s about the competition.”
If you have a questions or comments I’d love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org.