This is the last year golfers can go straight to the PGA Tour through the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament, and four area touring pros are hoping to cash in on their final opportunity.
Zack Byrd of Murrells Inlet, Patrick Lundy of Little River, and former Coastal Carolina golfers Tripp McAllister of Lake City and Charlie Winegardner of Myrtle Beach have all been assigned to Florence Country Club from Oct. 24-27 in the First Stage of Q-School.
“It’s the last real chance to make it all the way,” Byrd said. “It’s a big deal to go this year.”
Those who didn’t make it through the Pre-Qualification stage include Galivants Ferry native Michael Maness of Greenville and former CCU player Drew Ernst. The first of three remaining stages tees off next Tuesday at six locations, and another eight sites will host first stages over the next two weeks.
The top 25 and ties at the final stage earn 2013 PGA Tour membership and the next 50 players or so earn membership on the PGA Tour’s feeder Web.com Tour. Others reaching the final stage generally earn conditional Web.com status. Q-School will only be a qualifier for the Web.com Tour beginning next year.
It’s a risk financially, considering pre-qualifying is $2,700 and anyone in the first stage has had to pay between $4,500 and $5,200. There were 598 players entered in pre-qualifying and approximately 1,100 are in the first stage, according to the PGA Tour.
Byrd reached the final stage of Q-School last year but finished 115th to have only conditional Web.com Tour status this year. He has played in five 2012 Web.com events and missed four cuts, including last week at the Neediest Kids Championship in Maryland, where he Monday qualified and shot rounds of 72 and 80.
“I really didn’t play that bad,” Byrd said. “I had some very untimely bad swings. I don’t make those mistakes when I’m playing a lot, but I haven’t been playing that much and made some stupid mistakes. I’m just really, really rusty.”
Byrd will play in a Coastal Players Tour event in Southern Pines, N.C., this weekend and will attempt to Monday qualify for the PGA Tour’s McGladry Championship next Monday in Sea Island, Ga., before his Q-School opener.
He has a backer who will pay for Q-School, but no other financial help, he said.
“It helps that Q-School is taken care of and I can focus on everything,” Byrd said. “I’ll try to play as many of these [NGA Carolinas Winter Series] events as I can afford and hopefully make a little bit of money on that tour and build up a bit of a nest egg.”
Byrd believes his limited Web.com experience this year will help him in the future, despite the financial toll it took because of traveling expenses.
“I learned a lot about the tour and how they do things and run things,” Byrd said. “I’ll be more prepared for it next time.”
Lundy finished 51st on the 2012 NGA Tour money list with $19,000 earned had a stretch of five tournaments this summer in which he made the cut in all five and finished third and tied for fifth in a pair of them. He also missed qualifying for the U.S. Open by a shot.
He has increased his fitness training in recent weeks as his schedule has lessened and has worked regularly with instructor Hugh Royer III.
“If I can play as well as I did this summer I can definitely [get through],” Lundy said. “It’s all about controlling your nerves and playing to the best of your ability and letting things happen. Last year I tried to force everything [at Q-School].”
Players who are skipping Q-School this year include J.P. Longueil of Murrells Inlet and three players instructed by Scott Shobe, the director of instruction at the Greg Norman Champions Golf Academy at Barefoot Resort – North Myrtle Beach High graduate Sam Lyons and Myrtle Beach residents Roberto Diaz and Yoshio Yamamoto.
Diaz has been playing on the Mexican golf tour and is trying to improve mentally and physically. He has lost several pounds and has been working with a sports psychologist in Mexico.
Lyons has barely missed advancing in a number of Web.com Tour Monday qualifiers, including last Monday. He’s playing on the eGolf Tour this week and intends to enter a Monday qualifier for the Web.com Tour next week outside Jacksonville, Fla. “We’ve made a big change with Sam in posture and stuff, so that’s really starting to come into form for him,” Shobe said.
Yamamoto hasn’t played for a few weeks and has started a fitness and strength program that will be his main focus through the winter.
Lyons, Yamamoto and Diaz are expected to join several other area players on the NGA Carolina Winter Series on the Strand.
“Hopefully they’ll pick up some financial sponsors to lighten the load and try to get out on that bigger stage,” Shobe said of his trio of students.
Longueil, 30, will play the NGA Carolina series and work with instructor Brad Redding to prepare for 2013, when he expects to play a split schedule between the NGA Pro Series and eGolf Tour while mixing in Web.com Monday qualifiers. He has predominantly played on the NGA Carolina Series in 2012.
Longueil grew up in Clinton, N.J., won the N.J. state high school tournament as a senior at Oratory Prep in Summit, N.J., and played golf at Seton Hall for two of his four years at the school.
He worked as a professional photographer after college, but after his parents retired to Murrells Inlet four years ago, he decided to give golf another try and moved to the area. He turned pro more than two years ago.
Former CCU golfer Josh Jackson of Myrtle Beach is working at The Wizard and is expected to participate in NGA Carolina winter events, and Ryan Tyndall of Murrells Inlet has settled into a job as an assistant at Wild Wing Plantation and will likely play in 2013 Carolinas PGA Section events as he pursues Class A PGA status.
A second interest
Maness intends to play a busy schedule in 2013 despite not getting through Q-School pre-qualifying, but he’s also focused on a second endeavor.
The Aynor High grad and former South Carolina player is one of three partners in a new golf product called the CamCaddy.
It is an adjustable device that connects to an alignment stick and secures any smart phone to allow players to video their golf swing or putting stroke. It eliminates the need for a tripod for filming, and the video can be emailed to a teacher for instruction or used by the player individually.
The suggested retail price is $29.95 without an alignment stick and $37.95 with one. The developers are working on a version for iPads. CamCaddy recently received a write-up as a new product in Golf Digest.
Maness’ partners in the product are Thornblade Club member Bill Silva and Greenville plastics company owner Ben Corely. Maness said he and Silva came up with the idea and started drawing images on napkins during a lunch a few months ago. The website camcaddypro.com was launched on Aug. 11.
Akers Discount Golf in Murrells Inlet stocks the CamCaddy and handles eBay sales. Several golf shops in the Greenville area also carry it, and the partners now have a sales team working on their behalf.
“My big thing with the company is contacting all the teachers I know to get it in their hands because I think it’s a great product to use with instruction,” Maness said.
He has also helped get the product in the hands of PGA Tour pros. Maness, who caddied nearly three years on the PGA Tour through the 2011 season, was asked to caddy for Kevin Chappell at the Aug. 16-19 Wyndham Championship and the following week at The Barclays.
He took the opportunity to hand out about 100 CamCaddy devices to players at the Wyndham, and the next week he saw players including Charles Howell III and Stuart Appleby using them on the range.
“We have a bunch of guys on tour using them, which is really cool,” Maness said. “It was kind of neat to see something you actually came up with be a hit. Do I think we can sell a bunch of them? Absolutely.”
Players endorsing the CamCaddy include Lucas Glover, Ben Crane, Blake Adams, Kyle Thompson, Jonathan Byrd, Jay Haas and Bill Haas.
Maness intends to play in NGA Carolina events this winter and intends to decide between the Hooters Pro Series and eGolf Tour in 2013, and Monday qualify more often than he did this year.
“When I went back [to playing] I decided to play a full two years and decide from there,” said Maness, who receives occasional instruction from Conway’s Mike Schroder. “It was going alright until the past couple months. It has gone away rather quickly. I haven’t played very well in the past couple months.”
Mini event attracts Katrek
Brian Katrek of the PGA Tour Network on XM/Sirius Satellite Radio will be broadcasting his show live from 9-11 a.m. Thursday and Friday on site at the U.S. Prominigolf Crocodile Rocks Masters at Hawaiian Rumble and Hawaiian Village in North Myrtle Beach, according to tournament founder Bob Detwiler.
Katrek will be on the porch at Hawaiian Rumble. The tournament is Thursday through Saturday, and Detwiler was on Katrek’s show Friday.
The miniature golf event has a $12,000 purse, with the winner receiving $4,000 and a green jacket. Detwiler anticipates 80 or more players, including defending champion Jay Klapper of Atlanta and Katrek’s son, Henry, the defending junior champion. Players can register for $130.
An affiliated charity minigolf tournament to benefit the Myrtle Beach YMCA has a 6:30 p.m. shotgun start Wednesday. The two-person team event is $15 for singles or $25 per team, and two pairings will play each hole with a pro. Byrd will be among the participants. Oscar’s is catering the charity tournament, and Damon’s Grill and Hooters will be providing food for participants later in the week.
The closing ceremony is at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Crocodile Rocks at Broadway at the Beach and includes a dinner. Tickets are $15. Call 843-458-2585 to enter a tournament or for information.
Free club fitting
Four of National Golf Management’s courses will be hosting TaylorMade Private Fitting Experience events throughout October. Each will be held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and is free and open to the public. The first was held Friday at Pawleys Plantation.
Upcoming events are Friday at the Grande Dunes Resort Course (843-315-0333), Oct. 15 at Long Bay Club (843-399-2222) and Oct. 20 at Litchfield Country Club (843-237-3411).
Reservations for fittings are required and can be made by calling the individual golf courses. TaylorMade’s club technicians will be at each event to help attendees try out the company’s line of products, including the RocketBallz line of woods. Guests can hit the clubs while the technicians fit them for the right specifications of lie, shaft flex and loft using Flightscope, which uses 3-D real-time ball-flight tracking to map the shape of each shot as well as register the user’s clubhead path, attack angle, swing speed, ball speed, launch angle and spin rates.
Contact ALAN BLONDIN at 626-0284.