Three touring pros who reside on the Grand Strand are looking to play for a lot more money in 2014.
Zack Byrd of Murrells Inlet, Patrick Lundy of Little River and Roberto Diaz of Myrtle Beach are all entered in the First Stage of the Web.com Tour Qualifying Tournament.
A number of other touring pros on the Strand are bypassing Q-School, primarily for financial reasons.
The PGA Tour changed its qualifying process for the 2013-14 season, eliminating the opportunity for players to qualify directly for the PGA Tour through the Q-School. Whereas the top 25 players in the Q-School finals have qualified for the PGA Tour in recent years, players can now only qualify for the feeder and less lucrative Web.com Tour, which features purses between $550,000 and $1 million. And the cost is still between $4,500 and $6,000 to enter, depending on how early a player registers.
Pre-qualifying – the first of four qualifying stages for players with little or no previous Q-School experience – is complete and no Strand residents participated. Four of 12 First Stage sites tee off Tuesday and the last three First Stage sites will be played Oct. 22-25.
Lundy’s First Stage is Oct. 15-18 at Pensacola (Fla.) Country Club while both Byrd and Diaz are entered in the First Stage at St. Johns Golf & Country Club in St. Augustine, Fla., from Oct. 22-25.
Byrd, 27, has been to St. Johns for the First Stage twice before and has advanced through to the Second Stage both times. “I love the course,” Byrd said. “It really sets up well for me.”
Byrd has traveled to state opens throughout the summer. He recorded a runner-up in New Hampshire, was third in the Bangor (Maine) Open, seventh in Wyoming and eighth in Vermont. In his most recent opens, he finished 30th in New Mexico with rounds of 71, 67 and 69 and 16th in Nebraska with rounds of 69, 67 and 71.
“I didn’t finish the summer as well as I had hoped,” Byrd said. “I didn’t play bad to end the year; I just wasn’t shooting the 66s I was shooting earlier. I feel my game is there. It’s miles better than it was this time last year and mentally I’m miles better than I was this time last year. I’m looking forward to Q-School this year. I feel good about my game, I feel good about my chances this year.”
Lundy, 23, missed much of 2013 following shoulder surgery and is coming off an eighth-place finish in an eGolf Tour event. He began working with mental coach Steven Yellin in Iowa about a month ago.
“Since then things have started to turn around,” said Lundy, who is playing in an eGolf Tour event in Huntersville, N.C., this week. “I’ve known it for awhile that he’s got a different method. He’s got a good way of freeing you up under pressure.
“I feel good about everything. The shoulder is all healed up. I haven’t ever felt this good about my game.”
Diaz, 26, will likely take confidence into Q-School, as he’s having his best year as a pro with several tournaments remaining in his season.
Diaz collected $12,000 for winning an event in Mexico in June, was a runner-up in an eGolf Tour event, and has various wins and high finishes in a number of other tournaments this year.
He can become exempt into the Second Stage by moving from 42nd into the top 20 on the money list on the PGA Tour LatinoAmerica NEC Series, a new subsidiary of the PGA Tour.
He has three top-15 finishes in eight starts on the circuit, which he joined by tying for 13th at the tour’s U.S. qualifying tournament in February.
The NEC Series resumes its schedule this week for the first time since June 1 with an event in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Diaz flew there Monday after spending two weeks in Myrtle Beach. He believes he needs a top-three finish this week to know he’s exempt into Second Stage.
“That will be very difficult but not impossible. If not, I can always go to First Stage and try to qualify,” Diaz said. “I want to take it one step at a time. I think this tournament is pretty important. After this tournament I can think about Q-School. This week is a good field, good event, good course. I think I can have a good finish.”
Diaz knows he’ll be playing in at least one PGA Tour event on the 2013-14 schedule.
The Veracruz, Mexico, native who played at USC Aiken qualified for the PGA Tour’s $6 million OHL Classic at Mayakoba through a 36-hole qualifier on Sept. 30 that featured 22 professional Mexican players.
Diaz shot a 1-under total in the qualifier at Bellavista Golf Club in Lopez Mateos, Mexico. The Mayakoba is part of the PGA Tour’s new 2013-14 season and will be played from Nov. 14-17 in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.
There are seven $150,000 LatinoAmerica events remaining through Dec. 8, and Diaz will be playing four LatinoAmerica events before Mayakoba, including events in Brazil, Colombia and Lima, Peru, the week before the Mayakoba event. “I haven’t played a lot of big, big events, but I think I can play there [on the PGA Tour],” Diaz said. “That’s my goal and I might as well try to do it now.”
Myrtle Beach resident Yoshio Yamamoto, 29, is considering following Diaz to the LatinoAmerica NEC Series in 2014. Though he’s not a member of the tour, the Mexico native has played in four NEC Series events this year. He Monday qualified for one, received a sponsor exemption for another and finished ninth to earn another start.
Yamamoto is 65th on the money list and can gain status for 2014 with a top-60 finish in earnings, so he’s hoping to get into at least one or two more events. The tour’s two Q-School sites are in Florida and either South America or Central America.
For the remainder of 2013, Yamamoto has a pair of Mexico Tour events and NGA Tour Carolina Winter Series events scheduled.
Derek Watson of Murrells Inlet has had regional success in his return to mini-tours in 2013. He won four events on the NGA Tour Carolina Series to lead the tour in earnings by more than $7,000 with $23,375.
Yet he’s bypassing Q-School and plans to play full-time in 2014 on the NGA Tour Carolina Series and Peach State Pro Golf Tour in Georgia, and Monday qualify a handful of times for PGA Tour events on the East Coast.
Former Coastal Carolina player Josh Jackson moved back to Edgefield last month and intends to play in NGA Winter Series and Coastal Players Tour events on the Strand. J.P. Longueil has moved from Murrells Inlet to Florida and intends to play a combination of NGA Tour and eGolf Tour events. Little River native Sam Lyons has moved to Asheville, N.C., and doesn’t have a steady schedule planned for 2014.
The Q-School finals are Dec. 12-17 at PGA West in LaQuinta, Calif. A total of 144 players and ties from six second-stage qualifying sites will qualify for the finals, which is six rounds with no cut.
The Q-School winner will be fully exempt from status reshuffles for the 2014 Web.com season.
Others in the top 10 are exempt until the third reshuffle, players finishing 11th through 35th are subject to the second reshuffle, and additional finishers will alternate exempt status with finishers 76-100 from 2013 Web.com Tour money list and are all subject to the first reshuffle after the fourth event of the season. Successive reshuffles are approximately every four tournaments.
A pink ribbon day
Women are having their day Sunday at Arcadian Shores Golf Club, which is hosting the “Party in Pink: Women’s Golf Day at Arcadian Shores.”
The event begins with a 9:30 a.m. registration, and activities are scheduled to take place throughout the day for women of all ages and abilities.
All activities are free, though attendees are encouraged to donate money for breast cancer research. Donations will be given to the Best Chance Network, which provides women with limited earnings free breast and cervical cancer screenings. Information on the organization and initiative is available at http://www.scdhec.gov/health/chcdp/cancer/bcn.htm.
“We’re pairing the game of golf with honoring breast cancer awareness,” Arcadian Shores head pro Jason Mitchell said. “We’re hoping to attract 80 to 100 women and there’s no charge for anything.”
LPGA teaching professional Karen Nicoletti, who operates the Nicoletti Golf Academy in Myrtle Beach, came up with the idea for the theme day and will give instructional clinics. She has previously taught at The Kittansett Club in Marion, Mass., and Reynolds Plantation in Greensboro, Ga.
Local fitness club Identity Fitness will begin the day with the “World’s Largest Zumba Golf Warmup” at 10 a.m. Also scheduled are a short-game clinic at 11 a.m., light lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., full-swing clinic from 12:30-1:30 p.m., and golf beginning at 1:30 p.m. Participants can play as many holes as they choose.
The day will also include club fitting with TaylorMade and Adams Golf equipment, a putting course and contest, other golf skills contests, door prizes and Coca-Cola beverages.
To sign up for the event, call 843-241-3535 or visit www.MBN.com/pink for more information. Walk-ins are also welcome to participate in any or all of the activities.
Contact ALAN BLONDIN at 626-0284.