The quest to earn membership on the Web.com Tour – the stepping stone to the PGA Tour – has begun anew for several touring professionals tied to the Grand Strand.
A few Strand residents, former residents and Coastal Carolina alumni are entered in the First Stage of the Web.com Tour Qualifying Tournament.
CCU alum Zack Byrd of Murrells Inlet has already advanced to the second of the three stages. He advanced through the first stage at Florence Country Club last week with a tie for sixth at 15-under-par 265 with rounds of 66, 67, 65 and 67. The top 26 players out of 77 at the site advanced.
Byrd, 30 and a 2009 CCU graduate, is attempting to reach the final stage for the third time in his seventh Q-School. He reached the final stage in 2011 and 2014 but did not finish high enough either year to earn any significant Web.com Tour status.
Three area residents failed to advance in Florence.
Six-year Myrtle Beach resident Yoshio Yamamoto, who played in a few PGA Tour LatinoAmerica events this year, shot an even-par 280 with rounds of 74, 68, 71 and 67 to finish eight shots out of the top 25.
Thaddeus Wier III of Myrtle Beach finished at 16-over 296 with rounds of 68, 76, 76 and 76.
Tee Opperman, 35, of Pawleys Island finished at 1-over 281 with rounds of 67, 73, 74 and 67. He was required to enter Q-School pre-qualifying for the second straight year after not advancing to the first stage in 2015, and advanced this year by tying for 20th with an 8-over 69-67-80–216 on Sept. 9 at St. John’s Golf & Country Club in St. Augustine, Fla. The top 42 players advanced to first stage.
Patrick Lundy of Little River is in the first stage at Grasslands Golf & Country Club in Lakeland, Fla., Tuesday through Friday. He advanced from Grasslands to the second stage last year, and has reached the final stage once, when Q-School still offered a direct route to the PGA Tour prior to 2013.
Lundy is coming off a win in a 10-player Coastal Players Tour event on Sept. 24-25 at The Country Club of Whispering Pines near Pinehurst, N.C., with a 6-under 70-68–138 and said he’s feeling good about his game.
Andrew Dorn, a three-time All-Big South Conference selection who graduated from CCU in May 2015, is entered in the first stage next Tuesday through Friday at Highland Oaks in Dothan, Ala.
Dorn, who participated as an amateur in the 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst Resort, lived in the Myrtle Beach area before moving back to Ohio in May and isn’t sure where he’ll stay this winter. He began 2016 on the Swing Thought Tour but since July has played largely in state opens in the North and Midwest.
He finished fourth in the Ohio Open in July, sixth in the Toledo Open two weeks ago and second in an Emerald Coast Tour event at Highland Oaks last week, and qualified for his first Web.com Tour event in August in Knoxville, Tenn., and finished 44th at 10-under 274.
Tyler Light, a native of Massillon, Ohio, who lived in Little River for 18 months to further his golf career before moving to Lantana, Texas, in February, is entered in the first stage Tuesday through Friday at Lantana Golf Club.
Light played on the Mackenzie Tour – PGA Tour Canada in 2015, and qualified for the Canadian tour again in 2016. But after making just one cut in the first four events, he realized he needed to improve and decided to spend the summer changing his swing with Mike Emery, the teaching pro at Brookside Country Club in Canton and author of the instruction book “The Evolved Fundamentals of Golf.”
As he enters Q-School, Light said his swing “feels great right now. I’m hitting the ball well.”
Charlie Winegardner, a 2013 CCU graduate from Lothian, Md., who reached the second stage last year, is entered in the first stage Tuesday through Friday at ArborLinks in Nebraska City, Neb.
The second stage has five sites and runs from Nov. 1-11, and player assignments will be made later this month. Byrd expects to be assigned his requested Southern Hills Plantation Club in Brooksville, Fla., where he has advanced in the past.
The Web.com Tour Qualifying Finals will be played Dec. 8-11 at Orange County National in Winter Garden, Fla. Players who get through the second stage into the final stage will have at least conditional status on the Web.com Tour.
Diaz’s last shot
While others from the Strand try to secure a place on the Web.com Tour in 2017, seven-year Myrtle Beach resident Roberto Diaz has one more chance this week to graduate to the PGA Tour.
He has full status on the Web.com next year based on his finish of 51st on the regular-season money list, and is entered in the $1 million season-ending Web.com Tour Championship at Atlantic Beach Country Club in Atlantic Beach, Fla.
The Tour Championship is the fourth and final event in the Web.com Tour Finals, and the top 25 on the Finals-only money list earn PGA Tour status. With $180,000 going to the winner, Diaz would earn 2017 PGA Tour membership with a win this week and has a chance with a finish near the lead.
The Mexico native and USC Aiken graduate is coming off a tie for 24th in the third Finals event on Sept. 25, shooting a 4-under 280 at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship at Ohio State’s Scarlet Course following a missed cut and tie for 61st in the first two playoff events – the DAP Championship in Ohio and Albertsons Boise Open in Idaho.
The top 25 on the Web.com regular-season money list have already earned PGA Tour status next year but can improve upon their status in the Finals, which combine Nos. 1-75 on the Web.com Tour regular-season money list and Nos. 126-200 on the PGA Tour’s FedExCup points list.
The Tour Championship has a star-studded field, with several big-name players trying to regain full PGA Tour status.
The field includes two-time major champion Angel Cabrera, nine-time PGA Tour winner Stuart Appleby, five-time tour winner Jonathan Byrd and four-time tour winner Camilo Villegas.
Young rising stars in the field include trick-shot sensation Wesley Bryan of Columbia, who already has three Web.com Tour wins this season, former U.S. Amateur champion Bryson DeChambeau, who tied for fourth in his pro debut in April at the RBC Heritage in Hilton Head Island, former Alabama star Bobby Wyatt, Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Sam Saunders, the grandson of the late Arnold Palmer.
Emiliano Grillo of Argentina won the Web.com Tour Championship last season and went on to win this past season on the PGA Tour and finish 11th in the FedExCup standings.
Dustin Johnson is expected to collect a lot of post-season hardware this year, and the awards have started coming in.
The Coastal Carolina alumnus captured the PGA of America Player of the Year and Vardon Trophy honors last week.
The Player of the Year award is based on a numerical system with points awarded for wins, money list position and scoring average. Johnson finished with 90 points, while Jason Day was the runner-up with 74.
For the Vardon, which is given to the player with the lowest adjusted scoring average, Johnson paced golf with a 69.172 mark. Those closest to him were Adam Scott (69.470) and Jordan Spieth (69.520).
Johnson is one of six finalists for the PGA Tour’s Jack Nicklaus Player of the Year Award, which is voted on by the players. The last time a player didn’t win both the PGA and PGA Tour’s POY awards was 1991, when Corey Pavin won the PGA of America’s prize and Fred Couples took the tour’s trophy.
Like Johnson, Day won three times, but his season likely wasn’t strong enough to keep Johnson from the POY sweep. FedExCup champion Rory McIlroy won twice, both in playoff events. Player voting closes at 2 p.m. Friday and an announcement is expected early next week.
The PGA Tour has already awarded Johnson the Arnold Palmer Award for finishing first on the 2016 money list and Byron Nelson Award for having the lowest adjusted scoring average.
Surf Club reopens
The semi-private Surf Golf and Beach Club in North Myrtle Beach reopened this past weekend following a renovation project that included the changing of its greens from bentgrass to Champion ultradwarf Bermudagrass, and is open to limited outside and package play.
The course closed on July 14. A new pro shop, locker rooms and grill have also been constructed in the clubhouse through a project that began Jan. 1.
The George Cobb design that opened in 1960 is the third-oldest course on the Grand Strand, behind Pine Lakes Country Club and The Dunes Golf and Beach Club.
Junior series starting
The South Carolina Golf Center Junior Academy’s Fall Series of six developmental nine-hole tournaments and at least six practices will begin Oct. 9 and run through mid-December, and registration began last week.
The academy is located at Shaftesbury Glen Golf & Fish Club and the tournaments are for players ages 6-17. Points will be accumulated in events, concluding with a series-ending championship.
Each academy student receives unlimited range balls at the S.C. Golf Center and discounts on private instruction and equipment/apparel.
The beginner and intermediate levels are $125 each. The advanced level, which will feature nine practices, six TPI fitness sessions and a one-on-one playing lesson with an instructor, is $250.
Tournaments are at Sandpiper Bay, the Country Club of South Carolina, Diamondback, Aberdeen, The Pearl and Glen Dornoch. The junior academy currently has 35 participants.
Contact instructors Nathan McDonough or Josh Jackson at 843-369-3112 or visit www.scgolfcenter.com for more information.