One of the most appealing aspects of the PGA Tour has always been rooted in “you get what you earn”. Play well and you get paid well. Play poorly and you go home with nothing in your pocket for that week except the expenses that you incurred, including having to pay your caddie. There are no guarantees no matter who you are.
The Tour card has always been similar to a driver’s license, which has to be renewed regularly. The PGA Tour’s version of this license has always been based, mainly on the money list. Finish in the top 125 (it used to be 60) and you keep your playing privileges for the next year.
There are exemptions (including thosefrom sponsors). Players who win a tournament get special consideration and those who win majors get major considerations. Of course anyone who wins even one tournament in a year usually earns enough money to finish in the top 125. When a young Tiger Woods turned pro, back in the mid-90s, sponsors were knocking each other over to give young Eldrick a spot in their event. Cash registers (you may be too young to remember what those were) rang like Big Ben.
Tiger was an immediate success and earned enough money in a short season to finish in the top 125 and thus automatically be granted playing privileges for the next season. Had he not, and had the newly constructed system that Commissioner Tim Finchem and his minions have introduced been in place, Tiger would have had to ply his trade for a year in golf’s version of Triple A. Call it the Hogan, Nike, Nationwide, Web.com or whatever tour, it would have deprived fans of seeing the one player EVERYONE wanted to see.
Had Tiger not made the top 125 back then he still likely would have earned his playing privileges for the next season because he would have gone to qualifying school. Now Q school is gone and while I’m not going to shed any tears, it just seems like a really stupid idea. Under these rules Rickie Fowler would have had to play a full year in the minors. So would Dustin Johnson and a bunch of other of the young guns who saved the game while Tiger disappeared from the mountain top. They earned their cards at Q school and thus did not have to slog along through a year on the Dot.com circuit (I know they need a sponsor, but they couldn’t get a better name?)
The original idea of a minor league tour was a great one. There are so many outstanding golfers coming out of junior programs these days that the PGA Tour needed another way for players to get to the big time, without having to circle the globe. A year or two on the Hogan/Nike/etc. Tour allowed those who, either had a bad week at Q School or needed to polish up a few things, a place to refine their skills and another avenue to the big time.
It was also a place where those who lost their Tour playing privileges to retreat, regroup and have a shot at coming back, still able to earn a living and not forcingthem to return home and start trying to sell sweater vests in the pro shop. Options. Q School only came around once a year, so a PGA Tour sponsored minor league was a nice option. Why, oh why did Finchem decide to kill the Q School concept? How much money could it cost to run a tournament of this nature? How many hot shot All Americans are nowgoing to have to play on the obscure tour for a year despite the fact that they have the game and the nerves to play with the big boys? How many great young players are now going to follow Peter Uihlein and join the European Tour?
Q School was tough. Somebody like Gorman would have shaken so badly that he would have stuck his tee in his ear before he got it into the ground. It was survival of the fittest and in many regards it wasn’t fair. Just like golf. Is its absence going to ruin golf? No, but it doesn’t make it any better either.
Tim Geary is a R.I. based freelance writer. He once played a Q School course a few days after the tournament. The only card his score would have produced would have been the joker.WHAT'S YOUR REACTION?