I was so excited to get a message via the web site from Mike Gray, another golf dreamer I wrote about back in 2009! Mike was the creator of the website/blog, Life in the Rough (I don't have a link because it's currently not active), and his dream was to become a teaching professional. It was so interesting to read his responses to my email questions, how life changes and different experiences come into our lives. I'm so glad Mike was able to find me and willing to catch us up on where golf fits into his world now.
HJG: So, back in 2009 I wrote a blog post about golf dreamers and you were one of them! You had created a web site, www.lifeintherough.com to chronicle your journey. Could you share a little of your golf story that got you to the point of wanting to take golf more seriously?
Mike: I took up the game when I was about 18 and working at a golf course in the summers during college. Having free access I got to play a lot. After I graduated and started my career as a software engineer the passion remained. Not only did I love the game with all its history and traditions, I loved the challenge. Somewhere along the line, I realized that at some point in my playing life, I had hit virtually every shot in the book. I could drive the ball far, putted well, and loved to read and learn about every aspect of the game. Not only that, but I loved to practice. It was the recipe for becoming seriously invested in the game.
Back in 2009, I discovered some interesting golf dreamers...and you know me, I love a great golf dreamer story! Bus alas, I lost track of them. Then, as I was re-posting my Tees2Greens posts here at HopeJoyGolf, I found the original post and thought I should see if I could find some updates. Of the 3 people I tried to find, only one was kind enough to reply back - Erik Tammar.
If you read this post from 2009 you'd find out that Erik packed up and moved to Thailand for 7 months (in 2007) on a quest to improve his game so he could make his way to the PGA Tour or what we now know as the web.com tour. Erik had a blog where he upated us on his journey, but alas, his web site was no longer being updated when I went searching a few months ago.
But thank heavens for social media and Google! I found Erik on Twitter and connected with him to see if he would be willing to catch us up on his life since heading to Thailand, and he said YES! THANK YOU, Erik!!
Here is an email Q&A:
HJG: So, when & how did the idea come about that you wanted to try to qualify for the PGA Tour or (back then) the Nationwide Tour?
Erik: Well, simply put, in 2007, after a five year hiatus, I began playing golf again and caught an extreme case of “the itch”!
I had graduated college in 2005, started working an entry-level software sales job and relocated from Boston to Southern California (Orange County) late in 2006. Having access to a lot more golf, and much better weather, I began playing frequently, and quickly renewed my passion for the game. The idea to make a run at The Tour was something that came about as I realized, not only how much I loved the game, but, that if there was ever a time to go on an adventure, it was then, while time was still on my side.
HJG: You were a 22-handicap at the time you set out on your journey with a goal to be a scratch golfer in a year, what did your friends & family think?
I've always loved following golf dreamers. Over the years I blogged several times about stories of those working their way to make golf their dream, and I was a huge fan of the Q-school process (before they changed it) because there were literally hundreds of dreamers working towards goals imagined. After spending the week uploading several years worth of old posts from my time at Tees2Greens, I re-read several posts about some of those dreamers and I thought I should follow up on some of those names and stories.
If you followed my golf blogging, you know that at this time of year I'd be immersed into the Q-school process. Twenty-five players of over 1,500 entrants would be given the key to the PGA Tour after surviving 6 rounds in the final stage of qualifying, with possibly 3 other stages to go through first. It was the truest test of golf and in my opinion one of the best places to find stories about golf dreamers, with journeys of both successes and heartbreaks.
There had been rumors in several previous years that Q-school was going to go away. The PGA Tour powers-that-be believed that the only way to make it on the "big Tour" should be through proving yourself the web.com tour (formally Nationwide Tour). In 2012, the top 25 players on the web.com Tour received PGA Tour status, matching the 25 cards from the Q-school process. Now, in 2013, all 50 cards are distributed through the web.com process, and Q-school as we knew it is over.
Now, to get to the PGA Tour, part of the cards are given out for season long play on the web.com and the other cards are distributed through the "web.com Finals" process that happens right after the Tour Championship. The top 75 players from the web.com Tour are in as well as the players ranked 126-200 on the PGA Tour FedEx Cup points list, and these players will compete in 4 Tour events with the top 25 in total earnings getting PGA Tour cards.
The top player on the web.com Tour regular season list, and the top player in the web.com Tour Finals race get fully-exempt cards for the PGA Tour, so even players who had already earned a card through the regular season on the web.com Tour had an incentive to play in the finals to move up the priority list and get better chances to get in fields in the 2013-14 season.
All of that happened in October. PGA Tour players outside of the top 125 and web.com players competed for 25 spots. Click here to see the 25 Finals players and the 25 web.com season-long finishers who received cards. Photo Getty Images.
As a breezed through the list, I noticed that 15 of the 25 cards given out for the finals were given to players who were on the PGA Tour in 2013. The other 10 went to web.com players who either bettered their position in the finals or played their way in after not being in the top 25 for the season. Some of the familiar names who had to earn their way back to the PGA Tour include Sean O'Hair, Trevor Immelman (former Masters winner), Bud Cauley, Heath Slocum, Ricky Barnes, and Ryo Ishikawa.
I also noticed a web.com player had some Minnesota ties - Bronson La'Cassie, an Aussie who played at the University of Minnesota from 2004-07, earned his way on Tour by winning on the web.com Tour this year and finishing 6th on the overall money list. La'Cassie was the only golfer in U of M history to be an All-American all years of his college golf career. Besides playing on the web.com(Nationwide) the past 2 years, La'Cassie also played on the Australian and One Asia Tours along with the NGA Hooters Tour since turning pro in 2007.
So what happened to Q-school? Well, it's still there, but now players are competing to earn status on the web.com Tour instead of the PGA Tour. The pre-qualifying and first stages are already complete, and 2 of the 6 2nd Stage have finished as well. Four more 2nd Stage events will be happening this week, and Minnesotan, Donald Constable, who earned his way onto the PGA Tour through Q-school last year, will need to advance out of the Florida event to get to the final stage in California to get playing status on the web.com Tour for 2014. I'm rooting for you Donald!!! You can follow the Q-school process on their website here. You can follow Donald Constable's scoring here. Send him some good luck wishes via Twitter @DonaldConstable.
On of my other favorite players to follow is Clayton Rask from Minnesota. Rask has journeyed through stages of Q-school in past years and is once again in the process of trying to get status on the web.com Tour. Rask qualified out of the First Stage and I believe will be playing this week in the 2nd Stage, but the current field for one of the sites is not up yet. Rask had a nice interview here regarding his current success on the NGA Hooters Tour. I'm rooting for Clayton, too!!
Some players automatically qualify right into the finals, so we'll get to see those fields after the 2nd Stage is complete.
I will have to get used to the idea that PGA Tour dreamers will have to dream about the web.com Tour first, but I'm excited that there are so many stories to learn about as players continue on their golf journey. Watch for new graduates Michael Putnam, John Peterson, Chesson Hadley, and Patrick Cantlay.
I love golf and I love to write, so I can't think of anything better than having a happy place like this to write about golf to my heart's content. Thanks for joining me!