Chris Epperson, 31, finished ninth at last month’s Web.com Tour Qualifying Tournament, firing a final-round 63 to end a roller-coaster week on a high note. He led by four shots after two rounds, shot 76-73 in the third and fourth rounds, then settled down to finish ninth and earn exemption through the first 12 events of the 2014 season. The Bluffton, S.C., resident arrived at q-school from PGA TOUR Canada, finishing eighth in money there after six top 10s in nine events, but his golf journey began well before that. He talked recently about q-school, mini-tour life, making weight and a very busy first week of 2014.
Q: Looking back on it now, what went so wrong midway through q-school? You led, then vanished from the leaderboard for a couple days.
A: I got a lot of attention after the second round, I had a lot of text messages, Facebook blew up, you just get too much going on. I understand everybody’s cheering for you, but it’s like, ‘everybody, I’ve got four more rounds.’ It’s hard to stay focused. I wasn’t nervous, I just couldn’t concentrate. I let the third and fourth rounds get away from me and said ‘what am I doing? This isn’t me.’ So I just refocused and got things going. That last round was nice.
Q: Given the circumstances and the score, was that the best round you’ve ever had?
A: I shot a 62 on a par-71 a couple years ago, so it ties, under-par wise. You know, it was one of those things where you don’t feel like you’re doing anything different, you’re just not making big mistakes, playing smart, and getting a lot of putts to fall. All the numbers seemed to be good. I didn’t feel like I was doing anything different.
Q: You’re exempt for the first 12 events of the Web.com season. Does that feel like a lot?
A: That’s half a season, to me that sounds like a ton. That’s more than enough starts to make enough money to reshuffle and play a whole season. That’s very good. That was longer than the PGA TOUR Canada season
Q: About the PGA TOUR Canada experience, had you played in Canada before 2013? Any good stories?
A: No, this was a first. I had been playing eGolf for a long time, once I heard the PGA TOUR bought Canada, I thought that would be a really good opportunity to advance. The big thing, it just seemed every week when we’d get to the course and talk to the locals, it seemed like it rained every single week. It got to be comical that every week the caddies would be like, ‘this is crazy, eh? It hasn’t rained here in four weeks, ya know?’ It would have been nice to play some of those courses dry.
It was a good experience. Some of the places like Fort McMurray, the sun doesn’t really ever go down. You look out at 11:30 at night, the sun is still out.
Q: With the nomadic life of a pro, what’s the best travel tip you’d give to a golfer?
A: It’s funny how as a golfer, I’m able to pick up a bag and tell if it’s right at 50 pounds. You’ve got to keep it under that 50 pound mark or you’ll get dinged for extra baggage. You learn how much you can have in each bag. Go get some weights and see how much 50 pounds weighs and get used to it. I can come real close. I usually come in at 48-point-something to 49-and-a-half pounds. I’ve had it right on 50 pounds on the dot.
Q: Switching gears, you graduated from Armstrong Atlantic (Ga.) as a psychology major? That seems funny for a golfer.
A: They didn’t have a business program, so I figured if I took psychology that I might be able to trick myself into playing better golf and being my own sports psychologist. It was actually really interesting – difficult, but I enjoyed it.
Q: You just got married and closed on a house? That covers all the big-boy stuff all at once.
A: We got married on the fourth (of January) and closed on the second. We’re doing some painting, unpacking gifts, doing everything to the kitchen. It’s exciting though, a grown-up feeling. Different. Most of my friends, most of them have been married and have had their own homes for a while. But when you’re not married and you’re a golfer, there’s no point in having a place of your own because you’re never home.
I’m 31 and I had been living over the garage, which was great. You come home, your parents cook a meal and you go back on the road. I was my only responsibility. But now I’ve got a wife and a house, so I’ve got three responsibilities.
Q: What was your best wedding gift?
A: My parents and Sarah’s grandmother, aunt and family all gave us some gift money as far as helping us put a down payment on this house, so that was huge. If they weren’t so generous, we’d probably be in an apartment.
Q: Being a Hilton Head guy, give me some courses that are must-plays for people on vacation there.
A: Everybody wants to play Harbour Town, that’s a great course, but my favorites are some of the private courses. If you know somebody to get on, Colleton River is fantastic. There’s a Dye and a Nicklaus course and they’re both killer. The May River at Palmetto Bluff is a great course. Berkeley Hall is good.
Q: Speaking of Harbour Town, you played the RBC Heritage in 2011. (He missed the cut.) What sticks out from that week?
A: That was such a fun time. I wish that I would have played some Web.com events before I played in that, because that was my first big tournament. I had never played anything but mini-tours before that. I wasn’t acclimated to how big it was.
The difference is, there’s a lot of noises going on. It’s a big social scene at the Heritage, the biggest social event ever. Everybody comes out, has a drink, has a good time, and then they kind of watch golf on the side. There were some distractions that you had to get used to as far as background noise.
As a kid, I grew up practicing picturing myself playing the Heritage. It wasn’t so much the U.S. Open or the Masters, I was envisioning hitting the shot on 17 into that par-3 and then the shot in on 18, that’s how I practiced. It was nice to have a dream come true.
Q: I read that you worked for your family’s heating and air conditioning company all through high school and after college. Shades of Tommy “Two Gloves” Gainey?
A: (Laughs) Probably the best thing for me. It was something where I could make money on the side for whatever you need in high school. When I graduated college in December 2005, I went to Florida and played the Gateway Tour, then came back from that and worked in the office that winter. I started doing load calculations, working on blueprints, I got into just about every aspect. Went to sales school, did sales calls on my own. I wouldn’t trade it for the world, but it did give me a perspective that I really wanted to play golf for a living. That’s where my heart lied. When I worked on a blueprint and looked outside and the birds were chirping and it was sunny, I thought, ‘man I could be on the golf course right now.’ But I needed that job to fund tournaments.