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    • College grads enter battle for PGA TOUR cards

    • Michael Weaver played in the U.S. Open in 2013 and finished 64th. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) Michael Weaver played in the U.S. Open in 2013 and finished 64th. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

    Players on the Web.com Tour have been battling each other since the Pacific Rubiales Colombia Championship in February. However, an influx of recent college graduates are now competing against the regulars, and are attempting to secure status on the official proving ground of the PGA TOUR.

    Sebastian Cappelen, Cory Whitsett and Michael Weaver are among those who missed the first half the season because they were finishing up their college careers at Arkansas, Alabama and Cal, respectively. Many made their pro debuts at Web.com events in June and have been transitioning to life on the Web.com Tour after successful collegiate careers.

    “Last summer, I was able to pick my schedule. I could get into any tournament I wanted to around the world and play wherever,” Weaver said. “Now, I’m starting back at square one again where I don’t have any status anywhere, and it’s different because you have to be ready to play whenever.”

    Navigating the intense competition of the Web.com Tour starts with getting into events. If players don’t earn a Sponsor’s Exemption, they are faced with trying to Monday qualify.

    Whitsett played in his third Web.com event as a professional at the Albertsons Boise Open via Sponsor’s Exemption. He said gaining one is a mix between good fortune, knowing the right people and letting your resume speak for itself. Whitsett’s resume includes being a member of the two-time NCAA Champion Alabama Crimson Tide, member of the victorious 2013 Walker Cup team and 2013 SEC Player of the Year.

    Cappelen was a three-time All-American at Arkansas and made a dramatic pro debut at the Air Capital Classic in Wichita. Cappelen Monday qualified, and won the event by one stroke over Matt Weibring to take home the $108,000 first place check. He is now 25th on the money list with four Regular Season events to go.

    “I was prepared for the new system. I mean I was just going to try and play a couple tournaments, see what I could get into over the summer, and be ready to go to Q-school. I knew I had to try to get to the Web.com somehow,” he said. “Fortunately, for me it happened in a really good way.”

    Cappelen’s rare accomplishment will allow him to bypass the new Q-School format, and he is in an ideal position to earn his PGA TOUR card by season’s end. The top 25 on the Web.com Tour money list earn their TOUR cards, and play in the four events that comprise the Web.com Finals to fight for priority ranking on the PGA TOUR. They are joined in the Finals by Nos. 26 though 75 on the money list and 126 through 200 on the PGA TOUR’s FedExCup points list, who are all attempting to earn the other 25 cards available for the 2014-2015 PGA TOUR season.

    The transition to professional golf has not been as easy for 2012 U.S. Amateur runner-up Weaver. He made his pro debut at the Cleveland Open and has yet to make a cut after three events.

    “The golf didn’t seem that much different, it’s kind of how I was playing. Not quite playing well enough consistently to make cuts and have high finishes. So far, haven’t gone out how I wanted to, but nothing to hit the panic button about,” he said. “It’s not so much how good you can play when you play well, but how well you can manage when you are struggling.”

    Weaver’s goal by the end of the year is to get to the Final Stage of Q-school, and earn Web.com Tour status for next season.

    “Either win Q-school or top 10 or top 45, and so that way I can get out of the limbo of what I was talking about earlier where I don’t know where I’m playing next,” he said.

    At the Final Stage of Q-School, the top 45 and ties are exempt until the second reshuffle during the 2015 Web.com Tour season. The reshuffle is based off competitive performance during the season. If you finish in the top 10 and ties at Final Stage, then you are exempt until the third reshuffle, and the Q-School Medalist is exempt for the entire season. Players finishing outside the top 45 and ties receive conditional status.

    Whitsett has his eyes on making the Web.com Tour Finals. He made the cut in his pro debut at the Air Capital Classic, and finished T38. He added a T48 in Boise, and is now 182nd on the money list. His immediate goal though, is to play in the last Regular Season event in Portland, which takes the top 156 on the money list.

    As the recent college graduates attempt to gain or improve their status on the Web.com Tour, they are encouraged by the success of their former teammates and college rivals.

    “It’s a nice motivating factor. Guys like Justin Thomas, Daniel Berger, guys I played junior, college and amateur golf with. Seeing the success they’ve had this year definitely let’s you know that you can compete right away. So I’m just trying to use that to build some confidence as I go forward,” said Weaver.

    No matter what happens over the remaining weeks, the college grads are living their dream.

    “I’ve really enjoyed it. It’s something I’ve wanted to do since I was eight years old,” said Whitsett.

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