Rising to the occasion on Q-School Sunday
December 11, 2016
By Jarrod Heil, Special to PGATOUR.COM
- December 11, 2016
- Orlando's Eric Cole has won 35 times on the Minor League Golf Tour. Now he has a chance on the Web.com Tour. (Keyur Khamar/PGA TOUR)
WINTER GARDEN, Fla. -- After a whirlwind of a week at Orange County National, 52 players grinded out paths at Final Stage of Q-School and secured some status on the Web.com Tour for 2017.
In addition to Jim Renner, who received a full exemption with a three-stroke victory at 17 under, second through 10th place earned starts in the first 12 events, and 11th through 45th berthed eight starts to begin the season.
Frenchman Paul Barjon may have made the top-45 number in the most dramatic fashion. Sitting outside of the bubble at the end of day three, Barjon kept his cool and managed to fire a 6-under 66, which put him directly on the number at 3 under.
“You see this big old scoreboard, and it’s like playing for winning. If you finish in the top 45, you pretty much win,” Barjon said. “Worst case, you shoot 2 over and you keep playing on the (Mackenzie) Tour.”
He earned that status by finishing sixth on the Mackenzie Tour Order of Merit this past season, winning the season-ending Freedom 55 Financial Championship to advance directly into Final Stage of Q-School. But he wasn’t necessarily riding high from the win because he hadn’t really played competitive golf since then.
But knowing he at least had status in Canada took the edge off and allowed him to relieve some of the pressure. Now he’s guaranteed the first eight Web.com Tour events and can fall back to the Mackenzie Tour if he doesn’t make it through the second reshuffle.
Chris Worrell’s backup plan was just a little different than Barjon’s. After playing the Mackenzie Tour the past two seasons, Worrell didn’t secure status for 2017. He said that every missed cut had him fighting his demons to quit golf for a desk job.
He said if he wasn’t playing golf for a living, he would probably put his finance degree from the University of Tulsa to good use and become a financial analyst.
“I did well in school so that helps, having something to fall back on,” said Worrell, who graduated in 2013. “Being several years removed from college, you’ve got all these people that probably could work a computer better than me.”
Thankfully, Worrell can push that thought into the back of his mind for now, as he guaranteed himself the first eight starts of the season with a T32 finish.
On the outside looking in after the third round, he thought back to the final round of the Second Stage of Q-School, when he shot 7-under 65 to make it into Final Stage. It worked. He carded a 4-under 68 and finished at 5-under overall.
For Eric Cole, securing a spot in eight events is “something I’ve been working for, for a while, and it feels good to finally perform when I needed to.”
Cole’s path to the Web.com Tour has been a long and rocky road. He’s won 35 times on the Minor League Golf Tour but hasn’t quite had the stuff to break onto a larger Tour. But those thoughts have flown out the window after carding 6-under total at Orange County National, including 3 under in the final round, en route to a T23 finish.
“I thought that the road to this point would be a little bit quicker,” Cole said. “I wouldn’t change it. Playing the Minor League Tour and little Tours like that really make you appreciate and work hard to be on a tour like the Web.com (Tour).”
The most clutch performance of the day may have belonged to Steve Allan, who bettered the top-45 number by one stroke after closing the final 11 holes in 7 under par. Beginning the day well outside of the bubble, he was thinking it was long shot to make the top 45, but “it wasn’t like I had to shoot a 62 or a 61. It was a fair chance (that) it might only be 6 under (that I needed to shoot).”
“The whole season’s on the line, so you’ve got to try to get that out of your head,” Allan said. “When things go bad you start to think, ‘Well, jeeze, what if I don’t make it? What am I going to do next year?’”
For all of these guys, the beginning of next year is secure.