Second Stage preview: Bhatia, Xiong chase Korn Ferry Tour membership
November 04, 2019
By Zephyr Melton, PGATOUR.COM
- November 04, 2019
- Akshay Bhatia will tee it up at Second Stage of Q-School in Brooksville, Florida. (Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)
With one Second Stage site complete, four more sites will host Q-School this week as pros travel across the country in hopes of securing 2020 Korn Ferry Tour membership.
Sites this week range from California to Florida, as one of the highest-stakes weeks in golf commences.
While PGA TOUR cards aren’t won and lost at Second Stage, the week is still of utmost importance. Players who fail to survive will take their talents to various developmental Tours and wait until next year for their shot at the clearest path to the TOUR -- or eye Korn Ferry Tour starts via Monday qualifiers or sponsor's exemptions.
Here are four things to watch at this week's Second Stage sites around the country:
Akshay Bhatia at Southern Hills
At long last, 17-year-old phenom Akshay Bhatia will begin his journey to the PGA TOUR as he tees it up at Southern Hills Plantation Club in Brooksville, Florida.
Bhatia, the former No. 1-ranked junior golfer in the world, turned professional earlier this fall after representing the United States in the Walker Cup. The North Carolina native declared his intentions to forgo college and turn professional last year and made his Korn Ferry Tour debut at the 2019 Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail Championship, making the cut.
The long and lanky Bhatia is a protege of teacher George Gankas, who has a handful of high-profile pupils, notably PGA TOUR winner Matthew Wolff. And though Bhatia has played in several events since turning professional via sponsor’s exemptions, Q-School represents the beginning of his journey towards earning a PGA TOUR card.
Twins Yannik and Jeremy Paul in California
Some players at Bear Creek GC in Murrieta, California, may think they’re seeing double this week, but in reality it’s just twins Jeremy and Yannik Paul.
The German duo are fresh off a season competing on the Mackenzie Tour-PGA TOUR Canada in which they finished 22nd and 29th, respectively, on the Order of Merit. The two began playing golf at the age of 3 and worked their way up to the German National Team before earning scholarships to the University of Colorado. Now the twins have their sights set on the Korn Ferry Tour, as they try to take the next step in their professional careers side-by-side.
Thompson brothers competing together in Florida
Brothers Nicholas and Curtis Thompson are both in the field this week at the Plantation, Florida site. If their sister, LPGA Tour player Lexi, were in the field, they’d have a Thompson sibling bingo.
The 26-year-old Curtis played on the Korn Ferry Tour most recently in 2018, but spent 2019 playing various smaller Tours, as well as spending time on the bag for Lexi. This week, he’ll trade in the caddie bib for his clubs as he tries to regain Korn Ferry Tour membership. Nicholas played this past season on the Korn Ferry Tour and has held his PGA TOUR card in the past, most recently in 2014-15.
Norman Xiong in Alabama
After a massively successful junior and amateur career in which he won the Phil Mickelson Award, the Haskins Award and the Jack Nicklaus Award, Norman Xiong struggled to gain any momentum during his first year as a professional.
The 20-year-old placed second at Final Stage of last year's Q-School, but proceeded to make just five cuts in 21 starts during his rookie Korn Ferry Tour season. Talent has never been an issue for Xiong, but now with a year of professional experience under his belt, he will look to return to the Korn Ferry Tour with a successful week in Dothan, Alabama.