Q-school round-up: Epperson going low early

Claus Andersen/PGA TOUR Canada
Chris Epperson left his family's heating and air business to take a full-time chance at golf.
December 13, 2013
By Sean Martin, PGATOUR.COM

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Chris Epperson had many duties for EAC Heating and Air, which is owned in part by his father and brother. “I did a bit of everything,” said Epperson, who worked there from 2006-08. He remembers jumping up and down in a dumpster, trying to squash the trash to make room for more, and wondering why he was in there instead of on a golf course. He left the part-time job the following year to commit himself fully to golf, saw immediate improvement and now holds a four-shot lead after two rounds at the Web.com Tour Qualifying Tournament.

Epperson is at 16-under 128 (65-63) after one round apiece at PGA West’s TPC Stadium and Nicklaus Tournament courses. He’s shot the low round of the day on his respective course in each of the first two rounds. The former All-American at Division II Armstrong Atlantic University has yet to make a bogey.

“I know I can play golf like this,” said Epperson, 31. He finished eighth on PGA TOUR Canada’s Order of Merit in 2013, which exempted him into Q-School’s final stage. Epperson made the cut in eight of nine starts, including six top-10s. He also won the Vancouver Open, a mini-tour event held during one of PGA TOUR Canada’s off weeks, and finished sixth on the eGolf Professional Tour money list in just 14 starts, thanks to six top-four finishes.

Next year could be a big one for Epperson, who lives in Hilton Head Island, S.C. The winner of Web.com Tour Q-School is fully exempt for the upcoming season. He’s scheduled to get married Jan. 4 in Savannah, Ga. He proposed to his fiancée, Sarah, with a ring worn by his paternal grandmother, Dorothy, who died in a car accident in 1944. The ring had been in a safety deposit box until he proposed in Rockefeller Center in New York City, he said.

He’s four shots ahead of Nathan Tyler and Steve Saunders. Epperson, who turned pro in 2006, has made nine career Web.com Tour starts, with two top-25 finishes.

PLENTY OF TIME: Max Homa didn’t panic when he struggled at Q-School’s start. This year’s NCAA champion was 3 over after 13 holes when his caddie, Joe Greiner, told him, “Don’t worry, there’s nearly 100 holes left.” There was plenty of time for Homa to make a move. And he did. He birdied three of his final five holes Thursday at PGA West’s TPC Stadium Course to salvage 72 on the more difficult of the two layouts in use at Q-School, then shot 64 on Friday to move into seventh place, a leap of 77 spots on the leaderboard.

Homa had six birdies and an eagle Friday at the Nicklaus Tournament course. He chipped in for birdie at No. 13 and eagled the par-5 seventh hole after hitting 3-wood to 3 feet.

“I was in good spirits because I was playing fine. I had a tough stretch (Thursday) when the wind picked up,” Homa said. “I felt good coming in today after how yesterday ended.”

He’s played his past 23 holes in 11 under. The Cal alum played two PGA TOUR events as a professional this year, finishing ninth at the Frys.com Open and 30th at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.

FINALLY FINAL STAGE: Nathan Tyler last made it to Q-School’s final stage in 2009. He’s been on the wrong side of close calls in Q-School’s second stage each of the previous three years. That prompted him to make a switch that has paid big dividends thus far.

Tyler switched coasts for second stage, from Bear Creek Golf Club in Murrieta, Calif. – the course where he’d played each of the previous three years – to Plantation Preserve in Plantation, Fla. He won that site by two shots with a 21-under 263 total.

“I was extremely proud to get through second stage to get through the way I did, because I had a tough three years of second stage,” Tyler said. “To play well all the way through was huge for me, and I’ve tried to roll it over into this.”

Tyler is in contention at Q-School’s final stage after shooting consecutive 66s at PGA West. At 12-under 132, he’s four shots behind Epperson. Tyler, 31, finished 12th on PGA TOUR Canada’s Order of Merit this year, posting two top-five finishes, including a runner-up at The Players Cup.

Tyler, an Arizona alum, has made 11 career starts on the Web.com Tour, and never more than five in one season. That could change in 2014 if he keeps up his good play.

“I’m 31. It’s time to make a move, and I’m glad to be (at final stage),” Tyler said.

DIVOTS: Michael Kim, one of three amateurs in the Q-School field, continues to play well. He shot 69 Friday at the TPC Stadium course and was tied for 14th at 7 under. Kim is in the midst of his junior season at Cal; he’ll have to turn professional to accept Web.com Tour status earned this week. He was exempt into second stage after finishing 17th at this year’s U.S. Open. Anthony Paolucci, a junior at the University of Southern California, is at 1-under 143 (71-72), while BYU alum Zac Blair is at 145 (71-74). … Steven Fox, the 2012 U.S. Amateur champ, salvaged an even-par 72 on Friday, shooting 32 on his second nine at the TPC Stadium course after making the turn in 4-over 40. He made double-bogey on No. 10, his first hole of the day, and added bogeys at Nos. 12 and 18. He is at 3-under 141 (69-72).