Tuesday (Practice Day) at PGA Tour Q-School
By Stephanie Wei under Behind the Scenes

This is right before the Putnam's bag fell on top of me

As you can see in the photo above, I got a looping job at Q-school! For about five minutes until Michael Putnam’s bag crushed me. Well, actually, I put the bag down before the weight (probably heavier than me) would have caused me injury. The guys were shocked I was even able to pick it up and carry it from the practice green to the shuttle. Take that!

I’m in Orlando to cover the LPGA Tour Championship and PGA Tour Q-School. I spent Tuesday at Orange County National for the last day of practice before the first round at Q-school starts on Wednesday — because once the tournament starts, the guys are going to get tenser as the week progresses. Well, isn’t that how it always is? Sure, but to my understanding, the pros say the intensity is much different come Sunday and Monday (the final two rounds) at Q-school.

Here are some other highlights from the day (filled with laughs, some at my expense, but that’s for another day in a another forum):

*I wrote a post (or a freaking essay since it turned out to be like 5,000 words) about the atmosphere the day before the tournament started.

*Here’s the scene I walked into at the OCN clubhouse:

I guess this is where the cool kids hang out!

Actually, it was lunch hour and just about everyone had finished their practice rounds. I was meeting my good pal Andres Gonzales, 27, and I had to call him because even though he stands out with his sweet facial hair and long locks, I couldn’t pick him out in the flurry of polos and khakis.

*Oh, there he is!

Andres normally doesn’t look that strange. Okay, maybe he does! Here (or above), he looked up from texting Peter Tomasulo, who was sitting on the other side of the room (like 15 yards away). Andres was conserving his energy for the grueling six rounds ahead of them!

*Actually, speaking of Peter Tomasulo, who besides being awesome, won on the NWT in July and finished 24th on the NWT money list to secure his PGA Tour card (he lost it after a disappointing ’09 season). Mind you, he played the NWT Tour Championship with a broken foot and cane. He shot even the first round, but it’s tough to play on one leg and he didn’t finish as strong as he would have liked. In fact, he missed the last four or so tournaments leading up to the Tour Championship, which caused him to drop spots on the money list. With his foot still broken and hurting, he showed up to Q-school to see how he would fell in hopes of improving his status. But he withdrew Tuesday afternoon because “playing on it for eight straight days wasn’t going to be the best for it. I was optimistic and hoped my foot would feel good one of these mornings, but it didn’t.” Plus, Peter says, “I’ll get into the three events on the west coast and I’m confident that I’ll play well enough (to gets into others)…It’s been frustrating not being able to compete…I wish I could play — the course is good, it’s longer (than it was in 2007). I think 10 to 12-under will get you through.” He described Q-school as the “most nerve-wracking event ever” and said it’s like “groundhog day.” Peter is back home in Cali to rehab his foot.

*As for the course? The players are saying it’s LONG. Andres quipped, “I’ve worn out my 4-iron.” And he’s not a short-hitter. It’s playing longer and softer than it did when he played in ’07.

*Michael Putnam made similar comments about the course conditions (and he’s not a short-hitter, either). “It was brown, burnt-out Bermuda grass in ’05. Now it’s green, lush, soft and long. But I like it, it’s helping (me and Andres).”

*I had a fantastic time hanging out with Andres, his caddie Kenny and Putty. I felt like I traveled back in time to 2000 when I hung out with Andres and Putty 24/7 in junior golf (we took lessons from the same instructor, Joe Thiel). It’s funny how some things never change and I love that they’re the friends where you can just picked up where we left off. (I’ve seen Andres a bunch, but I hadn’t seen Mike in a while.) They were giving me a hard time, poking fun and trying to embarrass me like brothers do. And naturally, I did the same.

*We got all nostalgic about the good ol’ days of junior golf. The guys suggested I find our favorite picture from junior golf and post it along with the one we took on Tuesday night at dinner. So you guys could see the comparison (and the depth of our friendship — gag).


And look what I found — rewind ten years to this pic from the banquet at the 2000 USGA Jr. Amateur at Pumpkin Ridge (from left to right: Ryan Moore, me, Lauren Ressler, Andres Gonzales, Michael Putnam and David Fern).


I know, adorable!

*Let’s see, what else? I really enjoyed chatting with the guys I spoke with. They talked like normal human beings with great personalities instead of programmed drones. It was refreshing and nice to be talked to like a human being.

*Some great quotes from Nate Smith, Scott Piercy, Joe Ogilvie, etc. in the other thesis I wrote.

*Lee Janzen, two-time US Open champ, is at Q-school. The guys and I were sitting at lunch in disbelief that Janzen, who has won two majors, had to try and get his job back. That five (or is it ten?) years (of exempt status) fly by quickly, huh? Here, here’s lunching with Paul Stankowski, another PGA Tour vet.

*In case you missed it. Here’s this from Nate, who has full status on the Nationwide Tour next season, along with some deleted scenes:

I have a job next year so there’s some security there. I have a different attitude than a lot of people so I haven’t thought much a lot about it, to be honest. I know my goal is to obviously finish in the top 25, but that’s about as much thought I’ve given it. A lot of people probably know and think they have to do a certain thing and they’ll really be thinking about the possible scenarios. I guess I’m lucky I can just go with it. I’m sure I’ll think about it at some point but as of right now, it’s like show up tomorrow. Whereas I think last year was a little different. It’s not like I’m looking to do three days of preparation here and shoot a certain number tomorrow.

I finished 27th on the NWT money list. I was in the top-25 until the last few weeks and I got knocked out the last week, so that kind of sucked because I was going to make the PGA Tour until that. But I’m not going to let that affect me.

I’m sure I’ll think more about how this is one of my dreams or goals that I’ve aspired to and I have a great chance to reach it, but you can’t really let that get in the way. There’s enough emotion involved just golfing without thinking about reaching your dream or lifelong goal. Well, it’s not really been my lifelong goal until the last three or four years. When I graduated from school (Duke), I didn’t know what I was going to do. When I was growing up, I just played because I was good at it. But now, after playing (as a pro the past few years), it’s my ultimate goal to be on the PGA Tour.

Shoot, that would be a great way to kick off the year, a trip to Hawaii (for the Sony Open).

*Putnam and Andres were telling me about the “Gonzo Grip.” (Demonstrated above, see below for a closer look.)

*Putnam explained the story behind this unique grip that Andres invented: “I won $198,000 with the Gonzo grip and I’m reminded that 1% of that goes to Andres.

In May I made one cut and then I switched to the Gonzo grip. I was using the belly putter — which was bad. Andres came up to me and said, “What the heck are you doing?” I said, “I don’t know!”

So I switched to the Gonzo grip and finished third at the first tournament and I had the best putting year of my life. Dave Stockton, what?”

*Putnam earned his card via the NWT money list, but came to Q-school to improve his number. Mike and his wife Kristina recently welcomed baby Jantzen, their first child, into this place we call earth. “I played really well when Kristina was pregnant, knowing I had to make money for someone other than myself (and wife).”

Andres demonstrates the Gonzo Grip

*Joe Ogilvie, a PGA Tour vet and winner, chimed in with his always-rational words:

It is what it is, an opportunity to make up for a poor year of playing. Golf course is a bit of a grind, but means 6 rounds under par and you are in. I’d rather own q-school than be playing in it, but that will have to wait a week or year or ten,

There’s only upside this week, no real downside. 25 guys will go from nowhere to the PGA Tour. Of course about 8 of those guys will be PGA Tour vets so you have 20 odd guys who get to live a dream because of a 1, 2, 4 week test, depending how many stages. Unheard of in sport.

It’s an iconic brand when you think about it.

Yes [the atmosphere will change], it most certainly will. They won’t know what hit ’em.

*Every year at Q-school, the players are asked to fill out a questionnaire with info about themselves for the Golf Channel to use on the telecast. Scott Piercy (who really doesn’t want to be at Q-school) and his caddie Michael Collins had some fun with it this year. Here’s a sampling:

Q: What’s your favorite college?

SP: University of State

Q: Who’s your favorite athlete?

SP: Timo Boll and Wang Yuegu (he didn’t include this, but they’re Chinese table tennis champs)

Q: “I’ve never traveled without…”(finish the sentence)

SP: Leaving my house.

Q: What job(s) did you have before golf?

SP: Personal shopping, male escort, babysitter and Hooters waitress.

Q: One thing people don’t know about you?

SP: I’m a world renowned foot model.

Q: Favorite book?

SP: Check book.

So, I’m wondering if SP is in the hunt on Sunday and/or Monday, are the Golf Channel announcers going to use these answers on the air? They should!

*Quote of the day: “Everybody is out here grinding and I’m like, f&@#, I want to go home.”

That would be from SP, but he also added:

“When you first turn pro, you’re just happy to be here. Now I don’t really care. If I play good, then great. If I don’t, then I don’t care. I’m kind of over golf right now. It’s been a rough year.”

*And Mike Collins pointed out that the NWT saves some tears from being shed:

“There aren’t as many guys standing in front of the scoreboard crying anymore — because there’s the Nationwide Tour to fall back on — but there are still a couple.”

*Alrighty. Get all that? I’ll be pulling double-duty between Q-school and the LPGA Tour Championship. Suggestions welcome for things you’d like me to cover (specific questions for specific players, course conditions, etc.).

*Best of luck to all at Q-school and the Tour Championship!

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