It’s hard to grasp the full range of intense emotions at the finish line of PGA Tour Q-school. It’s even harder for the 29 players (top 25 and ties), who earned their cards for 2012, to put into words their joy and relief. Which is also what makes the atmosphere so awesome and inspiring (and heartbreaking for those who have to wait another year for another shot).
Take Colt Knost, who walked into the scorer’s trailer with his eyes red and watery. After his agent and swing coach told him he was safely inside the number, he still fought back tears — simply from the emotional rollercoaster he had just endured, not just from the last 20 or so minutes, but the entire week.
The 2007 U.S. Amateur Championship and U.S. Amateur Public Links champion was ten-under for the week going into the 18th hole at the Nicklaus Tournament course, the most difficult hole of all 36. At the worst possible moment, he made the worst swing of the day and knocked his drive in the water. His caddie told him he needed to get up-and-down for bogey after laying up to the par-4 with his approach. Knost missed a 15-footer and posted a double-bogey 6 to finish at eight-under.
“I thought I lost it,” said Knost, who finished 174th on the 2011 PGA Tour money list. “I thought I had no chance of keeping it, and I got lucky.”
Turned out he finished right on the number he needed to keep his card.
“I really thought I was fine all day, and then I thought I had a shot or two to play with on 18,” said Knost, who was still flustered. “I hit a tee shot I didn’t really expect to hit, and that’s kind of the pressure, I guess. I didn’t really know where I stood. I kind of had an idea, but had I known I had a couple to play with, I probably would have just blown it way left. I don’t know, I had been hitting it pretty good all day, and that shot just came out of nowhere. Tough finish, but it looks like I’m going to make it through.”
Knost, who isn’t known as an emotional guy, had tears streaming down his face. Asked if he could remember the last time he cried, he replied, “A long time.” It’s a tough moment to recount and put on paper (or the computer screen), but he was simply happy and relieved the 108-hole test was over and he had passed. The moment also summed up why I enjoy covering Q-school so much and why this sounds like a bail-out, but you really just had to be there to fully understand the atmosphere (and appreciate Colt for sharing it).
“I’ve played out (on the PGA Tour) two of the last three years, and I know that’s where I want to be and that’s where I belong,” he said. “It’s such a big difference, the Nationwide to the PGA Tour. It’s just a relief, it’s over. I mean, it’s six days for a whole year, you know, and it’s a huge difference. It’s just a week. Glad it’s over.”
This was Knost’s third time at Q-school finals and it was the wildest, most nerve-wracking experience, but it will also probably be the most memorable.
“Two years ago on the Nationwide Tour, I lost in a playoff to get my card after the TOUR Championship, but that felt a lot different,” he said. “This (experience) was just ‑‑ this sucks.”
An hour later, once the reality had sunk in, he was back to laughing and cracking jokes.