The second stage doesn’t get as much attention as the PGA Tour’s qualifying school finals when it comes to nerve-wracking tension. But the second stage of the three-tier chase for a Tour card can be as tenacious, too — especially when the field is as stellar as this week’s at Royal Dunes Golf Club in Maricopa.
“Our field is like a PGA or Nationwide Tour event, there are so many guys with that type of experience in it,” said Garrett Wallace, general manager at Royal Dunes, hosting his second straight PGA Tour second-stage qualifier today through Saturday.
Wallace is right down the middle with that assessment of the 80-player field, which will qualify somewhere between 19 and 22 players (the number won’t be determined until this afternoon) to move on to Q-school finals.
Among those entered here, Mike Heinen, Keith Clearwater and Gabriel Hjertstedt, who have all won PGA Tour events. And guys like Roger Tambellini, Todd Dempsey, Richard Barcelo, Greg Bruckner, Bryce Molder, Joe Daley, Ricky Barnes and Rob Rashall have all played at that level and on the Nationwide Tour.
Besides Barnes, Bruckner, Daley, Demsey, Molder and Rashall, other East Valley pros entered here include former Arizona State All-Americans Alejandro Carnizares, who has won in Europe, Brian Nosler, Darren Angel and Jesse Mueller; Benoit Bessier, a finalist on the current Big Break television series; and Charlie Beljan, a former U.S. Junior Amateur champ from Mesa Red Mountain.
While the finals are six days and 108 holes of blood, sweat and tears, it still takes a good showing at the second stage to get where you want to go. In fact, the big deal about second stage is if you get through it you’re guaranteed a place to play on either the PGA Tour (top 30 and ties) or the Nationwide Tour (top 49 get cards and rest conditional status) in 2008.
“Last year, Garth Mulroy was the winner here with a score of 17-under par, and it took a total of 10-under par or better to move on to the finals,” Wallace noted.
“Considering the golf course is perfect and very fast, and these guys hit it a mile, I expect the scores to be real low again.”
Royal Dunes, formerly Southern Dunes when it hosted this event last year, certainly won’t be a pushover at 7,494 yards. And while Royal Dunes’ field is just short of fabulous, there are well-known players in the other five second-stage qualifiers.
Former PGA champ Mark Brooks is in the field at Kingwood, Texas, along with former Phoenix Open champ Bill Glasson, Neal Lancaster, Ian Leggett, Len Mattiace, Jim Gallagher Jr., and David Gossett. The event at Beaumont, Calif., is just as strong with former U.S. Ryder Cup team members Chris Riley and Steve Pate, along with Jeff Brehaut, Jim Rutledge, Bob May, Brent Geiberger and Esteban Toledo.
In the two Florida legs at Dade City and Panama City Beach, former PGA Tour winners Bradley Hughes, Nolan Henke and Grant Waite are entered along with former ASU All-American Per-Ulrik Johansson and Sean Murphy of Scottsdale. The McKinney, Texas, field includes former champs Duffy Waldorf and Notah Begay III.
Second-stage qualifier for the PGA Tour
When: Today through Saturday.
Where: Royal Dunes Golf Club, 48456 W. Highway 238, Maricopa.
Format: 72 holes of medal play; top 20 (approximately) advance.
Field: 80 players with top 20 advancing to Q-school finals.
Directions: I-10 south to Maricopa exit, 12 miles south on Maricopa, two miles west on Highway 238.