More than 1,100 players signed on for this year’s PGA Tour qualifying school marathon. Now, the last 163 standing will shoot it out for 30 PGA Tour cards or some type of Nationwide Tour status for 2007.
The final stage, a 108-hole, six-day grind that starts today and runs through Monday, is set for the Stadium Course at PGA West in La Quinta, Calif. Arizona is well-represented, with 20 players in the field.
Leading the way is Michael Allen, the “King of Q-School.’’ The Scottsdale pro is returning for a record 13th time, having successfully navigated his way through golf’s school of hard knocks a record eight times.
“It’s not where I want to be, but given the circumstances, I sure wouldn’t want to miss it,’’ said Allen, 47, who ended up No. 153 on the money list this past year after winning $470,946.
Only the top 125 money winners keep their cards each year. Also falling short on that list after failing to make top 125 money ($660,989 or better) were Phoenix’s Jonathan Kaye (No. 135, $578,715), Scottsdale’s Jerry Smith (No. 137, $586,213) and Robert Garrigus (No. 144, $537,395) of Gilbert.
But Kaye, who won the FBR Open in 2004, Smith and Garrigus are in better shape than Allen. Because that trio finished between Nos. 126 and 150 last season, they will get conditional status, meaning they should still get into 12 to 15 PGA Tour events next year if they don’t improve their status at the finals.
“For me, I am taking it as an opportunity and I don’t feel like I have a lot of pressure on myself,’’ Smith told pgatour.com. “I look at it like it is a chance to redeem myself.’’
There are others in the field who competed on the PGA Tour last year of even larger stature.
Two-time U.S. Open champion Lee Janzen returns for the first time since 1989 after he fell to No. 146 after winning $524,198.
Other well-known veterans who had a misstep in 2006 that resulted in this unexpected stop include Duffy Waldorf, Carlos Franco, Cameron Beckman, Brent Geiberger and Chris Riley, to name a few.
At the other end of the spectrum are a record 57 first-timers.
Among those Q-school rookies are former Arizona State standout Jesse Mueller and Mesa’s Aaron Watkins.
Allen isn’t the only frequent Q-school repeater in the field. That long list includes such players as Steve Haskins, who returns for his 11th time, and Scottsdale’s Danny Briggs, who is back for his 10th time.
All can only wish that their fortunes fall along the lines of veteran Jeff Brehaut.
Even though Brehaut also has been to Q-school 10 times, he’ll be gunning for his sixth PGA Tour card in a row, which also is likely a record.
Arizonans in Q-school finals
Steve Allan, Scottsdale
Michael Allen, Scottsdale
Ricky Barnes, Scottsdale
Danny Briggs, Scottsdale
Alex Cjeka, Bullhead City
Todd Demsey, Scottsdale
Robert Garrigus, Gilbert
Matt Jones, Scottsdale
Jonathan Kaye, Phoenix
Martin Laird, Scottsdale
Parker MacLachlin, Scottsdale
Jesse Mueller, Mesa
Jeff Overton, Scottsdale
Chez Reavie, Scottsdale
Warren Schutte, Anthem
Jerry Smith, Scottsdale
Boyd Summerhays, Scottsdale
Brian Vranesh, Scottsdale
Aaron Watkins, Mesa
Lee Williamson, Scottsdale