DAYTON — When the PGA Tour changed the qualifying process in 2013 to make the Web.com Tour the primary avenue to PGA Tour membership, the move was met with surprise, concerns and speculation. Now with two seasons in the books and the third Web.com Tour Q-school process underway for the 2016 season, it has proven to be a good decision for both Tours and the players.
With players competing in a full season of Web.com Tour tournaments, the 50 who earn a PGA Tour spot each year are Tour battle-tested and ready and able to compete at the highest level. That and the addition of the Final Series of four events culminating with the Web.com Tour Championship for the final 25 PGA Tour spots, has heightened awareness and interest for the Web.com Tour season and qualifying process.
A First Stage Web.com Tour Qualifying Tournament will be played Tuesday through Friday at Dayton Valley Golf Club for the third consecutive year. In all, the event marks the 21st consecutive year the Arnold Palmer-designed course is hosting a PGA or Web.com Q-school continuing the longest consecutive streak of hosting PGA Tour qualifying events for any course in the nation.
The quality of the field of 78 players competing at Dayton this year and the performances of three players who advanced from the qualifiers in 2014 and 2013 are evidence of the success of the Web.com Tour qualifying process.
Last year at this time Tyler Aldridge of Nampa, Idaho had just completed the 72-hole Dayton Q-school finishing as eighth low qualifier at 13-under 275. He was preparing to compete in a Second Stage qualifier where he advanced to the Finals and finished tied for 43rd earning an exempt spot on the 2015 Web.com Tour.
Aldridge won the Greater Dallas Open and finished the Web.com regular season in 15th on the money list with $187,671 in winnings and a spot in “The 25” who automatically earn one of the 50 PGA Tour cards for the 2015-16 season. He earned an additional $17,460 in the Final Series and finished 29th in the Priority Rankings.
This year Aldridge is playing in the 2015-16 PGA Tour season-opening Frys.com Open at Silverado CC in Napa, Calif. The 34-year old former Boise State star made the cut and earned a check in his first event of the season. This is his second shot at the big show as he competed in 17 events on the PGA Tour in 2009.
In 2014 Zac Blair and Tony Finau advanced from the Dayton qualifier and went through the same rigorous q-school process and Web.com Tour regular season and final series to earn PGA Tour cards. Both retained their cards with outstanding seasons as Finau finished 43rd in the FedexCup Rankings and earned $2,095,186 and Blair finished 59th in the FedexCup Rankings and earned $1,244,676. Both players also opened the season at Napa with Finau making the cut.
In addition to Aldridge, former Dayton PGA Tour qualifier competitors Chez Reavie, Rhein Gibson, Tyrone Van Aswegen and Rod Pampling also made the Top 50 and earned their 2015-2016 PGA Tour cards.
Gibson is playing on the PGA Tour for the first time and hopes to become known for more than the Guinness World Record he holds. He shot 55 in a Saturday-morning money game with friends in 2012 to gain that fame for lowest ever 18-hole round. His solid play in the finals earned him the 20th spot in the priority rankings for the newcomers.
Reavie, Van Aswegen and Pampling regained PGA Tour cards and will play to keep them in the 2015-16 season.
So is there another emerging PGA Tour star among the 78 in this year’s Dayton q-school field? The only certainty isthere are plenty of candidates in this field with the talent and experience to make it through the ordeal and play at the first PGA Tour event of the 2016-17 season.
A good first choice, continuing the Idaho connection with Aldridge, might be Chris Williams from Moscow, Idaho who finished tied for third at 8-under in the 2013 Web.com Q-school at Dayton. Williams, who played college golf for the Washington Huskies, was the No. 1 ranked amateur in the world in 2013 and represented the U.S. in the Walker Cup, the Palmer Cup and the World Amateur Championships. He has also played in two U.S. Opens and the British Open. He made his professional debut at the PGA Tour 2013 Travelers Championship just a few weeks after playing in the 2013 U.S. Open. He also played in the 2013 Reno-Tahoe Open.
Williams has failed to live up to his potential thus far after signing a lucrative deal with Nike and has not made it past the second stage in Web.com qualifying. He has played in 11 PGA Tour events making the cut three times with $52,480 in winnings. He has played on the Mackenzie PGA Tour Canada the past two years and finished 50th in this year’s Mackenzie Tour Order of Merit.
The 72-hole tournament will be played Tuesday through Friday. Gallery is free to the public. Tee-times begin at approximately 9 a.m. off the 1st and 10th tees each day with the potential for possible frost delays.