Wild final day at PGA qualifier
DAYTON – The say that the last day of the first stage of PGA qualifying at the Dayton Valley Golf and Country Club on Friday was one wild affair would be an understatement.
How else to explain players shooting scores of 78, 77 and 75 – and still moving on to the second stage of qualifying. Chris Kamin, a veteran of Dayton with a solid professional career, had been near the top of the leaderboard all week so even though he shot a 77 he was never in danger of not moving on to the second stage.
The same couldn’t be said though about Ben Garner and Michael Block. The two appeared to be safely on their way to moving on to the second stage. But after Garner shot a 75 and Block fired a 78 both found themselves on the cut line to make it through.
Garner and Block both finished at 5-under-par 283, which was the cutoff point to make it to the second stage. They were among eight players tied for a 25th place finish in the tournament. The top 26 players plus ties advanced to the second stage, meaning 32 players moved on.
Garner went into the final day at 8-under and Block went into the final day at 11-under, but both ended up barely moving on.
South Korea’s Seung-su Han, a junior at UNLV, tied with South Africa’s Tyson Van Aswegan, who both finished at 16-under 272.
If Han continues to play the way he’s been playing, he’ll have a decision to make. Han is playing as an amateur, but if he makes it past the second stage to the PGA qualifying finals, he would be guaranteed a spot on the Nationwide Tour with a chance to make the PGA Tour. He can wait until after the PGA qualifying finals to decide if he wants to turn pro or continue to play at UNLV.
This year’s scores were comparable to last year’s scores even though this year’s conditions were little more favorable. The cut-off point to advance to second stage last year was also 5-under while the winning score was 15-under. Fast and firm greens and cooler, windy conditions over the final two days kept this year’s scores within the range of last year.
Another player who looked to be well on his way to moving on, but had to sweat it out a little bit was Andy Barnes, one of the first round leaders. Barnes shot a 67 to tie for the lead after round one and ended up at 6-under 282.
Three golfers who played their way into the second stage over the last two days were Aaron Weston, who won the U.S. Amatuer qualifier at Dayton this past summer, Andres Gonzales of Las Vegas and Wil Collins.
Collins put himself in contention with the low round of the tournament, a 63 on Thursday. He followed that up with a 71 on Friday to finish at 7-under 281.
Gonzales shot the low round on Friday, a 67, to finish at 8-under 280. Weston also finished at the cutoff point at 283.
Collins provided some drama when he shot a hole-in-one, using an 8-iron on the 179-yard sixth hole. But even that didn’t compare to the drama that Block went through.
Block’s troubles began when he tripled bogeyed No. 9. “That was my big hiccup,” Block said. He appeared to right himself when he birdied 11.
But then came bogey, bogey, bogey, double bogey on four of five holes before his final hole on the 18th. “I basically thought I was out of it at that point,” Block said.
Block, though, hit a shot to within six inches of the hole, allowing him to birdie, finish with a 78 and move on. “I guess the 16-inch birdie go me into second stage,” said Block, making his first appearance in a PGA qualifier.
It was such a trying run that Block apparently even became physically ill. “I was bleeding from every part of my body at the end,” said Block figuratively. “I’ve seen the nightmare and heard about them. Today I really lived one.
“I don’t remember the last time I shot 78 in a golf tournament. In these conditions it can go the wrong way in a hurry. It was very easy to go way the wrong way. I had turn signals out there.”
Weston shot two rounds of 68 during the 36-hole one-day U.S. Amateur qualifier on a 100-degree plus day at Dayton this past summer, but admitted he found the course more difficult this week.
“I was hoping I’d go ahead and repeat that, give myself a little comfort but it didn’t work that way,” said Weston about equaling his performance last summer this week. “It was difficult this time around. It was harder for me.”
Weston overcame a bad break on No. 18 to shoot a 2-under-70 on Friday to advance to second stage. “I played really well to shoot 2-under,” Weston said.
On the first two days on No. 18, Weston hit into the water. He laid up on Thursday and ended up with a birdie.
After laying up again on Friday, it looked like he was well on his way to another birdie when he hit a drive into the wind that appeared to be heading close to the hole. Instead it ended up in the water. “It was just beyond belief,” Weston said.
Weston went on to make his putt for bogey, which turned out to be enough for him to advance.
“I actually made a really good putt for bogey,” Weston said. “The main thing is survival that’s for sure.”
Two former University of Nevada players failed to make the cut. Carlos Concha finished at 291 and Chris Trevino finished at 292.