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Q School gives golfers a shot at the big stage

BROOKSVILLE

This isn't happening everyday.

But for the next four days, some of top golfers in the country will be playing just a stone's throw away. They'll be playing the second stage of the Q School: a qualifying school for the PGA that has four stages, the second beginning today at Southern Hills Plantation Golf Club.

"This is the last stage before the final," PGA Tour Rules Official Steve Rintoul said during Monday's open practice round. "Anyone that makes the final stage is pretty much guaranteed they're going to play on the PGA Tour next year. This can be a critical stage."

The final stage is Dec. 3-8 in La Quinta, Calif., and the event in Brooksville is one of six second-stage tournaments in which players can qualify for the finals. There's a field of 79 golfers out there today, with only about 20 of them moving on. From there, they can gain their PGA Tour card and play either on the PGA Tour itself, or move on to the lesser known Nationwide Tour, which the Top 25 players after a year then gain a PGA card.

"It's great for the community to have this qualifying here this week," Rintoul said. "It brings a lot of golfers and a lot of prestige not only to the course, but the area because it will get coverage.

"If you want to see those guys who are probably going to be the next great, young players on the PGA Tour, you can see them right here."

The easiest comparison to make to Q School is minor league baseball. Players work their way through and become better golfers, gaining experience from the events. Former PGA players, who lose their card status are also part of Q School, trying to get their status back.

So having this event so close by is a big deal. There are many lesser known, yet rising stars just in North Suncoast's backyard today.

"We have a field of 22 players that have either played on the Nationwide or PGA Tour," Southern Hills general manager and director of golf Jim Knierim said. "If people want to come out and watch some good golf, which this will be, then they should. They won't have many opportunities to see this type of golf played right in their back yard.

"We can see them on television, but to see them on first hand, their thought process and performance, its just a neat thing to see."

Knierim adds this is "a huge deal for Southern Hills" and "to host an event like this is an honor."

Local player Brennan Webb of Land O'Lakes knows the field of golfer is extremely competitive and tough, meaning the golf being played this week could be very entertaining.

"Every one out here is a professional," Webb said. "Some have even been on tour before, and this is a really good way to get close to the action. We're talking really good golf being played in tour."

Travis Hampshire of Zephyrhills agrees, realizing that, just like minor league baseball, the top talent is going to be there.

"There's 80 guys who can hit the golf ball really well and they are fun to watch," Hampshire said. "It is like minor league baseball, expect most of these guys are better (at golf) than minor leaguers."

And even if "minor league golf" is being played, at least it's close by.

"If you're a local player and you've made it all the way through here, that's not only impressive, you have an advantage, as well," Rintoul said. "It's your town at a course you've probably already played at. Who wouldn't want that?"

Mike Camunas can be reached at mcamunas@sptimes.com or (352) 544-1771.

Fast facts

Q School Second Stage Qualifiying Tournament

When: Today through Saturday. Each round begins at 8 a.m.

Where: Southern Hills Plantation Golf Club, 4200 Summit View Drive, Brooksville

Cost: Free to the public

Local players: Michael Bradley, Lithia; Travis Hampshire, Zephyrhills; John Huston, Palm Harbor; Brad Quiri, Oldsmar; David Thomas, Palm Harbor; Brennan Webb, Land O'Lakes; Garrett Willis, Dade City;

For more info on PGA's Q School, log onto www.pgatour.com/qschool.

>>Fast facts

Q School Second Stage Qualifying Tournament

When: Today through Saturday. Each round begins at 8 a.m.

Where: Southern Hills Plantation Golf Club, 4200 Summit View Drive, Brooksville

Cost: Free to the public

Local players: Michael Bradley, Lithia; Travis Hampshire, Zephyrhills; John Huston, Palm Harbor; Brad Quiri, Oldsmar; David Thomas, Palm Harbor; Brennan Webb, Land O'Lakes; Garrett Willis, Dade City;

For information on PGA's Q School, log onto www.pgatour.com/qschool.

. Fast facts

Q School Second Stage Qualifiying Tournament

When: Today through Saturday. Each round begins at 8 a.m.

Where: Southern Hills Plantation Golf Club, 4200 Summit View Drive, Brooksville

Cost: Free to the public

Local players: Michael Bradley, Lithia; Travis Hampshire, Zephyrhills; John Huston, Palm Harbor; Brad Quiri, Oldsmar; David Thomas, Palm Harbor; Brennan Webb, Land O'Lakes; Garrett Willis, Dade City;

For more information on PGA's Q School, log onto www.pgatour.com/qschool.

Q School gives golfers a shot at the big stage 11/11/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 12, 2008 8:29pm]

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