TRINITY — The key to Monday qualifiers, those nerve-racking one-day tournaments pros play before the week's PGA Tour event, is posting a low score and waiting to see if it holds up. There were 113 pros who teed up at Fox Hollow Golf and Country Club on Monday for four coveted spots in this week's PODS Championship.
Marco Dawson, playing in the last group, posted 65 on the par-71 course to earn medalist honors. Jim Renner and Derek Lamely shot 66 to earn a tee time at Innisbrook. That meant Ted Purdy and Chad Collins needed a playoff for the fourth spot after they both shot 67.
But Collins, a tour rookie from Clovendale, Ind., chose Beef O'Brady's instead.
He played in the morning, and tournament officials tracked him down on his cell phone at the family restaurant, 45 minutes away from Fox Hollow. There would be no sunlight by the time Collins returned, so he was eliminated and Purdy was given the final spot.
"The guy left; I can't believe it," said Purdy, 34, of Phoenix. "We were on the tee ready to go. You had a bunch of millionaire players out there coming in. You knew any one of them could play well."
Dawson is one of those players. He has been on the tour since 1986 and finished 145th on the money list in 2007. The 44-year-old Lakeland resident has played two PGA Tour events this season and made the cut both times, earning $56,300. He played in the 2006 Chrysler Championship at Innisbrook and missed the cut.
"I've never gone into that tournament where I'm really striking the ball well," Dawson said. "I'm striking the ball well, so I'm interested to see how I do out there."
And Renner is interested to see how he will play at Innisbrook — but for a different reason. This is his first PGA Tour event. After graduating from Johnson & Wales University in Miami, Renner had played only on the Hooters Tour (Lamley, 27, of Fort Myers is a Hooters Tour member as well). Renner shot 70 in his first Monday qualifier Feb. 25 and didn't qualify for the Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens.
"I've only been a pro for exactly one year now," said Renner, 24. "It's tough. It's really tough on Mondays because you have so many good pros in one place. It's just one round, so it's a crapshoot."
Renner now must find a place to stay while he plays at the PODS Championship. He plans on getting there this afternoon and getting in a practice round before the tournament starts Thursday.
"I don't really know what I'm going to do," he said. "I don't know how to go about it. I have a few friends on tour, so I'm going to have to call them tonight and see what I need to do."
Purdy did what he needed to do — stay around until the final scorecard was turned in.
He has been on and off the tour since 1999. His best year was 2004, when he earned $2,198,368.
"In the afternoon the wind died down, and it's usually the other way around," Purdy said. "We were very fortunate to play in the final round."
And when he says "we," he means caddie Kenny Cavender, who is a junior at Mitchell High and works at Fox Hollow. Purdy needed a caddie, stuck his head in the cart room and found Cavender willing to carry his bags.
"I'm taking him with me," Purdy said. "If he can get out of school, that is."
For the record, Cavender said he could.
Some locals who played in the qualifier included Dunedin's Bob Heintz (71), Tampa's David Branshaw (73) and Gulfport's Kyle McCarthy (69).
Rodney Page can be reached
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