Reading Lorne Rubenstein’s column this morning in the Globe, one would be under the distinct impression that this year’s Q School was a bust — and that Canadian professional golf is in disarray. Is that the case?
There were a great number of Canadians at Q-School this year — several of which (Mills, Hearn) should have been expected to move forward. None of the eight managed it. The results were: Bryan DeCorso (40th), Dustin Risdon (T53) followed by Jon Mills and Brennan Webb (T70), Jim Rutledge at (T87), Hearn at (T97), Richard Lee at T130 and Kent Eger in 159th.
So where does that leave Canadian golf?
Rubenstein used the word “dismal,” adding:
The feeling is the same here after the qualifying school for the 2009 PGA Tour that ended on Monday. Eight Canadian men started and not one qualified for the 2009 PGA Tour.
Collectively, the performance was dismal. The result is that only Mike Weir and Stephen Ames will represent Canada on the 2009 PGA Tour. Same old, same old, that is; one fewer player on the PGA Tour, to be sure, because Jon Mills didn’t get through Q-school after playing there this year.
So who is to blame, if anybody? Let’s be clear. Not one of the golfers can be faulted for lack of trying. There’s not a player among the eight who didn’t work hard. I can vouch for this because I see many of these Canadian pros, and others, all winter in Florida. They beat balls, work out in gyms and play mini-tours. They work.
But work isn’t enough. There’s talent, there’s work and there’s some intangible quality that allows a player to elevate himself to the top level of golf. Rubenstein puts some of the blame for the lack of success of Canadian players at the feet of the RCGA and its development program. He says the Royal Bank should ante up more money to support development of golf in this country. I think they are doing plenty already just by putting cash into the Canadian Open. It is time other companies and individuals stepped up — though that is a massive challenge given the current economic climate.
What also strikes me is that I wouldn’t have pegged many of the Canadians who entered the final stage of Q School as PGA Tour sure things. DeCorso played badly after winning on the Nationwide Tour early in the year; Mills slumped badly in recent months and Hearn never had a solid year to start with. All three could still make the tour, but none look to have the potential to follow in the footsteps of Ames or Weir.
Dustin Risdon is an interesting case, and moving forward should help his game, if only by showing what he needs to do. He gets by on grit, determination and talent at the moment — but it’ll take more work for him to take his game to the next level. Rutledge is only counting on the senior tour now, and Richard Lee’s odd path to pro golf continues to get stranger. The kid could be the real deal, or completely flame out.
To me, the real story of Q-School for Canada wasn’t who was there, but who didn’t make it to the final stage:
Richard Scott: Three-time Canadian Amateur champ, Scott looked like he’d at least move up to the Nationwide Tour, but fell short in second stage. He missed final stage by a single shot — making it likely he’ll be back on the Canadian Tour next year. While not the rising star many thought he might become, Scott is a gritty grinder and could still evolve into a golfer at the Nationwide Tour or even PGA Tour level. Will he be a star? Remember Mike Weir played for a number of years on the Canadian Tour before moving ahead.
Chris Baryla: The Vernon kid was largely expected to be the breakthrough for Canadian pros this year after playing on the Nationwide Tour last year and almost winning. But a bad back brought him down almost from the start. He played well at second stage but didn’t make it through. However, I’m told the back is better and he’ll receive some exemptions on to the Nationwide Tour for health reasons. A bad back in your mid-20s isn’t a good sign though.
James Lepp: After a strong year on the Canadian Tour, Lepp has apparently stepped away from golf and is opening a business selling sporty golf shoes. He says he’ll play some events on the Canadian Tour next year, but the former NCAA and Canadian Tour winner didn’t even bother to enter Q-School.
Wes Heffernan:Quiet and unassuming, most Canadian Tour observers will tell you that Heffernan is the one they most expected to move forward this fall. But he couldn’t get through the second stage, instead heading overseas to play in the World Cup.