Just got off the phone with Kington, Ont.’s Matt McQuillan, who remarkably played his way onto the PGA Tour only a couple of years after giving up professional golf altogether. McQuillan shot 1-under 71 this afternoon to T16 at the PGA Tour’s Q School, qualifying alongside Vernon’s Chris Baryla, who shot 66 to move into a T11 position. Baryla had playing privileges on the PGA Tour after receiving an injury exemption following surgery earlier this year, but will now have full status.
At 29, McQuillan’s triumph was perhaps most impressive. As a teenager he was hotly tipped, but after turning pro he had success and stumbles. He finished second Canadian Tour Championship in 2006, but didn’t play competitive golf for the following two years, citing personal and financial issues.
“I didn’t really play any competitive golf in 2007 or 08,” he said via phone after completing his round. “But I got some supporters from back home and it led me here.”
Canadian Tour commissioner Rick Janes said McQuillan’s plight led to the creation of the Canadian bursary, designed to help support the so-called “pro gap,” felt by many top Canadian amateurs when they turned pro.
“Matt was actually the inspiration for starting the Canadian Bursary,” Janes wrote in an e-mail today. “He had won on the Canadian Tour in 2006, challenged Stuart Anderson for the Tour Championship that same year and then we didn’t see him for a time. After some investigation we found that he didn’t have enough money to play. It seemed like such a shame, with so much talent. That’s where the idea for the Bursary started.”
McQuillan played much of this year on the EGolf Tour,a tour in the eastern U.S., where he played well, making $27,000 in the process. That, coupled with a solid season in a handful of Canadian Tour events, covered the cost of entry to qualifying school. It was at this point that McQuillan says his putting, a problem for much of the year, came around.
“I knew I had played well all year, but the putter never cooperated,” he said. “I was was lucky enough to have the putter heat up through Q School.”
He barely made it through the first stage, shooting 66 on the final day to make it through, and played solidly in cold conditions in the second stage.
“Being a Canadian guy, it helped me get through,” he said.
As for today, McQuillan said he didn’t watch the scoreboard at all. His caddie, Gary Matthews, who typically loops for Sergio Garcia, told him on the 18th fairway that all he needed to do was put it on the middle of the green and he’d have his card.
“That was easier said than done,” he added.
McQuillan now moves to the world of courtesy cars and million-dollar purses. He’s not sure what he’ll do next, saying he’s been on the road for two years and doesn’t even maintain a regular apartment. He stays with his parents in Kingston on the rare times when he’s been home. He said it has been a long road, and though he didn’t name them, McQuillan said supporters in Kingston made a big difference.
“There were definitely doubts along the way, mostly with myself,” he said of his early struggles. “My I had a great support team over the years and they wanted me to stick with it and that I had a lot of talent.”
As for making the PGA Tour, it hasn’t sunk in.
“I keep thinking I have to play more holes,” he said, laughing. “I’m just thrilled to have the opportunity to play [on the PGA Tour] and hopefully I can continue to play well.”
Other Canadian Q-School hopefuls, including Jon Mills and Richard T. Lee, failed to make it through, but will have Nationwide Tour status. It will be the first time on the Nationwide Tour for Lee.
The other interesting story is Joseph Bramlett getting his PGA Tour card, making him only the second African American golfer to make it through Q School (story on Bramlett here). Tiger Woods tweeted that he’s looking forward to playing with Bramlett next year.
Interesting to see who didn’t make it through, including two-time U.S. Open winner Lee Janzen, who finished 118th. Couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy. Others who didn’t make it through included heart-transplant recipient Eric Compton, mutiple PGA Tour winner Scott McCarron, PGA Tour winner Peter Lonard, 2008 U.S. Am winner Danny Lee, Ty “Keep on” Tryon, and another former U.S. Am winner, Jeff Quinney.