_ I have just returned from Thailand where I caddied for fellow Pro Tour Golf College Student and good friend Rance de Grussa at the Asian Tour’s Qualifying School. For both of us, it was our first trip to Thailand and for me it was my first look at Q-School.
_ The Asian Tour’s 2012 Q-School was located in Hua Hin, Thailand, which has been the case for the past few years. Anyone can enter Q-School, provided you meet the 2.4 handicap cut off for amateurs and pay the US$1600 entry fee (any pro can enter). And quite literally you get anyone entering with plenty hoping of leaving Hua Hin with an Asian Tour Card. Rance played a 9 hole practice round the day before the tournament with a young fella from Pakistan and his Dad who was a dentist by profession and claimed to be the oldest competitor at Q-School by 11 years. Whilst comfortably missing the 1st Stage cut, he got to experience what it was like to compete at “Q-School”.
_ On the driving range, you see plenty of funky swings, flashy clothes and people from all over the world. Competitors from South Africa, the UK, Australia, the US, Spain, Japan and all parts of Asia come to try their luck at Q-School which is broken down into two stages; First Stage and Final Stage. The top 40 players and ties at Final Stage earn playing privileges for the 2012 season.
Most players have to start at First Stage with a small group exempt to the Final Stage such as former Asian Tour Players, Eisenhower Cup competitors and those who have won exemptions through regional feeder tours. With 599 total entries, those not exempt to Final Stage are allocated to 1 of 4 courses for the First Stage.
_ Rance was hoping to play either Springfield Village or Imperial Lakeview however he was allocated to Majestic Creek, which was about half an hour travel each day by shuttle bus. The top 20% finishers at each course qualify for the Final Stage and with 127 teeing up at Majestic Creek, Rance needed to finish in the top 25 to progress to Final Stage.
_ Our first day at Majestic Creek, was an experience in itself. We assumed that English would be extensively spoken at the course. We should have known better (especially after communication problems at Bangkok airport with taxi drivers). Booking an afternoon tee time proved challenging, as did buying range balls from the pro shop and ordering lunch. “Do you want to stay for 8 or 9 nights?” the girl at the pro shop asked. “No. We don’t need accommodation, we just need 2 buckets of range balls please.”
_ With Majestic Creek being a 27 hole course, the closing 9 was under renovation. This meant that one of the 9’s being used was far from the clubhouse. Each day, we had to take a 10 minute shuttle from the clubhouse to the 1st tee and then a shuttle back from the 9th green to the 10th tee. Similarly the driving range was a 5 minute cart ride away (which was not in fact an actual driving range but one set up on a hole being renovated). Each day, we had the problem of driving a cart to the range with the risk of someone else driving your cart back. Every simple task that week seemed to take a lot longer but that is part of the challenge of playing professional golf in the Far East.
_ Despite all the challenges, I was very impressed with the course and it’s condition. It played as a par 71 however the dryness and run on the fairways combined with a helping wind on most holes made the course play quite short. With two reachable par 5’s, a drivable par 4 and eight par 4’s with short iron approaches, the importance of a strong wedge game was apparent, something that we value and work hard at improving at Pro Tour Golf College.
_ Rance playing in the last group of the afternoon opened with a first round 73 (+2), which didn’t quite reflect how well he played considering he had the toughest of the conditions. His second round of 70 (-1) was much improved making plenty of birdies and keeping him in the hunt to qualify for Final Stage. He didn’t play his best during the 3rd round, with a bad finish leading to a 76 (+5). Outside the number, Rance needed to go low for his 4th round to be any chance. Another round of 76 (+5) for his 4th round left him outside the qualification mark of +1 and an early flight home.
_ Whilst Rance played plenty of good holes, I’m sure Rance won’t mind me saying that his swing is still a work in progress and probably another 6 months of training it will be close to where he wants it to be.
As a result of going to Q-School, he will now get a few starts on the Asian Development Tour; a Nationwide/Challenge Tour style development tour where the top 3 on the year end Order of Merit receive an Asian Tour card for next year.
_ For me personally, it was a great experience which reinforced a lot of the key principles and values being driven home daily at Pro Tour Golf College. The importance of scoring inside 100 meters, having a consistent attitude every time you tee it up and the 12-4-2 scoring code all areas that need to be proficient to play on the Asian Tour (or any professional tour for that matter). Just on the tour, I was impressed by how well it was organised and I see it as a great place to cut your teeth.
_ Finally, after winning 1st Stage at Springfield Village, it was great to see West Australian Darren Tan earn a card for 2012. A former State player, it has taken Tan a number of years to get onto a major tour but is proof of success not happening overnight (more evidence for the 10,000 hours theory perhaps).
*Special thanks to James Bates - Pro Tour Golf College student for compiling this report on the 2012 Asian Tour Qualifying School