The PGA Tour changed its qualification procedures last year, relegating its brutal 90-hole fall Q-School tournament to offering only spots on the satellite Web.com Tour in 2014. The new format, though, resulted in unprecedented success for talented players from the suburbs.
Rarely did a local golfer make it through Q-School to the PGA Tour under the previous format, but three -- Vince India (Deerfield), Andy Pope (Glen Ellyn) and Carlos Sainz Jr. (Elgin) -- survived under the new one. They entertain hopes of playing their way on to the big circuit in 2015 via the Web.com Tour.
They have played in all seven Web.com events this year, five of which were held outside the U.S., and they have experienced only modest success.
Pope, who attended Glenbard West and Xavier University, had the best tournament showing with a tie for 15th in last week's weather-shortened WNB Classic in Midland, Tex. His payday there accounts for $10,200 of his $12,325 season winnings.
India, who won the 2010 Illinois Amateur at Chicago's Beverly Country Club and was the Big Ten's player-of-the-year for Iowa in 2011, has been the most consistent. He made the cut in five of the seven tournaments but has faltered on the weekends. His $8,673 in winnings ranks 108th on the tour's season money list, 14 spots behind Pope.
Sainz, from Larkin High School and Mississippi State University, was the best of the trio at Q-School with a 10th-place finish. He was a hot player at the right time in late 2013 when -- in a month's stretch -- he won The Players Cup on the PGA's Canadian Tour, lost the Illinois Open title in a playoff at The Glen Club in Glenview, and then won the Chicago Open at Cantigny in Wheaton, where he had worked the pro shop during his college days.
Those strong showings gave him momentum for Q-School, where he shot a final-round 63, but it didn't carry over to 2014. Although he has made only three cuts and earned $5,248 in seven starts, Sainz made Web.com history when he holed a 250-yard second shot for a double eagle in the first round of the Chile Classic. It was the first albatross in the tourney's three-year history.
All three players will be in the field for this week's South Georgia Classic, played for the last seven years on one of the tour's most respected courses, Kinderlou Forest in Valdosta, Ga. The field will be stronger, too, with John Daly and Lee Janzen -- both winners of two major championships -- joining such veteran tourists as Billy Mayfair, Jesper Parnevik, Dicky Pride, Hunter Haas and Rod Pampling.
Bob Spence, the first head professional at Kemper Lakes in Long Grove, supervised the building of Kinderlou Forest, a Davis Love III design that opened 10 years ago. Spence, back at Kinderlou for another design project, greeted the Chicago area trio upon their arrival.
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