Northeast Ohio Golf contributor Derek Duda is working as professional caddie and greens reader for Jacob Scott this week in La Quinta, CA at the Finals of the 2014 PGA Tour Q-School.
Derek will provide daily updates on his man plus Northeast Ohio natives Ryan Armour and Justin Lower as they make their way through six rounds of qualifying.
The first installment of The Duda Report: 2014 Q-School Finals appears below. Watch Northeast Ohio Golf for these stories each day for the next 8 days; watch NEOHgolf’s Twitter and Facebook feeds for new posts. Follow Derek directly on Twitter @GougeNCheque
Monday, Dec. 9th: 3 Days Before Round 1
It’s 4:30 a.m. Pacific Time and I feel like a little kid on Christmas morning. Today is the first of three practice rounds at PGA West Stadium and Nicklaus Tournament Courses. Web.com Qualifying School Finals are finally here, and its time to come up with a game plan.
Former Strongsville resident and CSU Viking standout Jake Scott is looking for a place to play in 2014. He is coming off of a good year after relocating to Charlotte, NC. He, along with another 154 other highly accomplished players from all over the world, have descended upon the golf mecca of La Quinta, CA in quest for one of the 45 spots available on the Web.com Tour.
This is the first year that there is no direct route to the PGA tour through Q-School, although the Top 25 money leaders on Web.com tour for 2014 will be awarded their PGA Tour Card for 2015.
We are joined here in the desert by two players with NEOH roots: former NAIA National Individual Champion and Malone College golfer Justin Lower and former PGA Tour, Web.com Tour, and OSU Buckeye standout Ryan Armour.
As Jake’s caddy, I harken back to the old college days the weekend before Finals Week as we begin a 3-day cram session for a series of exams to be conducted by Professors Pete Dye and Jack Nicklaus. The challenge is to learn every nook and cranny of golf courses that we have never seen in the next 72 hours. Jake and I had a chance to head over the complex yesterday. The facilities are amazing and we look forward to getting out to start to break the courses down today.
We plan on walking all 36 holes today. We will search for proper lines off the tees, map out each green complex in detail and work hard on short game around each of the greens. My personal goal is to debunk the myth that all putts break away from the mountains and toward Indio. ;)
It is so important to be able to find the proper spot to attack each hole and not short side yourself to hole locations that are quite severe. We also look forward to exploring some technology as well, as all of the equipment trailers are on site and available to the players.
This is the ultimate test in endurance golf. 108 holes starting this Thursday morning. Players will be playing 3 rounds on both the Stadium and Nicklaus Tournament courses, culminating with the final round a week from Tuesday. The key is steady, consistent golf.
We had a game plan that worked in Stage 1 and Stage 2 in advancing to finals and we plan on sticking with it this week. There will be hole locations you can fire at and others where the fat of the green is appropriate. The key is to get hot with the putter and take advantage of your opportunities.
This week is a big week for everybody, Jake included, and he needs to find a place to play after competing on a series of mini tours in the Southeast USA this year. After missing on getting through Final Stage by three shots last year, we learned from the experience and now we’ve returned to the Final Stage again this year.
The situation can be overwhelming, but luckily Jake is a true a flat liner. I occasionally have to check his pulse. No moment seems to overwhelm him, which is exactly the type of mindset we need heading into this week.
I look forward to seeking out and checking in with fellow Northeast Ohio players Justin Lower and Ryan Armour today. Justin just won again on the Carolina winter series NGA Tour last week and has had a wonderful year. Ryan is looking to re-establish himself on the Web.com Tour after losing status last year.
While Ryan’s brother Mike is probably setting up a skins game on ice-covered greens over at Chippewa today, we are dealing with 38 degree temperatures of our own here in the desert this morning. I am sure this “lovely” weather is somewhat of an advantage to Jake, Ryan and Justin, having grown up in Northeast Ohio.
We look forward to what this week brings!