Saturday, October 22, 2011

Randolph Starts Q School On Fire

They say that PGA TOUR qualifying school is one of the most grueling tests in sports. There is prequalifying and then three stages after that with four rounds in each of the first three and six in the final stage. That's a lot of golf and mental grinding, especially if you start from the beginning stage.

PGA golfer Steve Elkington joked recently that it's like paying $4500 for a roller coaster ride that makes you sick.

Former Ole Miss All-American Jonathan Randolph took the first step this weekend in his goal of becoming a member of the PGA TOUR, and he did so in rousing fashion.

The Brandon, Miss., native didn't just advance to the second stage, he won the first stage by four strokes at the Auburn University Club in Auburn, Ala. Randolph shot a 69-72-70-65--276 in his first ever Q School event. He was tied for the lead at 5-under going into the final round Saturday, and carded seven birdies and an eagle to capture the win.

"It was fun. I played really well the last few days managing the ball well, Randolph said. "It was windy the first couple of days. I was 3-under early yesterday and ended up 2-under. But I kept pushing, kept my head down. I missed three putts inside five feet today that would have made it even lower. It's nice to see it all come together."

Randolph was exempt from prequalifying by virtue of making the cut at the PGA Tour's Viking Classic this past summer in Madison. He only needed to finish inside the top 19 to earn a spot in the second stage.

"You don't drive a car looking at the ditch or in the median. You look at the road. My goal was to advance, but it was a nice bonus to be able to win it," he said.

There is not much time for Randolph to celebrate as he returns to Oxford, where he is finishing up his degree in Managerial Finance before he heads back out for the second stage at the Hombre Golf Club in Panama City, Fla. Nov. 16-19.

With six different sites for qualifying, players are told to rank their choices in order of preference.

"They told me I would likely get the Hombre since I won here at Auburn," Randolph said. "Now it's back to the books and then getting ready for the next stage."

A keen follower this week of Randolph's play is Rebel head coach Ernest Ross, who is not surprised to see his former star do so well.

"This is another notch up the ladder for Jonathan. He does have PGA TOUR skills and can play at that level right now."

Simply put, Randolph's a winner.

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