Nov. 22, 2011
By Matt Winkeljohn
James White finished fourth Tuesday in the Western Refining All-American Classic, which matched 27 of the nation’s top collegiate golfers. That’s pretty darned good, and one of his former Georgia Tech teammates has a great links story as well.
Paul Haley, who graduated last spring shortly after taking ACC medalist honors while helping lead the Yellow Jackets to their third straight conference title, next week will play in the final stage of the PGA’s Qualifying School.
That means he’s done well enough in three prior “Q School” stages to make it to LaQuinta, Calif., for six days and 108 holes of work in a meat grinder.
By virtue of tying for second in a Q School second-stage event recently in McKinney, Texas, he earned conditional status for next season’s Nationwide Tour, which is equitable with the PGA’s minor leagues.
With a solid showing at PGA West next week (Nov. 30-Dec. 5), Haley could punch his ticket to the bigs. If he finishes in the top 70 next week, he’ll have full Nationwide privileges, and a top-20 showing will land him a PGA card.
“I’ve really just been kind of growing what I did last spring,” said Haley, who has returned to his hometown of Dallas, Texas. “Physically, I feel like I have more shots, my short game has gotten a lot better, and it’s all helped my confidence.” Already, Haley’s made it through Q School pre-qualifying, first stage and second stage events. He will not be the only Tech graduate in LaQuinta.
After a solid summer spent playing amateur golf, Haley’s done well not only in Q School but when playing two Monday pro qualifiers. He missed making the field by one shot once and by two shots another time.
Without a card next season, those qualifiers and mini-tours would be the story of his golf existence. He thinks playing at Tech has prepared him in unique fashion for what lies ahead.
“A lot of people can get really lathered up about Q-school because if you do well it’s an opportunity not to have to play the mini-tours next year. The qualifiers and mini-tours can be such a grind,” Haley said.
“But I was actually more nervous playing in the NCAAs than any of the first three stages just because that [NCAAs] was an opportunity to do something for the first time in school history. You just wanted to do what so bad, and while we didn’t win the title, it helped prepare me for what I’m doing now.”