Monday Musings

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly from this week’s Monday Qualifier

Time for the weekly recap in what happened in this week’s Monday Qualifiers

Korn Ferry Tour

The Good:

Monday qualifier Joe Zawaski’s first start on any sanctioned PGA tour is going to be in his hometown, on the course where he used to caddie, the Glen Club. Zawaski did not take golf seriously until he was 16 but then dug in full-force. He didn’t play college golf but competed in local amateur events in the Chicago area. During that time he caddied at the Glen Club. Zawaski decided to turn pro at 27 and now plays mostly on the West Florida Tour, with limited success. He is sure to have one of the biggest galleries this week at the Evans Scholars Invitational.

As a freshman in high school, Michael Kartrude’s average score was 108. He didn’t break par in competition until his last round as a senior. Kartrude attended three different colleges but only played golf at only one of them, Warner University. After college, he worked hard on his game while continuing to play amateur events. He finally turned pro at age 23 and has had some success on the Florida minis, winning multiple time. To keep financing the dream he is currently working full-time as an assistant pro at the Bears Club in Jupiter, Fla. He birdied his last three holes to get through

When Andrew McCain began his pro career he lived out of his truck, having built a custom bed in the back. As he traveled from event to event he would often sleep in hotel parking lots (to steal their Wi-Fi). Yesterday he birdied the third playoff hole to grab the last spot. 

Great golf courses are a rarity on the Monday Q scene, but the Illinois PGA section did it right. According to a sign placed strategically over the urinal at Stonewall Orchard, one of the two sites for the Monday Q, the course is third-best public track in Illinois. It is ranked higher than the Glen Club (5th) where the actual KFT event is being played. It is very rare at KFT Mondays to have a strong test and Stonewall was definitely that. Kudos to the section and to the course for agreeing to host.

The things you learn while at a urinal

I love to caddy in Monday qualifiers s so I couldn’t say no to my old friend C.D. Hockersmith. The other players in the group were PGA Tour veteran Brad Fritch and local pro Bryce Emory. Being inside the ropes I was reminded yet again how good these players are. The last four or five years this Monday qualifier has had terrible weather. In 2020, winter hats were the norm and the players were wearing ski gloves between shots. Today it was 85 and sunny. 

Chris Naegel is one of the best players in golf without status and yesterday he shot 63 to win by three at the second qualifying site, White Deer Run. That big of a margin at a Monday is unusual and speaks to how good the round was. Over the last year and a half Naegel has Monday qualified five times and won multiple mini-tour events and state opens. “It has been a really great year,” he says, ”but it’s frustrating there was no Q-school since I was playing so well.” He Monday qualified for this event last year and was in contention until a poor final round … There’s always a great array of bags on a Monday. In the playoff, Olin Browne Jr was carrying his old Pepperdine bag and Andrew McCain had a Jones carry bag.

Monday Qualifier carrying bag

The Bad

There is almost no margin for error in Monday qualifiers. For example, Emory was 4-under at the turn (-5 ended up making the playoff) but one bad swing cost him dearly. On the par-3 13th hole he hit an 8-iron JUST over the green but it caught a downslope and ended up against the trunk of a tree, costing him a bogey. He didn’t make a poor swing all day but still missed by one. 

Albin Choi has made a great comeback after caddying for Sungjae Im last year. He got into the playoff but lipped-out a birdie putt on the first playoff hole. Charles Wang made a 15-footer right after him and Albin was headed home. I caddied in a group with Brian Bullington two years ago at the John Deere Monday and he was one of the nicest guys I have ever been with inside the ropes. He was really playing poorly that day yet never said a sideways word and continued to carry on conversations with everyone in the group. Unfortunately yesterday he finished bogey-bogey (one of those was on a par-5) and missed the playoff by one. 

Akshay Bhatia missed a putt on 18 that would have gotten him into the playoff at Stonewall and then threw his ball into the water. The throw was worse than the putt; with his lack of velocity and unusual mechanics, Akshay called to mind 50-Cent’s wild first pitch at the Mets stadium years ago, which became an instant meme. 

Part of the reason I love Mondays is the simplicity. But in the playoff at Stonewall Orchard officials were jumping ahead a hole to make sure the bunkers were raked. Then when the players got on the green they blew off debris with a leaf blower. This kind of pampering should be reserved for the Tour! I say make them putt through the leaves on Mondays… There is no Monday qualifier at Colonial, this week’s PGA Tour stop, because it is deemed an invitational. I hate invitationals.

Leaf blowers at a Monday???

The Ugly

There is never a good time for a shank but a Monday Q playoff is just about the worst moment. Matt Oshrine hit a hosel rocket out of the bunker on the first hole of the playoff at White Deer Run; it trickled into the pond guarding the green and that was it for him. 

Travis Smyth missed a 3-footer for par on the second playoff hole and was eliminated, just a brutal way to end it. I patted him on the shoulder as I passed him near the clubhouse. He turned to me and said, “Fucking Mondays, man. I hate fucking Mondays.”

The dreaded Pizza Man strikes again. A player who has a slice of pizza embroidered on his golf bag has played in multiple Monday qualifiers this year. Unfortunately, he has not broken 95 in any of them, including yesterday’s 99, which included a 12 on the par-3 9th hole. To all the dreamers out there: Please, please, please stop playing in Mondays until you are competitive enough … When the whole group you are caddying in isn’t going to make it, man the last few holes suck. There is almost no talking and players are just kind of going through the motions. The reality of another opportunity missed hits everyone and its just a pretty rough place in the pro golf world.

Travis Smyth walking towards the parking lot after being eliminated

Parting Shot

I often get asked who is eligible to go directly to the PGA Tour Monday qualifiers and avoid the pre-qualifying round. Here’s the list of the players eligible to go directly to the Monday Qualifier:

-2020-21 PGA Tour Member

-Current Korn Ferry members and current PGA Tour Champions members

-PGA Section exemptions (3 players maximum)

-Former PGA TOUR members 2018-2020

-Players making a cut on the PGA Tour in the 2020-2021 season

-Players in the top 100 on the World Golf Rankings as of the non-member entry deadline

-Players in the PGA Tour event immediately preceding the open qualifier

-Current PGA Tour Canada, Latinoamérica or China members eligible for one of the above exemptions and therefore exempt into the open qualifier

–Ryan French

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