The Primary Cut…halfway through Q School
Seventh installment of The Primary Cut – weekly insights from the world of golf player management and other golf-related industry and player news.
1. Q School: The Midway Point
Three rounds out of six are in the books [see leaderboard] in the 2007 PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament (Q School), where 166 players are playing for their jobs in 2008. While the top 25 and ties after Monday’s final round will earn their ’08 Tour cards, the next number closest to 50 earns Nationwide Tour cards, and the remainders earn partial Nationwide status. One of the most interesting aspects of Q School is the wide variety of backgrounds among the contestants. There are seasoned Tour veterans such as leader Frank Lickliter II, who opened with consecutive 62’s on Orange County National’s Crooked Cat and Panther Lake courses and currently holds a five-shot lead over 27-year old Jason Allred at twenty-four under par (!). Then there are brash, young hotshots relatively new to the professional golf scene like Spencer Levin, who currently stands at seven-under and one back of the number that would have been needed to secure an ‘08 Tour card had the tournament ended Friday. And then there are the somewhat humbled players who have spent their entire lives bouncing around the country’s various mini-tours, maybe even having played some on the Nationwide, or a season or two on the PGA years ago. What unites them all is their hunger to reach the big time.
This week, The Primary Cut is following two players in particular, both of whom are clients of Peter Webb (player manager) and Brian Newton (Vice President of Golf) of the Scottsdale-based Gaylord Sports Management. One player, Jeremy Anderson, stands four-under par and T79 after scores of 74-69-69. The other, Brendan Steele, is T92 and one shot back of Jeremy after rounds of 73-69-71. The Primary Cut caught up with Webb, Anderson and Steele after Round Three at Orange National. And be sure to check back here for their post-tournament comments next Tuesday, when each will finally know for certain his playing status for 2008.
2. Interview With The Agent
Q: Take us through what you’ve done since your arrival in Florida.
Peter: I actually flew in on Thursday evening because I was on a recruiting trip the past few days before I arrived in Florida, so today was the first day at Q School for me. I spent most of Friday following our clients and taking a look at other potential recruits as well. After the rounds ended, I spent a little time on the practice range chatting with reps, players and other agents. After grabbing dinner with Brendan and his caddie/brother (Sean), I headed back to hotel room to prepare for tomorrow and catch up on other business emails.
Q: How do you divide your time between the eight clients competing and the recruiting that you also came to do?
Peter: Brian and I come up with a game plan each night before the next day and we go over how we are going to attack the course. We make sure that we watch almost all of our clients tee off and we make sure that we watch most of them finish up as well. We also spend time with them on the range and putting greens. Sometimes it is tough when they are playing two courses, but at OC National, the courses are pretty close so you can hustle back and forth between the two. Gaylord Sports has one of the best player-to-manager ratios in the business, so we don’t recruit too much at Q School because we want to make sure that we are providing unmatched services to our current clients. I will certainly watch a couple potential recruits throughout the week, but for the most part, I am here to support my current players.
Q: Are you a vocal supporter of your clients on the course itself, or do you stay in the background and observe?
Peter: I usually stay back and observe, although I get very excited when they are playing well. But I try and keep that inside and only offer small vocal support a few times a round.
Q: Take us through your routines with your clients before and after their rounds. What have you said to them thus far? Do you speak with their friends and family as well?
Peter: The routine before they tee off is very simple—just a lot of encouragement and support and trying to get them relaxed. I don’t like to bother my clients too much before they tee off, and I usually only spend 5-10 minutes watching them on the range before they start. After the round, I don’t talk too much about how they played. They have family, coaches, friends, etc. talking to them about their rounds and certain holes, and I usually keep it simple and just try and get them ready for a great round the following day. Each player is a little different and some guys love to chat a lot before and after the rounds, while others are quiet and would rather talk about which college football games are on Saturday afternoon that they want to watch. I spend a lot of time with the family and friends during the rounds and today, for instance, I spent a couple of hours with Jeremy Anderson’s mother and brother. They are both really great people and it nice to cheer with them as well as talk about what is going on in their lives.
Q: Any other comments on this week, how the tournament has progressed thus far, Jeremy and Brendan’s play in particular, etc.?
Peter: It has been a solid start so far and Jeremy is at 4-under par and Brendan is at 3-under (both in great position to make a solid run the next few days). [Other Gaylord clients] Matt Every, Matt Hansen and Todd Demsey are playing well and are all at 6-under and of course [leader] Frank [Lickliter II] has had an amazing three days so far and is leading at 24-under. Finally, I am confident that Craig Lile (1 -under) and Danny Summerhays (2-under) will definitely get things going tomorrow.
3. Interview With The Athletes
Q: Jeremy, five birdies today (after six yesterday in round two) and another solid round at Crooked Cat. Are you feeling more in the groove, so to speak, after stumbling a bit day one?
Jeremy: I’m feeling a little better, I guess. I felt like I played 100 times better today than on Thursday, but I scored the same (69 on both days). I really need to get the putter going the next few days.
Q: Brendan, it was an up and down third round, but you had an eagle on the 4th and you also birdied the 8th. How important was your finish in terms of momentum and keeping you right in the thick of things?
Brendan: The eagle on #4 was huge and I hit it to 5 feet on a difficult par-5. The 33 on the front 9 to get it in the red numbers never hurts. There are a lot of days left still and I need to just take it one shot at a time.
Q: Take us through the three rounds in general terms. What’s going well for you, and what, if anything, are you looking to change over the next three days?
Jeremy: I need to get my putter going. I only had five good putts in round 3. Other than that I’ve had some nice shots but I still need to improve.
Q: Is there a magic number in your eyes that you’re shooting for, or is it too early to say?
Brendan: I know from my agent that 10-under par was the number in 2005 [to secure a PGA Tour card] at this course, and that 4-under got full Nationwide status. But I don’t know how the conditions were in 2005 compared to this year. It’s still too early to say, and I will have a better feel for it on the 4th or 5th day. I am trying not to worry about number and just go play my game, but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t checking scores.
Q: Both of you guys have avoided doubles thus far. But have there been any critical moments—by that I mean moments where you were in a critical situation and came away with a par or bogey when it could have been far worse? Do these moments give you confidence?
Jeremy: There are certain critical situations each round, but if you don’t make a 10 footer for par, you need to let it go, and leave your frustrations on that particular green and go and hit a great shot at the next tee box.
Q: How important is length on these layouts? Is one course (Crooked Cat versus Panther Lake) especially harder than the other?
Brendan: Everyone the past few days has been talking about how this course sets up great for bombers and that long hitters have an advantage. I definitely am using a lot of long irons. I think Crooked is playing a little easier.
Q: Is there any part of your game that you’re struggling with? How’s your confidence?
Jeremy: I’m struggling with my putter, but my confidence is good.
Brendan: Putter for sure. But I have been chipping well and that gives me confidence.
Q: Is there a ‘moving day’ in Q School, i.e. a day you might tend to press a little to jockey/secure a certain position in the field?
Jeremy: Everyone has a certain perspective on this. Some people say moving day is Sunday, while others say it is Monday.
Q: You guys opened up with a 73 and 74 respectively, but responded with a pair of 69’s. Were you worried or anxious at all heading into the 2nd round?
Jeremy: I followed up my 74 (where I played awful) with a not so good 69 and another 69 (which could have been a lot lower if I made some putts).
Brendan: I certainly was ready to go out and play again after my 73. I am glad I came back with a 69-71, but would have liked Frank (Lickliter) to have spared me a couple of his shots.
Q: Take us through your communications with your agent during this week. What has he said to you before-during-after your round?
Jeremy: He just stays positive and tells me to keep up my confidence.
Q: What have you been doing pre and post round? Maybe take us through one of the days—Friday, for example, from getting up, playing your round, to what you did afterwards and then going back to sleep.
Brendan: I got up early, went to hit balls, played my round, talked to my wife, went to hotel room and rested and watched TV, went to sports bar and grill with my brother, met my agent for dinner, went back to hotel to rest and then pretty much went to sleep. Kind of boring, huh?
Q: What’s going to be the key for the next three days?
Jeremy: My putter and not worrying about the number. Just play my game.
Brendan: I need to stay patient and take advantage of scoring opportunities.
Dallas-based Links Sports manages the careers of more than 25 professional golfers, some of whom include Chad Campbell, Kenny Perry, Loren Roberts, Shaun Micheel, Corey Pavin, Peter Lonard and Nathan Green. However, rumors are swirling in the industry that the company, founded in 1992, will soon be no more. The news is especially surprising given that last we’d heard from Links, the firm had just finalized a partnership with the Impact Golf Management Group in Hong Kong, a deal insiders suggested would help to further expose Links Sports’ clientele to the rapidly growing Asian Tour as well as the Asian corporate market, and would also be their second (along with Australia) international office. Nonetheless, two agents have apparently already quit, and others are embroiled in lawsuit along with their clients. Specifics are hopefully to follow, and anyone with any further insight into this development is encouraged to drop me an email. . . . Remember when I wrote that Callaway Golf already had the inside track on someday signing UCLA’s Phillip Francis because he idolized then-Callaway sponsored Charles Howell III and like Charles, plays X-Tour forged irons? Well so much for that degree of separation. In what industry pundits call a surprise move, Howell, who was in the final year of a multi-year deal with the Carlsbad, CA-based Callaway, asked out of his contract. Callaway granted the release immediately. “We like Charles, but we certainly don’t want anyone here that doesn’t want to be with Callaway, so it was an easy decision,” said Nick Raffaele, director of tour operations for Callaway, who added that he was uncertain whether or not Howell already had another equipment contract lined up. The move is considered shocking primarily due to just how much Callaway was paying Howell (he earned $3 million off the golf course last year according to Golf Digest’s list of the top 50 earners among players, and much of it generated by his deal with Callaway). You have to wonder if Howell, who despite somewhat of resurgence in ’07 is viewed by many in the sport as an underachiever thus far in his pro career, and his agent Thomas Parker of The Professional Advisory Group, will command anything near his Callaway deal. Look for Howell to eventually land with Nike (he’s close to Tiger) or Ping (whose clubs he used with great success in college at Oklahoma State). But until he learns to putt and produce with more consistency, don’t expect his numbers to approach what he initially signed for with Callaway (a deal that was largely based on conjecture and his speculative potential). . . .Speaking of Callaway, staff member Ernie Els announced that he will be joining Callaway poster boy (and Gaylord client) Phil Mickelson in playing a custom set of Callaway muscle-back blades during the offseason, in the hopes of making a permanent switch in ’08. Els will play at the Nedbank Challenge in Sun City, South Africa, this week with his new blades, which closely resemble the prototypes Mickelson is now playing that may or may not be mass produced by Callaway for public consumption. “My previous set of irons was cavity-backed and let me tell you, they’re great clubs,” Els wrote on his website, ernieels.com. “But for me, I felt that I needed something that would perhaps give me more control over the ball.” Els said he has been hitting greens but has been too far from the pins for his liking, prompting the switch to new irons. “I spent some time at the [Callaway] factory getting fitted last week and fortunately I got a chance to hit quite a lot of balls at [my home course in England] Wentworth, as well,” he wrote. “These new irons look great and they feel great, too. They just help me shape my shots a little more easily through the air, which is the way I like to play. Always have done, to be honest. And you know, golf is a game of fractions and even the slightest little thing can really make a difference.”
— Jason G. Wulterkens