This week is just the first test for James Nicholas at Q-School, but the recent Yale graduate seems to have found the answer key.
After shooting 72 on Day 2 of the Korn Ferry Tour pre-qualifier at the Brunswick Country Club on Wednesday to bring his 36-hole score to 140, the Scarsdale, N.Y. native finds himself on track to move on to First Stage, along with the owners of the rest of the top 40 scores and ties.
Golfers teed off in the pre-qualifying event, now in it’s eighth year at Brunswick County Club, on a muggy Tuesday morning, before fighting through some of the winds the blew through the course on Day 2.
The first step in obtaining status in the Korn Ferry Tour, the pre-qualifier’s 74-man field heavily features golfers fresh out of college and playing in some of their first events as a professional.
Nicholas didn’t feel much of a difference playing pro golf as he did during a career at Yale that saw him earn the 2019 Ivy League Player of the Year award and two-time PING All-Region Team honors, and his approach has him in a tie for 11th at even par with 18 holes remaining in his first pre-qualifier.
“I think a lot of guys kind of psyche themselves out,” Nicholas said. “It’s the same thing. You’re just playing against yourself. You’re playing against yourself every day.
“So I’m just trying to take it one shot at a time and go from there.”
Johnson Holliday of Aynor, S.C., entered the event with a similar mindset.
Holliday won the Peach Belt Conference Championship and had four other top-10 finishes in his final season at USC-Aiken, earning recognition as a Jack Nicklaus Award semifinalist. Instead of worrying about what projected score would get him to the next stage of Q-School, Holliday is simply trying to win.
“I just try to keep it pretty even,” Holliday said. “Every qualifying event coming up, I’m going to try to do the best I can to win them at least. I’m not going to look at the cut number and just form to that. I’m going to out there and actually try to stay in contention and try to win these.”
Through 36 holes at the Korn Ferry Tour pre-qualifier, Holliday’s 6-under 134 has him just one stroke off leader Bryce Hendrix of Greensboro, N.C. He made it through the first day bogey free, though it took him sinking putts from five- to seven-feet to salvage par on a few holes.
Those saved strokes could turn out to be difference-makers today when Holliday looks to track down Hendrix. But with five golfers within four strokes of the lead, first place is us for the taking over the final 18 holes.
J.D. Hughes drove 12 hours from his hometown of Carlisle, PA to get to Brunswick, and in third with a scored of 5-under 135, he’s got an opportunity to finish atop the leaderboard in his first pre-qualifying event as a professional — something he wasn’t able to accomplish during his collegiate career.
A three-year starter on the Penn State golf team, Hughes recorded three top-five finishes, including second at the 2017 Bank of Tennessee Intercollegiate, but that would be his best finish.
He’s been happy with his play thus far at Brunswick County Club, and with another strong round, he could have his first win in at least five years.
“I’ve felt pretty good,” Hughes said. “I’ve had pretty good playing partners, which has helped. We had a good time out there, then I just tried to take it one shot at a time and do my best to manage my game, manage my emotions the best I could.”