Fourty-one golfers at the Brunswick Country Club took the first major step towards realizing the field’s collective dream of obtaining status in the Korn Ferry Tour on Thursday.
Thirty-four others will have to try again next year.
Greensboro, N.C., native Bryce Hendrix finished atop the 74-man field at the Q-School pre-qualifier held at BCC with a 54-hole score of 8-under 202. The University of North Carolina at Greensboro graduate entered the final day alone in first place, and he shot a 69 to hold on despite some hard charges from the players behind him.
Canada’s John Foster and J.D. Hughes of Carlisle, Pa., each finished a stroke behind Hendrix. Georgia natives Sam Straka (Valdosta) and Charles Huntzinger (Duluth) finished in a tie for fourth at 6-under.
But winning the event wasn’t necessarily the goal for all the competitors in the field. The goal was to survive and advance to First Stage of Q-School — a task Brunswick Country Club pro Dan Hogan believes has become more difficult.
“This is kind of the launch point for all these guys that don’t have status,” Hogan said. “What I can tell you, in the years that we’ve done this, players have gotten better and better and better every year.”
Hogan estimated that players are, at minimum, three shots better on average than they were when BCC began holding the event eight years ago.
Joseph Harney, of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., competed in his third pre-qualifier this week — his second at Brunswick Country Club — and with a score of 3-over 213, he advanced for the second time.
“It was fun, I enjoyed it,” Harney said. “It was stressful and fun at the same time. I birdied the scored hole, and then I bogeyed 3 and 4, and then I made pars all the way until 17 with just kind of hitting fairways and greens, I really wasn’t going after pins.
“I love the feeling. Heartbeat goes up and it’s fun. I had a good time out there.”
A two-year starter at Johnson & Wales, Harney advanced to Second Stage at Southern Hills in 2015, his first year as a pro.
Harney’s not trying to get ahead of himself, but the key for him advancing to the Q-School Finals in Winter Garden, Fla., will be his consistency with the clubs.
“Just staying consistent and putting is really my big thing,” Harney said. “If I drive it well and putt it well, the in-between, it all happens.”
For Straka, it’ll be the first time playing First Stage after beginning his professional career this year.
He’d played the course in the past, and a local caddie’s knowledge was invaluable for him over 54-holes the last three days. It was a relief to officially advance in his first pre-qualifier.
“A little bit of pressure off,” Straka said. “You have a month to think about the tournament coming up, so it’s good to get it done and play well when it mattered.”
Of course, Straka knows all too well that the road doesn’t get any easier from here.
The former University of Georgia golfer’s twin Sepp became the first Austrian to earn a PGA Tour card after finishing tied for 20th on the 2018 Web.com Tour Finals money list and third in the Web.com Tour Championship.
“He’s always kind of leading me along,” Straka said of his brother. “He’s been under the gun in Q-School and stuff, so it’s good to have somebody to talk to who knows the pressure and the process.”