published Monday, November 12th, 2012

Area golfers Q-ing up for shot at PGA dream

Six golfers with area ties will be in the second stage of PGA Tour qualifying this week.

Nov. 13-16: Plantation, Fla.

Hunter Green, Stephan Jaeger, Bryce Ledford

Nov. 13-16: Humble, Texas

Jonathan Hodge, Scott Weatherly

Nov. 14-17: Panama City, Fla.

Adam Mitchell

Live scoring available at www.PGATour.com

Former Baylor School golfers Luke List and Harris English will play on the PGA Tour in 2013. That will be the second year in a row for English.

Six other golfers with significant Chattanooga-area ties are attempting to join them by earning their way through PGA Tour qualifying school.

Former University of Tennessee at Chattanooga golfers Bryce Ledford, Jonathan Hodge and Stephan Jaeger will be in the second of three stages starting Tuesday.

Chattanoogan Adam Mitchell -- like Ledford a McCallie School graduate -- former Rhea County standout Hunter Green and Scott Weatherly of Fort Payne, Ala., also will be trying this week to advance for shots at playing on the PGA Tour. That can be earned with a top-25 finish in the third stage.

"Chattanooga is a golf-crazy town, and there's no better place to be," UTC coach Mark Guhne said. "Knoxville is all football. We've always been the best city in the state for golf."

This is the final Q-school series that can fully fulfill a golfer's dream. This is the last year that the top 25 and ties at the final stage earn PGA Tour cards. Others who finish in the top 60 earn full status on the Web.com Tour.

Next year, due to a change in PGA Tour policy, those on the bottom of the PGA Tour money list will play a three-tournament series with the top Web.com finishers for PGA Tour cards, making it impossible for golfers to capture lightning in a bottle and advance to the biggest dance floor.

"I feel like I'm ready for this," said Jaeger, another Baylor alumnus. "I feel like I belong on the PGA Tour, and I believe that."

This is their best chance to capture a dream. English did it last fall and won more than $1 million on the PGA Tour this year.

"It's cool to have this chance," Hodge said. "I don't want to look at it negatively. As long as I can move up, that will be a big step for me."

Each of the area competitors spent most of the past summer playing in mini-tour events in the Southeast, and even one-day events in Georgia.

"For anybody that's below Web.com, it's tough to go from pretty much nothing to the PGA Tour," Hodge said. "Not many do what Harris did. It's awesome to have that chance, but I have to get through second stage before I kill that bird."

The six area players advanced through the first stage of Q-school. Hodge did so in the most impressive fashion. He won his first-stage tournament at Florence (S.C.) Country Club by two shots and heads into the second round full of confidence and momentum -- but not a bigger checking account.

"Even though I came in first, it didn't do me any good as far as making money," said Hodge, who also reached the second stage last year. "I wanted to play a solid round and make it through. Then to win was awesome. That's nice for my confidence. Now getting through again is my number one objective."

Mitchell may be the perfect example of the last chance for any pro golfer to reach the tour. He admitted that he struggled all summer but then had fun in a first-stage event and advanced. Working with coach Scott Hamilton has paid off.

And with two more good tournaments -- albeit with strong fields and on difficult courses -- he could be putting alongside fellow former UGA Bulldog and Masters champion Bubba Watson next spring.

"Every time you tee it up in Q-school, the goal is to make it all the way," said Mitchell, who added that he isn't concerned about the change in policy. "You just want a shot."

about David Uchiyama...

David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...

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