Ten golfers with local ties set for new Q-School version

Ten golfers with local ties set for new Q-School version

October 6th, 2013 by David Uchiyama in Sports - Golf

Ryan Thornton reacts after hitting a ball during the final round of the State Amateur Golf Tournament on Friday at the Chattanooga Golf and Country Club.

Photo by Staff File Photo/Times Free Press.

The dream remains the same -- playing on the PGA Tour.

But the path has changed this year for 10 professional golfers with close Chattanooga connections.

The annual grueling series of tournaments, known as Qualifying School, used to provide a direct path to the PGA Tour and competition against Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson and the other top golfers in the world.

This year, those who succeed in Q-School will earn status on the Web.com Tour, which is the feeder system to the top tour.

"With its similar format and the hundreds of participants who will enter, the Web.com Tour Qualifying Tournament will provide lots of drama, storylines and, unfortunately for some, the heartbreak and disappointment we've come to expect year-in and year-out at 'Q-School,'" Web.com Tour president Bill Calfee said in a release.

The first of three stages of Q-School begin Tuesday and run throughout the month at sites across the country.

"It does give the guys a great place to play for a year," said UTC coach Mark Guhne, who has six former Mocs competing in the first stage. "They can play at a very high level before they walk out on the biggest stage."

Paul Apyan

• Scenic City connection: He played four years for Hixson High School.

• Q-School site: Florence (S.C.) Country Club, Oct. 15-19.

• Of note: He tied for third at the Spirit of America Championship in 2009 and recently had a tie for sixth in an NGA event at Cutter Creek in Snow Hill, N.C.

• His quote: "Just play golf and don't get too far ahead. Last year I got ahead. It's a tournament, so it doesn't change my approach."

Andrew Black

• Scenic City connection: He played at East Ridge and earned a scholarship to play four years at Tennessee.

• Q-School site: Pensacola (Fla.) Country Club, Oct. 15-18.

• Of note: He turned pro in 2005 and struggled. He tried Q-school last year and missed advancing from the first stage by one stroke.

• His quote: "You're playing for something pretty big. It's taken time for me to get my game back in shape, and I'm looking to do some good things next week."

Steven Fox

Photo by Shawn Paik/Times Free Press.

Steven Fox

• Scenic City connection: He completed a four-year career at UTC in an NCAA 2013 regional.

• Q-School site: Florence (S.C.) Country Club, Oct. 15-19.

• Of note: Fox won the 2012 U.S. Amateur and played in seven PGA Tour-level events last year, including the Masters, the U.S. Open and the British Open. This is his first attempt at Q-School.

• His quote: "This is a great chance to start my pro career and move up to the PGA Tour. For my first time, it's really go big or go home."

Jonathan Hodge

Scenic City connection: He played four years at UTC and married former Lady Mocs softball pitcher Brooke Loudermilk.

• Q-School site: Florence (S.C.) Country Club, Oct. 15-19.

• Of note: Hodge reached the third stage of Q-School last year and earned full status on the Web.com Tour. He placed No. 149 on the money list and earned $20,270 in 20 events.

• His quote: "It was great experience, for sure, my first year out there. It was a big step up as far as competition. I really enjoyed it and learned a ton. I hope that Q-School goes well and that I can try it again, because I'll have a better handle on things."

Stephan Jaeger

Photo by Dan Henry/Times Free Press.

Stephan Jaeger

• Scenic City connection: He starred for Baylor School and then played four years at UTC.

• Q-School site: Pinewild Country Club at Pinehurst, N.C., Oct. 22-25

• Of note: Jaeger played in 14 Web.com Tour events last year and finished No. 122 on the money list after winning the 2012 Southern Conference championship.

• His quote: "I made it to the last stage last year, and I feel that I'm a way better player this year than I was last year. I got some experience under my belt and I'm excited. I'm playing well."

Bryce Ledford

• Scenic City connection: Ledford played four years at McCallie and then four at UTC.

• Q-School site: Pensacola (Fla.) Country Club, Oct. 15-18.

• Of note: Ledford led UTC to an NCAA regional appearance in 2007 and played in the 2010 Chattanooga Classic on what is now the Web.com Tour.

• His quote: "You get a couple weeks out of the year to get a job. I've been so close many times. My game belongs on the Tour. It's been a year of one or two shots. I'm excited about Q-School, and I'll make the best of it."

Adam Mitchell

• Scenic City connection: He played four years at McCallie before an All-America career at the University of Georgia.

• Q-School site: Callaway Gardens Mountain View Course at Pine Mountain, Ga., Oct. 22-25.

• Of note: This is Mitchell's fifth attempt at Q-School. He earned his way into six Web.com Tour events last year and earned $13,595, including a tie for 15th at the South Georgia Classic.

• His quote: "Every year I play more and more of those. I put in a lot of time in the summer, and it's coming around. My short game went to a new level."

Derek Rende

• Scenic City connection: Rende played four years for Soddy-Daisy High School and four at UTC.

• Q-School site: Quail Valley Golf Club at Vero Beach, Fla., Tuesday-Friday.

• Of note: He helped UTC become ranked No. 1 in the nation in the fall of 2008 and won the 2008 State Amateur.

• His quote: "I want to go out there and play it like any other tournament and make every shot count and keep advancing."

Thomas Smith

• Scenic City connection: He transferred from Walters State Community College to UTC and has been a member at Council Fire.

• Q-School site: Callaway Gardens Mountain View Course at Pine Mountain, Ga., Oct. 22-25.

• Of note: Smith spent time as a UTC assistant to coach emeritus Reed Sanderlin. Smith won the Tennessee Amateur Championship with a 19-under 269 at Black Creek Club in 2006. The Knoxville native played two eGolf Tour events and eight NGA Golf Tour events this season.

Ryan Thornton

• Scenic City connection: He started for four years at Baylor School.

• Q-School site: Callaway Gardens Mountain View Course at Pine Mountain Ga., Oct. 22-25.

• Of note: He helped the Red Raiders win four straight state titles, played four years at Vanderbilt and tied for fifth in the 2013 State Amateur.

• His quote: "I'm OK with Web.com because it's a very good developmental tour. If you're good enough to play, you'll shine at whatever level you're playing."