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Web.com Qualifying School

It has been a jam-packed couple of months since leaving Victoria in October and heading south for First Stage of Web.com Q-School. As I’ve done the past few years, Phoenix has been home to me over the winter months but before settling down in the Arizona sun, a pit stop in Dayton Valley was necessary.

First Stage – Dayton Valley GC – Dayton Valley, Nevada

Frew - first stage

I contested the opening stage of qualifying just outside of Reno, Nevada in Dayton Valley. The course played firm and fast with extremely speedy greens. It was fairly forgiving off of the tee but water hazards and sand traps lurked next to nearly every green.

I felt excited beginning the week and got off to a great start with a 6-under par 66. On day two the winds whipped through the valley so strongly that players could hardly stand up straight and golf balls were being blown off of the greens. Play was subsequently cancelled for the day and all the players were forced to complete the remaining three rounds over the next two days, playing 27 holes per day. The wind wasn’t much of a factor each of the remaining rounds as I carried over my consistent play from day one. I hit lots of fairways and greens and rolled in some good putts along the way, finishing the tournament tied for 4th with rounds of 66, 67, 69, 70 (-17) and easily qualifying for Second Stage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Second Stage – Bear Creek GC – Murrieta, California

Frew - second stage

I returned to Bear Creek for stage-2 to seek some revenge on a poor performance last year that ended my chance of making it through to the final qualifying stage. This time around I actually began the week feeling anxious and unsure if I could battle the negative memories from a year ago and create new, successful ones. I knew I had worked my butt off for this opportunity so all I could do was try to enjoy the challenging process and believe that positive results would follow.

I got off to a shaky start during round one as I missed several short putts, but my ball striking and course management was in good form and kept me in contention. I ended the day with a 3-over par 75 and tried my best to refocus for the remaining rounds after a lengthy session on the practice putting green.

Rounds two and three were better than the first as I shot 72 (E) and 70 (-2) respectively and moved up the leader board a few spots each day. Just like last year, I entered the final round with a great opportunity….play well and I’ll be on my way to Final Stage of Q-School to compete for a spot on the Web.com tour next year.

I envisioned playing a great last round, but nothing could have prepared me for what took place.

The first and second holes couldn’t have started any better as I hit great tee shots and precise wedges to about a foot away both times. But just as quickly as those two birdies came, however, I gave them right back with a errant approach and penalty stroke on the third hole that resulted in a double bogey.

I was shaky over the next six holes and recorded four bogeys along with two birdies to close out the front nine in 2-over 38, without making a single par.

As I made the walk to the 10th tee, I took several deep breaths as I tried to settle down and refocus on the positives. I didn’t know exactly where I stood position-wise with nine holes remaining but I knew I still had a great opportunity to achieve my goals if I played solid and made a few birdies coming home.

After making my first par on hole 10, I hit two great shots to reach the par-5, 11 hole and two-putted for birdie. Par on hole 12, followed by two great wedge shots and converted birdies from ten feet on the 13th and 14th holes vaulted me back under par on the day. But I wasn’t out of the woods yet, with four tough holes remaining, I had to stay focused on each individual shot and putt.

A good drive, mid iron, and two putts on the 15th hole resulted in a par. On hole 16, I pushed my 8 iron badly and dug deep to two-putt about a 60-foot roller-coaster that kept me under par with two holes to go.

By this point, my heart rate and adrenaline reached a whole new level. I stepped up on the next tee and busted a driver right down the middle. With only 130 yards remaining to a front-right pin tucked just over a bunker, I cut a pitching wedge in there to about twelve feet and rolled the birdie putt dead into the heart of the cup.

As I stood on the 18th tee I couldn’t help but think that a par on the final hole was all I needed to punch my ticket to the Final Stage. But there was no way for me to be sure so I refocused for the next shot I had to hit. The 18th fairway is the most forgiving on the entire course so I felt really comfortable with that tee shot all week and smoked a driver into the fairway. Again, I was left with just about 130 yards to back-left pin and hit a flighted pitching wedge to ten feet pin-high – exactly where I was looking.

A slight down-hill, right-edge putt was all that stood between me and capping off this roller-coaster round. I was last in my group to putt and stepped off to the side with a smile on my face. I had battled my butt off all day and knew I deserved to be in the position I was. I stood over the putt, took two glances at the hole, and with a little less speed than I envisioned I trickled the ball over the front edge and into the cup. It was one of the single most rewarding moments I’ve experienced on my golf career; capping off the most pressure-packed and bizarre game of golf I’ve ever played with a birdie to secure my spot at Final Stage.

That unforgettable 4th round included: 9 birdies, 4 pars, 4 bogeys, 1 double bogey, with 0 pars on the front side and 0 bogeys on the back side.

Final Stage – PGA National – Palm Beach Gardens, Florida

Frew - Final StageFinal Stage of Web.com Tour Qualifying School was held on the Fazio and Champion courses at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. The Champion course is the venue for the PGA Tour’s Honda Classic which added even more excitement to an already rewarding week.

The wind was blowing on day one as I teed off the front side of the Fazio course. I felt comfortable and confident and after suffering two bogeys over my opening four holes, I found my groove as I birdied holes 5, 7, and 9 before making the turn.

I hit two great shots on the 10th and rolled in a downhill 15-footer for another birdie. With two more solid swings on the tough, par-4, 11th hole, I narrowly missed making my third birdie in a row. I hopped back on the birdie train on the par-5, 12th after getting up and down from just short of the green, and followed that with another on the par-4, 14th when my 25-footer found the bottom of the cup.

On the long, par-3, 16th hole I hit a solid 4-iron that pitched perfectly into the front slope and rolled to 15-feet left of the hole. I was seeing the line and committing well all day and once again converted the birdie.

The par-5, 17th was virtually unreachable at 540 yards. It was playing into a stiff breeze with lots of water guarding the front of the green. I hit a good drive and laid up to the 100-yard marker. The pin was cut between two ridges on the left side of the green and I hit a smooth 56-degree wedge that cut through the wind, landed about ten feet behind the pin, and spun back to just inches from the hole. I couldn’t help but laugh after that shot; with my view from the fairway it looked like the ball was going to disappear into the cup. I tapped in for my 8th birdie of the day and headed to the tough, 18th hole.

I pulled my tee shot slightly into the rough on the finishing hole and was forced to hit a 5-iron from just over 200 yards into a steady wind. The rough snagged the hosel and the balled turned over much more than I anticipated and found the hazard left of the green. From there I hit a great pitch shot to five feet but lipped out the putt and was forced to settle for a double-bogey . It was obviously a very disappointing way to end my round but I knew I played well and had lots of golf ahead of me over the next five rounds.

I began round two with a birdie but struggled the rest of the day and for the remainder of the tournament. The weather and course conditions were perfect for scoring but I couldn’t manage much momentum in the right direction. After my opening round 68, I recorded rounds of 76, 72, 71, 77, & 74 to finish at 9-over par and tied for 124th.

My final score and position obviously wasn’t the result I envisioned but I took away a lot of positives from the week. Despite a few poor rounds, I know I’m improving overall and that I can compete at the Web.com level with all the other great players. Playing so well at First Stage, and being able to grind out a top-10 finish at Second Stage to advance to the Web.com Final Stage shows that I’m working on the important things and progressing in the right direction.

My plan for the next couple of months is to return to Phoenix to compete on the eGolf Gateway Tour. Along with those events, I’ll play PGA Tour Monday qualifiers for the Waste Management Open, Farmers Insurance Open, and Northern Trust Open. When the Web.com Tour returns to the United States at the end of March from it’s South American swing, I will tackle some of those Monday qualifiers too.

I will continue to share any updates and news regarding my playing schedule on my website (coryrenfrewgolf.com), as well as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, which can all be found in the top-right corner on my webpage.

I hope everyone had a great Christmas and New Year’s. Thank you for supporting me and my golf career and all the best in 2015.

-Cory