Friday, December 16

Best of the Best—PGA Tour Q-School of 1971 (Part 5)

(Editor’s note: This is the fifth in a series. Read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4.)

By John Coyne
Special to ARMCHAIR GOLF


Copyright © John Coyne. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

BACK AT PGA NATIONAL FOR THE fourth round of the 1971 Q-School the pairings changed, but the leaders were still dispersed throughout the groups. There were no galleries to worry about, and the few members around had volunteered to keep the players’ cards and serve as caddies.

Before teeing off on Thursday, a hot, humid day, players began to pause in front of the leader board and silently count off the spots to see where they stood. No one choked Thursday. A few even gained positions under the pressure of the cut-off.

David Graham had his lowest round, a 70. Graham told me late in the evening when he was still on the range, “Here there is no tomorrow. It’s one tournament that means everything for the year.”

Meanwhile Leonard Thompson, who had played poorly the first and third rounds, began to put his game together. On Thursday he shot 73. And John Mahaffey of Houston, a protégé of Ben Hogan’s (whom he telephoned after every round), had another of his consistent par rounds to challenge for the lead.

On Friday, with the pros grouped according to scores for the first time, Bruce Fleisher lost his game and shot his worst round, a 79. Lanny Wadkins lost the tournament lead to Bob Zender when he finished with a 75. Failing to putt well the fifth day, he switched putters in the middle of the round. And Rogelio Gonzales of Colombia, a member of that country’s World Cup team, who had brought along a translator for the two days of classroom instruction, fired a 71, his best round of the tournament.

Spike Kelley, who had scores of 80,74,72,74, finally got one under on the fifth day, a 71, and was tied for the twenty-third spot. He needed a 72 or 73 on the last day to qualify, to gain his card and perhaps a few more plane rides.

“Me, on the tour! I’ll have to buy a golf bag.” The one he was using at Palm Beach was borrowed. “A member at my club gave it to me when I qualified so I’d look like a golfer.”

(To be continued.)

John Coyne is a bestselling author whose latest book is The Caddie Who Won the Masters. Learn more at John Coyne Books.

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