Q School History, Part 2: Raising the Bar

Photographs from the original 1965 Q School reveal an obvious fellowship between the applicants and the PGA personnel on hand to guide them. The panelists and speakers tended to be warm, reassuring personalities like Dave Marr, Tommy Jacobs and Chick Harbert. The panelled walls of the PGA National clubhouse (it was renamed JDM Country Club when a new PGA National was built up the street), the rep ties and blue jackets, the cleanshaven faces, all infuse the proceedings with a sense of unity and mission.

 Which is why, in the group photo of the very first graduating class, Jim Colbert’s nearly savage competitiveness stands out. The pro from that graduating class who would amass the highest money total and fritter away the least amount of time on small talk throughout his career looks different from the others. Colbert’s jaw is slack, his glance at the camera is sidelong, his body is hunched in no particular pose. The other card-earners in the photo flash collegial smiles and exhibit upbeat, expressive body language. Perhaps these other 15 (one of the 17 graduates wasn’t on hand for the photo session) listened more intently than Colbert to the seminars on image and congeniality.

Touring life in the mid 1960s was still a money-losing endeavor for most players, but the tendency of Q School washouts to return for another try established itself early. Of the 31 players who missed getting cards in 1965, 16 returned the following year to take another shot. Of those 16, six were successful in gaining eligibility, including Harry Toscano, the ’66 medalist, and Jerry McGee, who had missed qualifying by a shot in ’65 and, card in hand following the ’66 school, would go on to win four PGA Tour titles in the late ’70s.

J.C. Snead returned for more Q School pressure in ’66, missing by only five strokes the second time. As for Don Desio, the Port Chester, New York player who had stumbled to a regrettable 654 (average round: 81.8) in 1965, he was OK’d for a retest in ’66, which he underwent with somewhat improved results. Desio had a 617 (average round down to 77.1)–still 14 strokes off the number that was needed.

The Q School’s breakthrough year was undoubtedly 1967, when 30 cards were granted to 111 applicants, including such as eventual standouts as Tony Jacklin, Lee Elder, Bobby Cole, Gibby Gilbert, Bob Murphy, Deane Beman and Orville Moody. Unlike the first two schools, whose medalists enjoyed three- and four-shot cushions over the runners-up, the ’67 edition was won by a single stroke. Among the 30 qualifiers, only one player, John Stevens of Wichita, Kan., failed to break 80 every single round. Even the last-place finisher in the field, Phoenix-based Richard Taylor, turned in the reasonably respectable score of 625, which was only 78.2 strokes per round on average.

The year before, a James P. Ringholz of Ashland, Ohio, had finished 30 strokes aft of the next-highest shooter. Ringholz’s eight-round score of 670 began with a 90 and went no lower than one round of 79 and one of 78. As a point of pride, no organization wants to see its national qualifier infiltrated by players who are clearly incompetent, and the ’67 PGA tour school was the first one that could rightfully say it hadn’t been.

Next: Part 3, A Schism, and Two Competing Qualifiers

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