It’s Official: Golfers have tough row to hoe

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 9, 2004

For every Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh, Phil Mickelson or Ernie Els there are hundreds of golfers who are very, very good but whose livelihood depends each week on the seemingly simple act of making the cut.

To explain a little to the non-golfer, each PGA tournament is played out over four rounds.

If the event is played on a single course, the starting field of golfers is normally limited to 156 players who have qualified to play in the tournament in one of several ways. Most qualify because their money winnings for the previous year rank them in the top 125, or they have won a PGA tournament in the previous two years.

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Others have qualified by finishing high enough in the PGA’s qualifying school tournament (known as &uot;Q&uot; school) which is a six-round event preceded by a couple of pre-qualifying tournaments. Some others may qualify for the tour by finishing among the leaders on the Nationwide Tour, which is a sort of minor league tour run by the PGA.

Some few players are allowed in a tournament on a sponsor’s exemption. At the Southern Farm Bureau Classic in Madison last week, Jim Gallagher and Rhet Crowder played under such an exemption. Gallagher now lives in Greenwood and was recently one of the leading winners on the PGA tour, while Crowder recently turned pro after an outstanding amateur career in Mississippi.

Getting back to cut, after the first two rounds of a PGA tournament, the field is narrowed down to the low 70 players and ties. In the case of the SFB Classic, that cut came at 4-under par. Golfers with scores four under for the two days continued while three under and above went home.

One of those heading home was Gene Sauers. I first became aware of Sauers in 1990 when then-Democrat publisher Dave Balcom and I went to cover the final round of the then-Deposit Guaranty Classic, predecessor of the SFB Classic.

Dave and I followed Sauers as he came from behind to win that tourney, his last victory until the 2002 Air Canada tournament.

The win in Canada gave Sauers a two-year exemption which expires this year. Through the 84 Lumber Classic, held the week prior to the SFB Classic, Gene had won $280,011.

For 2004, the expected figure to rank among the top 125 for the year is $700,000. He would have to win an event to reach that figure, so Sauers has probably already sent in his application for &uot;Q&uot; School. I followed him for a few holes Friday.

He stood at 2-under approaching the seventh green but three-putted from the fringe for bogey, bogied nine from the rough and turned at even. After falling back a couple of more shots on the back nine, he birdied a couple of closing holes to finish at even par, still four shots short of qualifying.

Watching these guys play, you can’t really tell much difference. They hit the ball a long way and have good short games. There is just something inside the Singhs, Woods, Mickelsons, and the old guys like Nicholas and Palmer, who make some great shots and keeps others struggling.

And that’s official.

Al Graning is a former SEC official and former Natchez resident. Reach him at