One miss sends me back to the start but I've learnt a lot


The long road has led me back to where I started out 12 months ago - the Pre-Qualifying School II. It is hard to believe that one putt, and a matter of $435, was the difference in the end after playing in 31 tournaments all across the United States, and in Canada too. If I'd finished just one shot better in Lake Buena Vista on Sunday it would have been enough to get me comfortably into the top 150 with the reward of a ticket to the final qualifying school, a guarantee of about 20 tournaments on the full tour next season and also a Nike Tour card.

Instead, I must get through the pre-qualifying in Grenelefe next week - which I have every intention of doing - and then I have to make it through the final qualifying.

In retrospect, I've had a great year and really enjoyed the whole competitive aspect; but it is a pain in the ass to miss out by just one place, especially after giving it all I had in the last couple of months. I was just so tired over the last few tournaments that I was surviving on pure determination and, although I did quite well, the reality is that I came up short. It's a killer.

The bogey on the 18th at the Magnolia course on Sunday was the difference. I had a 40-footer from the back of the green (which was really, really fast) for birdie and put it around six feet past the hole, clipping the hole on the way. I couldn't really clear my mind for the one back. I knew if I made it that I was safely into the zone between 126 and 150, but it lipped out.

Even then, I thought I might get in because I checked the computer and it looked as if I was going to make about $20,000, which I figured would be enough. As if happened, I earned $21,750 for a share of 19th place (with seven other guys) and just one player, Peter Jordan, passed me in the moneylist. But it was all enough to conspire to leave me in 151st place on the rankings, an agonising $435 behind Mark Carnevale, and that makes such a big difference because it means I have to go through PQ II.

Of course, I was there last year and I know that I can do it - but it is not the sort of place your return to by choice because the qualifying school is just so volatile.

I'm disappointed that I didn't make it straight to the final qualifying with all those other fringe benefits. However, I've picked myself up before and I will do it again. In fact, I tend to be pretty hard on myself and it is probably a good thing that I'm staying for a few days with my friend Kevin O'Hare up in Albany, New York, for the rest of the week. He told me someone has got to finish 151st and that there are other guys worse off than me. I know I have to do it all over again, but I understand and believe that I am a better player.

Life as a professional golfer is a good one, but a tough one, too. I got back to my home in Clemson yesterday for the first time in about three months and it was just nice to do things, like taking care of the laundry and washing my car. I was actually still conscious of having come so close in the tournament and I'm glad to have a few days away from golf before flying back down to Florida next week for the pre-qualifying. I hate the thought of it, but it could be worse.

I have learned a lot on the circuit this season and I believe that I did well for a rookie.

Even though I went to college over here, the courses are still very different to what we have back home and that is especially true of the greens. However, I believe that when I play well that I putt well and it all comes down to making all those six-footers. It is just a matter of taking the ball out of the cup rather than tapping in.

I may not have retained my card, but I know that I am a good enough player to make it on the US Tour. If you make mistakes, you are punished - and you have to prove that you can pick yourself back up again. I believe that I can, and the first phase of that recovery takes place in pre-qualifying. Until then, however, I hope that I can get in some rest and relaxation for the rest of this week. I think I deserve it.

(In an interview with Philip Reid)