A Minnesota golfer earned his PGA card the old-fashioned way.
The PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament goes back to 1965. The list of medalists includes Ben Crenshaw, Fuzzy Zoeller, Paul Azinger and Mike Weir. A pair of Minnesotans, Bob Barbarossa in 1970 and Troy Merritt in 2009, also led the field.
The competition is known in the golf world as Q-School. There are endless stories of heroics and of heartbreak as anonymous young players and desperate veterans battled to have playing privileges for the PGA Tour's next season.
The Q-School came to an end permanently Monday, at the end of six rounds played across two courses in Palm Springs, Calif.
The rules have changed. Players no longer will be allowed direct access to the PGA Tour through their play in Q-School. They will have to go the route of the Web.com Tour, the minor league tour known previously as the Hogan, Nike, Buy.com and Nationwide.
This means Donald Constable, 23, a former Minnetonka Skipper, Texas Longhorn and Minnesota Gopher, had excellent timing for putting together six rounds of solid golf and being among 26 card-earners from the 2012 Q-School.
Constable was 14 under and hanging around 30th place (five spots from getting a card) entering Monday's final round. He was playing at the Stadium Course, the tougher of the two being used.
"My thought was if I shot 2 under, I'd stay where I was, and if I shot 3 under, I probably would make it," Constable said. "I bogeyed the 15th and that put me at 1 under for the day.
"On the 16th, I made a 6-footer for a birdie. I needed one more, but the next hole was the par-3 they call 'Alcatraz' -- an island green similar to the one at the TPC in Florida, although with a longer tee shot.
"It was 157 to the hole, and I hit a nice 9-iron in there to about 6 feet. There was a crowd watching, and someone said it was one of the better shots of the day. I made the putt to get to 3 under."
Clear sailing, right?
"Not exactly," Constable said. "I hit my tee ball on 18 in a fairway bunker. I left it 40 feet from the pin and had to two-putt from there. I lagged it to about 6 feet ... a downhill slider.
"I blanked. My mom [Tracy] and my friends were cheering and I was hugging my caddie, but I didn't know if the putt crawled in the side or what? Later, they told me it went in the middle of the cup."
Constable wound up in a five-way tie for 22nd at 17 under. The likelihood is he will make his PGA Tour debut in the Sony Open in Hawaii during the second week of January.
The journey for Constable started with a pre-stage tournament in Nebraska City, Neb., where he easily finished in the top 50 percent.
The first stage was in Palm Springs in mid-October. Constable played "really well" and finished second, as 19 of 74 players advanced to the second stage.
He came home to Minnesota for a time, worked with his swing coach, Jeff Kringen, at Spring Hill, and went to Brooksville, Fla., for the second stage.
"I got off to a terrible start, and the pressure was on all four rounds," he said. "I finished 8 under and thought I was out. Then, I was in, then out, in, out and finally I needed one of seven guys to have a late bogey to make it. And one guy did."
Constable's odyssey ended successfully back in Palm Springs, thanks in large part to an old Odyssey 2-Ball putter that was his father's favorite.
His father (also Donald) died in 2006 at age 46 from cancer. When the two left-handers played golf together, Dad always suggested this mantra to his son to keep focus on the greens: "Roll the rock."
After his dad's death, Donald would use the Odyssey 2-Ball at times, a Scotty Cameron at others. During the finals of Q-School, he went with the Odyssey, and rolled the rock effectively for six rounds.
"I think my dad and his putter took care of that last putt for me," he said. "As I said, I blanked."
Patrick Reusse can be heard noon-4 weekdays on 1500-AM. firstname.lastname@example.org
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