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Len Ziehm On Golf

Q-Schools provide a boost for Hopfinger, Troyanovich

The lengthy, very demanding qualifying sessions to determine next year’s players on the PGA Tour, Ladies PGA Tour and PGA Champions circuit came to an end over the weekend with two Chicago hopefuls — Brad Hopfinger and Samantha Troyanovich — putting themselves in position to further their golfing careers in 2018.

Lake Forest’s Hopfinger, one of only seven players to own titles in both the Illinois State Amateur and Illinois Open, is assured a spot in the first eight tournaments on the PGA’s satellite Web.com Tour next season. Troyanovich, who won the 2012 Illinois Women’s Open as an amateur, earned conditional status on the LPGA circuit.

Getting as far as they did wasn’t easy. The Q-Schools for both circuits are complicated, nail-biting affairs that span nearly four months. On the men’s side, there are three pre-qualifying tournaments that start in August in Texas, California and Nebraska. Those events determine who fills out fields in the Stage I eliminations, which were played at 11 sites around the country in October.

The survivors of Stage I played in one of the five Stage II events, each of which had about 80 players, and those survivors went to the final stage. Some players had exemptions through the early stages based on past performance, but Stage III started with 144 players and ended after 72 holes on Sunday in Chandler, Ariz., with Hopfinger finishing just one stroke better than two other prominent Chicago players – Deerfield’s Vince India and Elgin’s Carlos Sainz Jr.

That one stroke made a big difference, however. Hopfinger, by virtue of finishing at 14-under-par 274 and in a tie for 42nd place, is assured a spot in the first eight Web.com Tour events of 2018. Then there’ll be a re-shuffle of players.

Hopfinger played frequently on the Web.com in 2017, earning $30,904. While he will be in a better position to get into tournaments in 2018, he’ll have to get off to a good start to keep playing. Still, he’s in a much better position than India, his former college teammate at Iowa, and Sainz, the 2016 Illinois Open champion.

India, who was third overall in the Web.com qualifying in 2016 but didn’t earn enough money in 2017 to retain his card, shot 63 in the third round of the Q-School’s third stage on Saturday and Sainz, who spent much of this season on the PGA’s Latinoamerica Tour, had a solid 66-67 finish on the weekend.

That’s great golf, but both still finished at 13-under-par for the tournament and in a tie for 57th place. They will likely need to go through Monday qualifiers to get into next year’s tournaments. And that’s only to play on the PGA Tour’s satellite circuit. Make it to the PGA Tour proper has demands even more stringent than that.

Addison’s Tee-K Kelly, in his first season as a pro after a strong collegiate career at Ohio State, also made it to last week’s Stage III but an 80 in the first round doomed his chances at advancement. Kelly, though, had a promising rookie season. He won an event on the Latinoamerica circuit and had five top-10 finishes while finishing seventh on the circuit’s order of merit.

Troyanovich, who now resides in Michigan, also had to endure three stages to get her LPGA playing privileges. She tied for 38th of 144 players in Stage I, which was contested in California. The top 90 advanced, and she tied for 68th among 165 players in Stage II in Venice, FL., with the top 80 moving on to the final stage.

The final, played over 90 holes at LPGA International in Daytona Beach, FL., had 361 finalists. Troyanovich tied for 32nd place and that will be enough to get into at least a few 2018 tournaments without enduring a qualifying round.

Troyanovich has had only limited playing time on the LPGA circuit (three missed cuts in as many starts in 2017) and its satellite Symetra Tour. Next year she’ll be able to play more on both circuits.

One Chicago player, Lance Ten Broeck, was in the PGA Champions qualifying tournament in Scottsdale, Ariz. A former PGA Tour regular, he finished in a tie for 23rd place and needed a top five finish to get fully exempt status on the 50-and-over circuit. He figures to return to his job as a caddie on the PGA circuit in 2018.