IT ZIEHMS TO ME: Sainz, Pope, India earn Tour spots

By Len Ziehm

The Chicago area will have three new players competing on a major pro golf tour in 2014. Carlos Sainz Jr., Andy Pope and Vince India all advanced through the rigorous Tour qualifying school this week.

With the PGA Tour revamping its qualifying procedure, its satellite circuit claimed the survivors of the three-tiered Q-School for its 2014 season. Sainz, from Elgin; Pope (Glen Ellyn) and India (Deerfield) advanced through two 72-hole fall preliminary competitions and then got through the toughest of test them all – a 90-hole marathon at PGA West in LaQuinta, Calif.

Sainz did the best of the trio, finishing in 10th place among the 152 starters after a sizzling 63 in the final round that included five straight birdies on the back nine. The former Mississippi State player was 20 under par for the 90 holes, 11 strokes behind winner Zack Fischer.

The strong Q-School showing culminated an encouraging second half of 2013 for Sainz. He won The Players Cup on the PGA’s Canadian Tour a week before tying for second in the Illinois Open at The Glen Club in Glenview.

Sainz lost the Illinois Open title in a playoff to Joe Kinney but rebounded with a victory in the revived Chicago Open at Cantigny, in Wheaton, in October.

Pope, who played collegiately at Xavier, finished a stroke behind Sainz at Q-School and that will make his Tour start more difficult. The top 10 carry exempt status through the 12th tournament, those finishing 11-45 are exempt only through eight. Their playing status is adjusted based on their results.

India, who played collegiately at Iowa, tied for 42nd at Q-School with – among others – Sam Saunders, Arnold Palmer’s grandson. The Tour, formerly known as the Ben Hogan, Nike and Nationwide circuits, had an annual stop at The Glen Club for seven years but it was discontinued after the 2007 event. The 2014-15 seasons begins Feb. 6 in Panama.

Affrunti, Meierdierks in limbo

Crystal Lake’s Joe Affrunti and Wilmette’s Eric Meierdierks began 2013 with playing status on the PGA Tour. After failing to meeting money-winner requirements both may have trouble getting into the big money tournaments in 2014.

Affrunti, recovering from major shoulder surgery, made the cut in three of five PGA Tour events and six of 12 events, losing a playoff for the title in the United Leasing Championship – an Indiana stop on the satellite tour. He’ll begin 2014 with limited status thanks to the terms of a medical exemption.

Meierdierks made the cut in four of 19 PGA Tour appearances and didn’t survive the second stage of the Q-School. Both Affrunti and Meierdierks were champions of both the Chicago District Amateur and Illinois Open before testing themselves as tour players.

Did you know?

The BMW Championship, staged for the first time at Conway Farms in Lake Forest in September, was named the PGA Tour’s Tournament of the Year for the second straight season.

Mistwood, a Ray Hearn-designed public course in Romeoville, was selected as Renovation of the Year by Golf Magazine. Hearn also won that award for his work at Flossmoor Country Club in 2009.

Brad Hisel has been named general manager at Bull Valley in Woodstock, and Scott Rowe has been named to the Northwestern Sports Hall of Fame. He starred for the Wildcats’ golf team from 1993-97.