One more golf Hill to climb for Hill?

IAN HUTCHINSON, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:43 PM ET

TORONTO - As winter sets in, PGA Tour qualifying school offers a cool alternative to hibernating at a time when golf is all but in snooze mode. While the worlds best players are nowhere to be found, Q-school offers the potential for a long shot to survive a gruelling test and make it to the tour.

In 2009, for example, Canadians watched Graham DeLaet of Weyburn, Sask., scorch through the Canadian Tour and earn his card through Q-school. He followed up quite nicely by maintaining his status, although he is out indefinitely due to injury.

Just a couple of months ago, Matt McQuillan of Kingston boarded the rocket to the tour via Q-school after spending last year on the eGolf and Canadian Tours.

Stories such as that will come to an end if proposed changes to the PGA Tour qualifying process take place. If the changes are approved, players will be able to only get their cards by playing on the Nationwide Tour the year before and those attending Q-school will be able to graduate to only the Nationwide.

That means 2009 NCAA individual champ Matt Hill of Brights Grove will have only the PGA Tours development tour immediately ahead of him should he get hot at Q-school.

I kind of like the old way, but its not really something the golfers can control. Theyve pretty much just got to make the best of it, said Hill, who has played a couple of Hooters Tour events already.

Its a bit longer of a process. I think in the long run, its tougher, but it gives you a chance to get some good experience on the Nationwide Tour, added Hill, who is also looking to gain some experience on the eGolf and Canadian Tours this year, while trying to Monday qualify for some Nationwide events.

Im just trying to be the best I can at each level, said Hill, who failed to make it past the first stage last year, his first shot at Q-school, so there is something to be said for experience.

My last nine holes, I probably never experienced that much pressure and I think the experience is probably one of the biggest things, being my first time there and not really knowing what to expect really, he said.

Traditionally, the top-25 finishers out of Q-school got their PGA Tour cards, but shifting the focus to the Nationwide Tour is seen by some as a way to raise the focus of the development circuit which, as it stands, will lose its main sponsor at the end of 2012.

Under the new proposal, the top Nationwide Tour players each year would take part in a three-tournament final series that would also include PGA Tour players who didnt make it into the FedEx Cup playoffs. That final series would have 50 cards available.

While DeLaet may be a poster boy for the Canadian Tour with his direct jump to the PGA Tour, commissioner Rick Janes sees the possible changes as positive for his circuit.

There are 12 players every year going to the Nationwide Tour from our tour and theyre going to be higher profile personalities when they get out there. I think its going to make a much stronger Nationwide Tour, said Janes.

It doesnt hurt us at all. If everything falls into place, as Im hoping it will, its actually very good for us, he said.

Of course, the players who get the opportunity to go right from the Canadian Tour or otherwise directly to the PGA Tour, theyre probably going to get that opportunity in another form, either battlefield promotion from the Nationwide Tour or otherwise, he said.

Still, from a fan perspective, it does take a lot of pop out of Q-school at a time of year when golf can use some profile.

To be honest, they dont want to watch guys trying to get their Nationwide Tour cards, said Hill.


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