Beach, Miller Both Make It through 2nd Stage of Korn Ferry Q-School
November 8, 2019
The improbable story of Alex Beach's ascent in the realm of tournament golf continued this week, as he made it fairly comfortably through the Second Stage of qualifying for the 2020 Korn Ferry Tour. He might have been the only player in a field of 74 at Plantation Preserve GC in Plantation, Fla., who never played college golf. Nevertheless, the former Stillwater High School team captain was under par in all four rounds, and he closed the deal with a 4-under 67, which gave him a 72-hole total of 272 (12 under) and a sixth-place finish.
Ross Miller made it, as well, but he needed a spectacular rally to survive. Six holes into his final round, he was 1 over par for the day -- and six strokes outside of the required number (8 under) for advancement, The 2018 and '19 Tapemark Charity Pro-Am champion proceeded to birdie seven of his lastl 12 holes, including four birdies in the last five holes, on the way to a 65. The result was an aggregate of 275 and a tie for 13th. He made it with one stroke to spare.
There were five Second Stage tournaments played during the last two weeks. The top 20 finishers plus ties from each of those qualifiers earned spots in the Final Stage of Korn Ferry Q-School, Dec. 12-15 at Orange County National Golf Center & Lodge -- more specifically the Panther Lake and Crooked Cat courses. Anyone who plays in the Final Stage will have at least limited status on golf's top minor league in 2020-. The medalist will be fully exempt for the entire year. Those who finish second through 10th will have full status for at least 13 events, and those finishing 11th through 45th will have full status for the first nine events. There were 24 tournaments on the 2019 Korn Ferry schedule.
The medalist at Plantation Preserve was Curtis Thompson, a former two-time All-American at LSU (2013 and '14). But he's better known for being Lexi Thompson's brother. That could change, if he keeps playing the way he played this week. He was the only player in the field to break 70 in all four rounds. Thompson took the lead with a 63 on Thursday in Round No. 3, and secured his victory with a 69 on Friday.
Andy Pope is a veteran of the Korn Ferry. He first earned a place on the tour in 2012, when it was called the Nationwide. That was a year before it became the Web.com. (It didn't become the Korn Ferry Tour until June of this year.) Pope finished second to Thompson, one shot behind at 270. Also trying to reclaim a spot on the Korn Ferry for 2020 is Will Cannon, a former University of Alabama-Birmingham star who shot 271.
Beach's resume wasn't exactly distinguished until fairly recently. When he was a high school senior, he birdied three of the last four holes in the section tournament, which enabled Stillwater to win its section championship. But he tied for 58th at the state tournament. No colleges him. He enrolled in the Professional Golf Management Program at the University of Nebraska, but didn't try out for the Huskers team.
It wasn't until he began working as an assistant pro that he got serious about trying to improve his game.
"I was decent in high school," he said in an interview this summer. "I enjoyed the game but didn't necessarily have the drive to get really, really good at it. (He and Kyle Scanlon were the No. 1 and 2 players at Stillwater, in either order.) When I did the golf management program and chose golf as a career and moved to the East Coast, I saw what being a very good player could get you career-wise. I think it was just progressive over the years, seeing these better players. I was always very athletic and competitive, and once I decided this was going to be my sport and career, I wanted to push and be as good as I could be, and we're still kind of in the middle of that process."
Beach has worked at some big-name clubs, including Baltusrol, the site of multiple U.S. Opens, and now Westchester, which used to be a regular stop on the PGA Tour.
By 2017, he had progressed enough to finish in the top 10 at the National PGA Club Pro Championship (he tied for ninth). Then in May of this year, the 29-year-old long-hitting left-hander returned to the the Club Pro Championship -- and won it. That was how he got exemptions through the Pre-Qualifying and First Stage of Korn Ferry Q-School.
Beach didn't get off to a great start, bogeying the first hole, a par-5. He was 2 over after nine on Day 1, but played the back nine in 3 under. Even so, the resulting 70 put him in the middle of the pack. He came back with a 65 on Day 2 and was never out of the top 20 after that. Things did get a little iffy on Friday, however, when he could do no better than even par on the front nine. At that point, he was right on the number, but he made four birdies and five pars on the back nine for an incoming 31 to secure his spot in the Final Stage.
It was a good summer for Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference golfers. One of them, Brady Madsen (Winona State), won the Minnesota State Open. A week later, another one, Chris Swenson, defeated his Bemidji State teammate Matthew Gregg to win the Birchmont. Ross Miller is also an NSIC product -- he was a star at Minnesota State (Mankato) -- and he's collected three major state championships in the last year and a half, beginning with the 2018 Tapemark at Southview CC.
He added the Minnesota Golf Champions title to his portfolio last September. This year, he birdied four of his last six holes and shot 63 on the final day to repeat as the Tapemark champ, and in the two qualifiers that he's played since then, he's closed the First Stage of Korn Ferry Q-School with a 67 and now the Second Stage with a 65. So his final-round average score this fall is 65!
Miller, 27, started his final-round birdie spree on Friday at the 377-yard, par-4 seventh hole and made another one at the 335-yard, par-4 ninth. He also birdied the 583-yard, par-5 10th. His finishing kick began with a birdie at the 14th (435 yards, par 4). Then came another at the par-3 15th (207 yards). He capped off the round with birdies at the 17th (444 yards, par 4) and the 595-yard, par-5 18th.
Andre Metzger has lived in several states, including South Dakota. He's used Sioux Falls as his home base while playing on the Dakotas Tour, and every year he seems to be No. 1 or near the top of the list of leading money winners. He played in a Second Stage qualifier in Murrieta, Calif. Having shot 74-69-74 at Bear Creek Golf Club, Metzger needed a 71 or better on the final day -- and he shot 67. That was good for a tie for ninth.
As good as Miller was down the stretch at the Tapemark this year, Robert Bell was even better. The former MGA Junior Boys champ from Pierz was 5 under for a four-hole stretch during his last nine at Southview, including a hole in one on a 205-yard par-3 (5 iron). He ended up finishing third, behind Miller and Don Berry.
Bell had another strong finish in a Second Stage qualifier at TPC Craig Ranch in McKinney, Texas (Oct. 29-Nov. 1). He posted a 68 (4 under) for the final round -- but came up one stroke short. His 282 total tied for 24th. There was a six-way tie for 18th at 281.
Also missing by a single shot was Andrew McCain, the two-time Minnesota State Open champ (he won the State Four-Ball, too, with Jesse Bull as his partner) and occasional Minneapolis resident, although he plays out of Dellwood when he's in Minnesota. McCain was in Dothan, Ala., this week, at Highland Oaks, one of the Robert Trent Jones Trail courses. He shot 71 (1 under) on Friday, for an aggregate of 285, then watched six players tied for 15th at 284. That dropped him into a tie for 21st, and in Korn Ferry Second Stage qualifiers, 21st is the loneliest number.
KORN FERRYTOUR Q-SCHOOL
Plantation Preserve GC (par 71)
Final results (the top 20 finishers plus ties advance from each site to the Final Stage, which will be played at Orange County National in Winter Garden, Fla., Dec. 12-15)
1. Curtis Thompson, Boyton Beach, Fla. 68-69-63-69--269
2. Andy Pope, Orlando, Fla. 66-67-70-67-270
T3. Will Cannon, Hoover, Ala. 67-71-66-67--271
T3. Brad Brunner, Land O' Lakes, Fla. 65-69-69-68--271
T3. Santiago Gomez, Colombia 70-65-70-67--271
6. Alex Beach, Stamford, Conn. 70-65-70-67--272
T13. Ross Miller, Osseo 70-71-69-65--275
What it took: 276 (6-way tie for 20th)
T36. Ben Polland, Jacksonville, Flal. 69-72-70-68--279
Bear Creek Golf Club (par 72)
T1. Brandon Wu, Scarsdale, N.Y. 72-65-68-66--271
T1. Jordan Niebrugge, Jupiter, Fla. 67-70-69-65--271
3. Alistair Docherty, Vancouver, Wash. 70-70-71-68--279
T9. Andre Metzger, Sioux Falls 74-69-74-67--284
What it took: 284 (4-way tie for 20th)
T50. Neil Johnson, River Falls 74-70-74-77--295
Highlands/Marshwood (par 72)
1. Stephen Franken, Raleigh, N.C. 68-68-68-68--272
2. Mike Schoolcraft, Denver 68-68-69-68--273
3. Danny Walker, Bradenton, Fla. 66-68-70-72--276
What it took: 284 (6-way tie for 15th)
T21. Andrew McCain, Minneapolis 74-72-68-71--285
67. Jon Trasamar, Blue Earth 74-77-73-78--302
TPC Craig Ranch (par 72)
Oct. 29-Nov. 1
1. Taylor Montgomery, Las Veas 70-69-65-66--270
2. Samuel Del Val, Atlanta 69-71-67-65--272
3. Nick Voke, New Zealand 69-67-68-69--273
4. Chase Johnson, Barberton, Ohio 70-68-70-66--274
What it took: 281 (5-way tie for 18th)
T24. Robert Bell, Pierz 71-73-70-68--282