Just one more chance
DANIELS - A longtime Mercer County resident, John Ross is itching, more than most, to get into the Greenbrier Classic. He was so, so close last year.
"To play in [the Classic] at age 60, it would be just like playing in a major," he said. "I don't know how many PGA Tour events I've played in my career, maybe 50, 55. I'd like to get another crack at it - I know the Old White course pretty well."
Ross was one of 90 players who took a swing at The Greenbrier Classic pre-qualifying tournament Thursday at Glade Springs. He shot a 3-over-par 75, making the top 50 right on the number.
That wasn't exactly the best round of the day - two players blitzed the course for a 66 - but he did advance to Monday's open qualifier, where the top four finishers will earn spots in next week's PGA Tour event.
As a one-time Tour member who has also played some Champions Tour events, Ross has seen it all when it comes to getting into a field.
"I know this golf course pretty well. I used to represent Glade," he said. "So I feel like that equalizes things out. Today, sure, I would have loved to have shot 66, but 75 still accomplishes the same thing. Last year, I was in the playoffs in the [Monday] qualifier, so I'd like to get some redemption.
"If I get my putting ironed out, I'll be ready to go."
The stakes weren't nearly as high Thursday as they will be on Monday - after all, 52 made this cut - but players had to navigate the Cobb Course in good enough shape to advance.
There was a wide cross-section of golfers chasing their long-odds dream of making next weeks' classic. Those included:
He wants more, obviously.
"I want to be [at the Classic]. I want to represent the state of West Virginia," Bradshaw said. "You can't think about it; you've just got to play golf."
With Poca teen Grant Humphrey serving as his caddy, Hess had one of the better rounds of his career.
"I had a great caddy," Hess said. "He clubbed me right all day. I just came out and had fun; that's all I was doing. And the putts dropped."
"Literally, three or four days ago," said Bartlett, who made the 36-hole Classic cut in 2010. "I'm getting ready for 'Q School'. It means a lot to me. I'll give it a year and a half, two years. I'm not going to chase it for 10. There came a point where either I was going to do it, or not do it and forget about it."
"Today, you survive and advance," he said. "You just try to put together a good score, don't shoot yourself in the foot. [On Monday] if you start thinking about all those extra factors, you're going to shoot yourself out of the tournament."
A sampling of other qualifiers shows a broad range of backgrounds.
He's still looking for his big break in pro golf, and The Greenbrier Classic caught his eye. He made some Nationwide (now Web.com) Tour events last year.
The academy has helped world-ranked Y.E. Yang on the men's side, and a number of current LPGA stars.
Spencer is about to settle in at Wedgewood Country Club near Columbus, Ohio.
The 52 qualifiers will join an advanced group of professionals Monday, again at the Cobb Course. Current PGA Tour members, not otherwise qualifying for the Classic, are allowed to advance straight to Monday's tournament and battle for one of just four spots.
Also eligible for Monday are Web.com Tour and Champions Tour members, as well as two members from the Tri-State Section of the PGA of America - one being Edgewood Country Club head pro Craig Berner. PGA Tour players from 2009-11 who have since lost their status also are eligible.
That makes the odds even longer, but Thursday's qualifiers aren't worried about it. They seemed to boldly pull out their credit cards for the additional $200 entry fee.
They'll have to be equally bold on Monday, when a 66 might not get it done.
"You're going to have to put your blinders on," Ross said. "It will be a strong field."
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.