One round down, five to go.
Gig Harbor’s Kyle Stanley, out of Bellarmine Prep, finished just short of getting his PGA Tour card as a top-25 finisher on the Nationwide Tour.
This is the alternate route for Stanley – and he’s off to a great start with a 7-under-par 65 in the first round of the final stage of PGA Tour Qualifying School in Florida.
Olympia’s Andres Gonzales fired a 2-under 70, and Tacoma’s Michael Putnam – already a PGA Tour member for 2011 – shot a 72 in his opener.
Here is a story on the Q-School-leading Stanley from PGATour.com:
Downtown Disney must have done the trick for Kyle Stanley.
The 23-year-old is playing in the final stage of q-school this week for the first time in his career. And it didn’t take Stanley long to learn that the key to success is to try and keep his mind off the task at hand.
So after Tuesday’s trip to the mega-watt shopping and entertainment district of Walt Disney World, Stanley went out and fired a 65 to seize a two-stroke lead after the first round of the PGA TOUR National Qualifying Tournament.
“You hear all kinds of horror stories (about q-school),” Stanley said. “But you’ve got to keep yourself busy. At the end of the day it’s just golf.”
The big-hitting Stanley played the par-72 Crooked Cat course, the longer of the two at Orange County National, and made nine birdies on a blustery Wednesday. Four of those came in rapid succession as he made the turn, including one birdie putt from 45 feet at the 11th hole.
Among the players tied for second at 5 under is his former Clemson teammate, Ben Martin, who played Panther Lakes, which is a par 71. Also at 5 under are Scott Weatherly and Joseph Bramlett, both of whom played Crooked Cat.
Stanley maintained his poise well on a day when the winds gusted to 20 mph and whipped across the two wide open courses just north of Orlando with a vengeance. A day after temperatures reached 85, the high Wednesday was 63.
“It played fairly tough,” Stanley said. “I had a good gameplan for this course. I hit a lot of good shots and I was able to make some putts. … I did everything pretty well today. For the most part gave myself a chance to make par or better on every hole. So I played pretty solid.”
Stanley set the tone for the day with birdies on three of his first four holes. The two-time Clemson All-America knows five rounds remain but he has certainly put himself in good position to earn one of the 25 available PGA TOUR cards.
Stanley turned pro in 2009 after he finished 53rd at the U.S. Open at Bethpage Black. He went on to finish 20th in non-member earnings on the PGA TOUR — thanks in large part to a tie for 19th at the Travelers Championship — and earned Nationwide Tour playing privileges for 2010.
Big things were expected from Stanley, who was a two-time NCAA runner-up who finished second only to D.J. Trahan in career scoring at Clemson. And he didn’t disappoint this year — Stanley posted six top-10s, led the Nationwide Tour in driving distance at 317.7 yards and finished 35th on the money list.
Only the top 25 in earnings got their PGA TOUR cards for 2011, though. So Stanley, whose best finish was a tie for fourth at the Melwood Prince George’s County Open, finds himself at q-school for the first time.
“I played OK,” Stanley said, sizing up his season. “I didn’t play great. So going into Charleston (for the Nationwide Tour Championship at Daniel Island) I had a chance which was nice. But hopefully I can get the job done here.”
Four of Stanley’s six top-10 finishes came in his first 10 starts. He finished 11th or better in three of his last six events, though, so Wednesday’s strong performance hardly came as a surprise.
While Stanley was disappointed not to have taken care of business at the Nationwide Tour Championship — where he opened with rounds of 78-77 — the former Clemson standout felt he learned a lot. Those lessons came both on and off the golf course.
“College you play maybe 14 events in a year,” Stanley explained. “This year I played right around 30 plus six in a row. I never really used to like weeks off — now I look forward to them. It’s just a different game.
“In college golf you make bogey you might drop five spots on the leaderboard. On the Nationwide Tour and PGA TOUR you make two that might be difference between 10th place and missing the cut or 50th. It’s all about saving shots.”
Of course, Stanley certainly didn’t have to worry too much about that on Wednesday.