The term rollercoaster of emotions is not new to golf, whether it includes missing short putts or holing out from fairways. But for Preston Stanley, the term took on a whole new meaning at a Monday qualifier into a Korn Ferry Tour tournament.
The short version?
“It was wild; I might be the first person to lose in a playoff and still get into the event,” laughed Stanley.
Stanley signed for an 8-under 64 at the Links on the Bayou course, one of two Monday qualifier sites for entry into the Chitimacha Louisiana Open presented by MISTRAS. The 64 was enough to reach a playoff for one of the four available spots, but Stanley was forced to advance through a three-for-two playoff scenario to gain entry. Stephen Franken (61) and Hayden Wood (63) were in position to earn two of the four spots, while Stanley, Alex Scott and Andrew Dorn each posted a 64.
With two spots on the line, the trio advanced to the first playoff hole.
“We all went to No. 4, our first playoff hole,” said Stanley. “I missed with my approach a little short left, but I pitched it up there to two and a half feet. One of the other guys made bogey [Scott] and the other guy makes par [Dorn]. But there’s a clump of poa annua [grass] between my ball and the hole. Anyways, I missed left.”
After missing the short par putt on the first hole, Stanley was eliminated after Dorn made a four-footer on the second hole. Or so he thought.
As Stanley was walking past the clubhouse towards his car, the on-site rules official caught up to him and put him on the phone with Tom Hearn, a senior tournament referee on the Korn Ferry Tour and the advance rules official for this week’s Chitimacha Louisiana Open presented by MISTRAS.
“So the rules official puts Tom Hearn on the phone and he goes, ‘Hey Preston, you’re in the tournament,’” laughed Stanley. “It was crazy stuff. Apparently since The Honda Classic field went final at 6:13 p.m. CDT [central daylight time], and the last group at our event finished at 6:18 p.m. CDT, the guy who shot 61 at our qualifier was the first alternate. So the 61 comes off the board and all three of us got in.”
Stephen Franken, who had carded a 61 earlier in the day, was technically removed from the Monday qualifier at the instant the last scorecard was verified at the Honda Classic qualifier. Two players in the Korn Ferry Tour’s field (Marcelo Rozo and Erik Compton) were successful qualifiers for The Honda Classic which opened up spots for first alternate Kyle Reifers as well as Franken. Because it occurred five minutes before the last scorecard was verified at the qualifier for the Chitimacha Louisiana Open, Franken was removed from contention for one of the four spots.
“It was a very unique situation that literally came down to the wire,” said Hearn. “The reason the playoff was allowed to happen was that it took a while to communicate with the two different PGA Sections to 100 percent verify the precise timing of the end of the two qualifiers. In fact, we even had them send us a screen shot of their scoring systems that had a time stamp of when all the scorecards were verified. In some ways, it was a lot like the delay you have at a horse race when you have a photo finish. In the end, we just wanted to make sure we got it right.”
As a result, all three players who reached the playoff gained entry into the field.
“It was a whirlwind of emotion and it felt like an eternity,” reflected Stanley. “I’m thinking, okay, I just had a great chance to get into my first Korn Ferry Tour event. I mean I’ve been close before but was thinking I had just missed again. My first thought was that I just have to keep grinding. And then when I got the good news, it was just unbelievable.”
Stanley will be making his Korn Ferry Tour debut and just his third career start in a PGA TOUR-sanctioned event. He competed in two Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada events in 2016.
While Stanley was going through the ups and downs of being on the edge of entry, Franken viewed his round of 61 as an impressive start to his week.
“I had about a 25-footer on the last hole for the 61, and I was thinking I’ve shot 62 a few times in competition, but never 61,” said Franken. “But I make it, and then later, I get a call from Kathy Mobley in competitions that I got into the tournament as an alternate. So yeah, I was joking that I’m double in the tournament and that they should let me play in two different tee times.”