BY: Brynn Walker
Almost a year ago I submitted my final final at UNC Chapel Hill and almost twenty-one years of schooling had officially come to an end. However, about a year later, I returned to school with another final exam. An exam that is more daunting, difficult, and important to me than anything else I’ve tied my name to as I climb the ranks of apprenticeship.
I graduated from elementary, middle, high school and college. I made it with good grades in everyone and never doubted I would make it to the next level. That’s until I get to school this year.
It is a different type of school. One that uses pencils to write your score on the scorecard. The score can determine the fate of your next year. It is a small school with only 179 students. Our backpacks look a little different and weigh more than the ones I used to put in my school locker. They’re more comprehensive and filled with our study tools that most school principals would refer to as weapons. Well I think we do too. We carry our books in our back pockets. Despite completing primary school, they are picture books. Picture books that we scribble on and take notes that we rely on to pass the test. Our test is an open note, an open book, and open to the elements of Mother Nature. Our test is long, in terms of distance and hours. Our test is both mentally and physically demanding. Our test is a course, no, not the one with modules one to twenty. Our test usually takes place in a nice place, not the normal concrete walls and uncomfortable desks. Don’t let this fool you, our test is still inconvenient. Our test is the game of golf. Our test results are the sum of our results on each of the eighteen holes. In contrast to most tests, the lower the better. The lowest will graduate. Graduated from the Q school.
Q School is short for LPGA Qualifying School. I would like to give you a brief explanation for strangers. Q School is one of the few ways professional golfers can earn their way to the LPGA tour, the pinnacle of professional golf.
Q School has three levels and is quite simply survival of the fittest. Here’s a quick breakdown of how it works.
Field size: about 680 players.
Any player who thinks she has the skills to pass the exam.
Top 85 and ties reach level 2
Field size: about 180 players.
Top 85 from level 1
Players ranked 36-120 on the Symetra Tour Money List
Players outside the top 150 on the LPGA Money List
Top 5 college players
Top 45 move up to the Q series
Field size: approx. 110 players
Top 45 from level 2
Players placed between 11 and 35 on the Symetra Tour Money List
Players placed between 101 and 150 on the LPGA money list
The top 45 players and ties graduate and earn LPGA status
Of the 1000 best players in the world, 45 have graduated. Most schools would not accept this graduation rate.
I arrived at Plantation Golf and Country Club on October 17th to begin my Q School Level 2 preparations. I earned entry because after ten tournaments on the Symetra Tour, Quiz, as we can call it, I was 93rd on the money list.
The official test would begin on October 21st. But as with any test, you need to take notes, study and practice beforehand. Some players will whistle ball after ball on the driving range as fast as high school students go through flashcards five minutes before a test. Others will trust their skills and take time to rest, knowing that the study has been conducted all year round. I’m probably somewhere in the middle.
Regardless of the preparation method, each player puts a tea in the ground on the 21st and begins this final test. And we won’t know how the class ranks will end up until the final putt falls on the afternoon of the 24th.
And when that putt fell, I was out of the top 45. Some would say I failed based on the numbers I did. I could hang my head and reduce the whole year to a missed opportunity. I’ve never failed a high school diploma. That’s probably why I always advanced to the next grade. However, I can’t remember my teachers ever coming across the grade I got at the end of the year. What I remember is my teachers pointing out how I had grown between the beginning and the end. This is something that cannot be assigned a numerical value. But maybe that has the greatest value of all.
In Q School I realized that the point is not to pass the test. It’s about growing as a student so much that you eventually become the master. If we concentrate on growth, the results will take care of themselves. Because no master can be found in school anymore.