BY ROBERT GAUTNEY Contributing local golf columnist Gautney@att.net
Bhavik Patel turned professional after the U.S. Amateur last year and applied for PGA Tour qualifying in hopes of making it to the PGA Tour for 2013. After three qualifying tournaments, including the Final Stage in Palm Springs in December, Patel missed out on that dream by four shots.
Relegated to the Web.com Tour, the 23-year-old BHS graduate has played nearly a full schedule. He chose to not play in two early season events and then did not play in the last four regular season tour events due to a wrist injury, which cost him a chance to secure a PGA Tour card for the 2013-14 season.
The top 25 on the money list secured spots and Patel finished 56th, although he was 38th when he went out with the injury. The four tournament playoffs give the players another chance to earn the 26th through 50th spots that will be awarded PGA Tour playing status for 2013-14. Players that finished in the top 25 on the regular season money list can improve their standing in the playoffs, but Patel and any other hopeful outside of that top 25 must earn enough to be in the top 50 of the "priority list" after this week's Web.Com Tour Championship in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
Entering the final event, which starts today (Thursday), Patel was No.51 on that list with $22,341.66. That's right, just a spot from a PGA Tour card! But Patel was 13 spots and $1,583.34 behind Steve Wheatcroft who was in the No.37 spot.
Confusing? Well, there are 13 players between Wheatcroft and Patel who finished in the top 25 on the regular season money list who have already earned a PGA Tour card. They have all earned less than Patel during the 3 playoff events, but as mentioned they are secure.
So what does this all mean? Basically that Patel's dream of playing on the PGA Tour is in his hands. He plays well enough this week to earn enough money to be in the top 50 on the priority list and he will play a handful of PGA Tour events over the next 12 months. If he doesn't, he would have to come back full-time to the Web.com Tour again next year.
Now, that wouldn't be all that bad, but it's not Patel's dream. He has earned over $110,000 for the year. That's pretty good for a wet-behind-the-ears professional rookie. But bigger fish are in Patel's pond this weekend.
Now, I'm not Jimmy "The Greek", but I think Patel will need at least a top-20 finish to have a chance. Top 15 and he's probably in, and a top-10 and you can pop the cork on the champagne. Of course, that just depends upon how the players that are below and just above Patel play this weekend too.
Someone who hasn't earned a dime during the first three events could finish fifth or better and probably secure a card.
Hey, if you thought the last round of the Final Stage was a mound of nerves, imagine how the guys on the bubble will feel playing the final nine this Sunday? Patel, if he makes the cut, will be one of those guys. I'll be watching. Let's hope he's up to the task!
RiverLakes Amateur Championship
The 13th RiverLakes Amateur Championship will be this weekend at The Links at RiverLakes Ranch and entries will be accepted through today at 5 p.m. Entry is $100 and includes two rounds of golf and awards. Depending upon entries, there will be a championship flight and net flights.
Last year, Nick Mears shot rounds of 73-71 to win the tournament at even-par 144, a two shot win over Ron Killmer who won in 2003 and 2009.
The tournament is part of the Michelob Ultra/Sports Authority Player of the Year series and points will be awarded to the top 10 in championship flight play.
Currently, Manav Shah leads the points race with 46, followed by Ron Killmer with 42 and Blake McPherson with 36. Only the Kern County Amateur at the end of October remains on the schedule.
The tournament record is 7-under-par 137 by Bhavik Patel in 2008. Patel shot rounds of 67 and 70. The 67 is a first round scoring record and Patel also owns the second round record of 69 with Killmer. Killmer shot 69 in 2003 and Patel shot 69 in 2006.
You can find out more about the tournament by calling the RiverLakes pro shop 661-587-5465. Late entries may be accepted.
-- The PGA Tour finished its 2013 season last week with a win by Henrik Stenson which gave him the overall Tour title and $10.2 million clams! Steve Stricker was second in the tournament and Tiger Woods finished second for the year. It will be interesting to see who is crowned Player of the Year on Friday?
-- Updated information (stats, etc.) on local players that are now competing in professional and college golf is always encouraged by Tee to Green as are golf related stories and information you believe that the readers would want to know about. Send the info to the email address listed below and don't forget about those holes-in-one! And thanks in advance!