Earning a PGA Tour card through the Qualifying School process involves four separate stages during which 18 competitive rounds of golf are played in a nearly four-month span.
While it's still early in the process, Evans resident Adam McKenney made a statement in the opening stage, even if he didn't intend to.
Because roughly half of the field at pre-qualifying events advances to the first qualifying stage, McKenney said he came out the first day with a conservative approach. The results turned out to be far from conservative.
McKenney earned medalist honors at Lake Jovita Golf and Country Club (South Course) in Dade City, Fla., finishing 18-under par after four rounds.
"I was just basically trying to make pars, hit greens and two-putts, and take advantage of the few opportunities I had," he said. "(On the first day), I was just really wanting to go out and shoot something around par."
Instead, McKenney shot 7-under-par 65 on the par-72 layout. He shot rounds of 65-71-68-66.
Because of some struggles this year, a string of early birdies made him alter his mindset slightly, he said.
"When I ran off and made all those birdies ... I thought I would try to get some confidence going into the next stage," he said.
With a top finish at pre-qualifying, McKenney has a better chance to get his first choice among sites for the first qualifying stage. He said he would like to play at Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Ga., because it's close to home and would help him save on travel costs.
McKenney, an Evans High School alumnus who played in college at Georgia Southwestern State University in Americus, Ga., has been competing on the NGA/Hooters Tour this season. That tour -- along with the eGolf Professional Tour -- is one level below the Nationwide Tour, which is the final step below the PGA Tour.
This is his first year going through PGA Tour qualifying.
McKenney's pre-qualifying experience was quite different from that of fellow Evans resident Jordan Johnstun, who had to sweat it out in order to qualify.
Also competing in Dade City, Johnstun finished at 2-over to tie for 36th place. The top 41 in the field advanced to the first qualifying stage.
"My goal was to go into the last round not having anything to worry about, but I kind of put myself behind the 8-ball after the first two rounds," said Johnstun, who shot rounds of 74-73-70-73.
He figured his final round of 73 would give him some breathing room. However, as he browsed scores about an hour after his round, he realized the margin was closer than that.
Johnstun, who also is going through qualifying for the first time, made it by three strokes.
Johnstun competes on the eGolf Tour and occasionally plays Peach State Professional Golf Tour events. He attended high school in LaGrange, Ga., and his parents moved to Evans while he was attending Georgia Southern University in Statesboro.
The recent college graduate said the grind of the qualifying process isn't so much physical as it is mental.
"The mental challenge is the toughest part," Johnstun said.
Meanwhile, at Yankee Hill Country Club in Lincoln, Neb., Evans resident Brett Munson qualified comfortably for the first qualifying stage.
He finished in a tie for seventh at 5-under after rounds of 70-66-68-71 on the par-70 course.
Munson is a client with The Players Management Agency, which launched June 1 out of Jones Creek Golf Club in Evans.
"Pre-qualifying is basically just a process you've got to get through," said Munson, who is competing in qualifying for the first time. "You've just got to play solid through that, and it's no big deal.
"The first stage, they usually take about 22 to 23 guys. It gets more difficult and more difficult as you work through the stages."
Munson, who graduated from the University of North Alabama in May, has been playing on the e-Golf Tour. Already under his belt is a runner-up finish in which he lost in a playoff. That got him an exemption for a Nationwide Tour event.
"You get treated like a king," the Louisville, Ky., native said of life on the Nationwide Tour.
Fellow TPMA client Chris Gold, who resides in Haddonfield, N.J., but trains locally at Jones Creek, qualified for the first qualifying stage in Dade City. He finished in a tie for 11th at 5-under.
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