Tricky course: when altar comes before Q-school
(Eds: Adds photo links. With AP Photos.)
By DOUG FERGUSON
AP Golf Writer
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- Drew Weaver remembers the day he realized this year would test him like no other.
It was April 1 -- no joke.
Turn the calendar back one year. Weaver, the former British Amateur champion and Walker Cup player, got engaged to longtime girlfriend Elizabeth Bills last November. They set out to plan their wedding, figuring the best time would be that window between Q-school finals and the start of a new season.
They selected Saturday, Dec. 14, in High Point, N.C.
"We looked at the Q-school calendar for the last 15 to 20 years ... and it had never gone that deep into December," Weaver said. "It always made Thanksgiving tough because all my friends who made finals, all the guys at Sea Island, they would stay here to practice and not go home for Thanksgiving because they always left right after for California or Orlando. We thought that would be a safe date at least by five or seven days."
It wasn't until April Fools' Day that he saw the Q-school schedule. The final stage is Dec. 12-17 at PGA West in California, right in the middle of his wedding.
Weaver knows from experience that life can take some unexpected turns.
While at Virginia Tech, when he wasn't getting invited to some of the top amateur events, Weaver went over to England in 2007 with his father to play in the British Amateur at Royal Lytham & St. Annes and became the first American champion since 1979. That led to spots in the British Open and the Masters.
Weaver always knew there would be changes this year. He just didn't realize they would affect him. The PGA Tour made the transition to a wraparound season that began in October, and Q-school now only offers a card on the Web.com Tour, which has been labeled the primary pathway to the big leagues.
Suddenly, the 26-year-old Weaver was faced with the mother of all detours.
"I knew with a wraparound season it would be different," he said. "Nobody had any idea it would change tour school by 10 days."
What to do?
The wedding date had been set, invitations ordered and the church reserved, no easy task around the Christmas holiday. They made down payments on all things related to matrimony. They had planned everything so meticulously, except for the tour pushing back the last stage of Q-school.
"We were five months into the process," Weaver said. "There weren't many options at that point."
Hunter Mahan gave up a chance to win the Canadian Open in July when he left as the 36-hole leader to be with his wife for the birth of their first child. Weaver's situation is slightly different. He might be turning down the ultimate job interview to exchange wedding vows.
And yes, the wedding is on.
"It's a decision we made together," Weaver said. "It made itself. We're getting married. It's just a crazy scheduling issue."
Tyler Dennis, the vice president of competition for the PGA Tour, said Q-school was pushed back one week to accommodate the new PGA Tour LatinoAmerica. That season doesn't end until Dec. 8 at the Argentina Open, and the tour wanted to accommodate several players on the LatinoAmerica tour who wanted to take part in Q-school.
This could be a moot point. Weaver first has to qualify for the final stage, something he has never done.
He tied for fourth in the first stage a few weeks ago in North Carolina, easily advancing. He plays the second stage next week near Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
But it's already been a taxing year, ever since he realized his wedding would be right in the middle of Q-school finals.
The rest of the season carried a sense of urgency for Weaver, who was desperate to get some status without having to worry about missing Q-school because of his wedding. He went to Monday qualifying 13 times on the Web.com Tour and never got through. Golf requires patience, which Weaver couldn't afford.
He spent the rest of his time primarily on the North Carolina-based eGolf Tour to keep sharp.
"From early April, it was a frenzy," he said. "I felt like I needed to Monday qualify, then try to finish in the top 25 and get to the next one and try to get some status to avoid the obvious. It was crazy expensive, and then you tack on the travel expenses. But it was something I felt like I had to do."
His sports psychologist encouraged him to put the scheduling mess behind him -- except that it's all ahead of him. Rarely a tournament passed when small talk with his playing partner led to his impending wedding and the inevitable question -- "When is the wedding?" -- that forced Weaver to explain his predicament.
"To be honest, it's been a challenge to wrap my head around the whole situation," he said. "Getting married is the most important thing I've done in my life to this point. And I firmly believe I can be successful on tour."
The second stage is more critical than ever to Weaver. He might be the first guy who advances to the finals of Q-school knowing that he won't be playing.
"Getting married is a great thing, an exciting time, and I've made my peace with it," he said. "If I can get through second stage, I'm just going to turn my phone off. It's nice to know that this is my last tournament of the year. But it's a strange feeling."
Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press
This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index