WINTER GARDEN, Fla. -- After a 10-year absence and two surgeries to remove a brain tumor the size of a golf ball,
Todd Demsey finally made it back to the PGA Tour on Monday with perhaps
the most significant round of his career.
Demsey, a former NCAA champion and amateur teammate of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, closed with an 8-under 64 in the sixth
and final round of Q-school to earn one of 26 full-exempt cards
next year in the big leagues.
Frank Lickliter II, who opened with consecutive 62s, completed a
wire-to-wire week at Orange County National and finished as the
medalist at 29-under 403. He won by four shots over Brett Rumford
But the day belonged to Demsey, 35, who played bogey-free on the
Crooked Cat course and was carried along by an amazing calm.
"I was just playing without any fear today," Demsey said. "It
feels good to be calm under the most stressful situations. I really
was fine with whatever happened. I came here to get my card, but
it's not life or death. I have things in perspective."
Demsey's only other year on the PGA Tour was in 1997, when he
made the cut in only nine of 27 events as a rookie. Back injuries
slowed his career on the Nationwide Tour, but the real jolt came in
2002 when he felt constant pressure in his left sinus. At the end
of the year, doctors found a tumor behind his left sinus going into
It took two operations to remove the tumor, but Demsey got
another scare earlier this year when he discovered the tumor has
returned. Doctors believe it is benign, and he will have an MRI
next week to decide whether to treat it with radiation.
"They don't think it's going to be too much recovery time,
probably just a week or so," Demsey said. "Hopefully, I can get
it done in the next week or two."
He doesn't have a lot of time, and for that he was thrilled.
Demsey was at 19-under 413 and finished eighth at Q-school,
which means he likely will start his year at the Sony Open in
Honolulu, just five weeks away.
Full-exempt cards were awarded to the top 25 and ties, and
Demsey was in a tie for 31st starting the final round. He birdied
his first hole and kept right on going, and when his 30-foot birdie
putt on the 14th found the bottom of the cup, he knew he was close.
Then came his seventh birdie of the day, on the 16th, and Demsey
knew he was a lock.
The cutoff for cards came at 14-under 418.
Unlike previous years, there weren't too many horror stories,
although Greg Chalmers and Miguel Angel Carballo each bogeyed the
18th hole and missed a card by one shot. John Merrick and
Bob Sowards each birdied the final hole to earn their cards.
Chalmers and Carballo were among 53 players who earned cards on
the Nationwide Tour.
Among those who left Q-school with no status was
Colt Knost, the
U.S. Amateur and U.S. Public Links Amateur champion. He turned down
his automatic invitation to the Masters by turning pro, but was two
shots shy of earning Nationwide status.
Casey Wittenberg, low amateur in the 2004 Masters, also missed
Nationwide status by one shot.
Also failing to earn cards were former Ryder Cup players Chris Riley and Steve Pate, and Ted Purdy, who was 125th on PGA Tour
money list going into the final event of the year and missed the
cut at Disney.
Not many felt quite as satisfied as Demsey, especially
considering his long road back.
Demsey won the NCAA title at Arizona State in 1993, the year
after Mickelson graduated. He was teammates with Woods at the World
Amateur Team Championship in 1994, and played alongside
Justin Leonard in the Walker Cup a year earlier.
He will join them again on the PGA Tour, and he said he won't
take a tour card for granted.
"When I got my card the first time when I was 24, I just
thought it was easy," Demsey said. "I was pretty naive. Now I
appreciate it more, and hopefully, I'll be better prepared."