Golf notes

Fawcett dripping with electricity at Q School

By Jim McCabe
Globe Staff / December 4, 2008
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Before you dismiss his chances and consider Scott Fawcett the longest of long shots at this week's final stage of PGA Tour qualifying, remember the first step he took before building a company that currently manages $100 million worth of electrical contracts in the Dallas area.

"I Googled the word 'electricity' and learned everything about the subject," he said.

Go ahead, laugh, but Fawcett proved to be a quick study. "I knew more about providing electricity than the competition," he said. "I worked 80-hour weeks and built up a lot of clients by providing a cheaper service."

That was in 2001, and if you're wondering what prompted Fawcett to think he could become an electricity broker, well, there were two things. One, he read a newspaper article about how Texas was going to deregulate electricity and the forecast that such a move would open up employment opportunities. And two, he was in search of a job and didn't exactly have a polished résumé.

"I mean, what was I going to say to someone, 'I've been out of college five years playing golf, give me a good job?' "

Fawcett laughs, and why not? His story is perhaps the most improbable one of the 163 that formed the field for the annual six-day, 108-hole Q School finale in La Quinta, Calif. The only amateur in the field, Fawcett is leading a good life these days - six weeks into a marriage to a wonderful woman, still in charge of a prosperous company, and now in position to land a spot on the PGA Tour in 2009.

"My friends and business partners back home think it's hilarious," said Fawcett. "But I'm just trying to take it one step at a time. After taking seven years off, I really think I can do this."

He had hit the lonely and unprofitable minitour circuits right after his collegiate days at Texas A&M, but after five seasons on the Hooters and Golden Bear tours, Fawcett headed back to the Dallas area to rest an injured shoulder and ponder his future. That's when a light went on - so to speak - and electricity entered the picture. Enticed by the possibilities, Fawcett chose to tackle life.

There had been some highlights to his brief pro career - a win in the Lady Luck Classic in Mississippi on the Hooters Tour and rounds of 79-79 to miss the cut in the 1999 US Open at Pinehurst (N.C.) being the most notable ones - but with even greater success, Fawcett developed a thriving business. No longer the one-man electricity-selling show he had been in 2002, Fawcett within a few years had partners and associates, and that afforded him the chance to get more serious about his game. By 2008, he was a reinstated amateur thirsting for a more competitive schedule. There were appearances in the Texas Amateur, the Texas Mid-Amateur, and the US Mid-Amateur, where in his opening round at Milwaukee Country Club Fawcett stood over a 12-foot putt for a front-nine 29.

"I didn't even know it was for 29. There were no worries. I knocked it in," said Fawcett, who rode that opening 66 to a fifth-place finish in medal play. Though he lost in the first round of match play, he told himself he was playing well and excited about the game for the first time in years. Why not give Q School a try, he thought.

One of the many changes since his last Q School appearance, in 2001, is the addition of the dreaded "pre-qualifier," but Fawcett had no choice. He and 237 others without much status had to pass that test, so in essence the Q School process for him is four stages, not three. No problem, he's 3 for 3 thus far, getting through the pre-qualifier in Houston, the first stage in McKinney, Texas, and the second stage in Tampa.

"It's a grind, no doubt," said Fawcett. "But I am in a different position than a lot of these guys. They're playing for their lives and they've been at it for a long time now. They're exhausted and maybe they're at wit's end. I'm 35, but I feel like I'm fresh out of college. I'm a youthful and excited 35."

Fawcett is accompanied by Rebecca on what amounts to an extended honeymoon. "She still doesn't understand it, not really," said Fawcett, "and that's great. We talk about a lot of things, but not golf, and that's helped my focus, I think."

The talk was golf the other day, however, during a practice round with Todd Demsey, who was eighth at last year's Q School finale but is back again, having finished 197th on the money list in 2008. "He's so docile, so calm," said Fawcett. "Then he asked me, 'Where did you play last year?' "

Fawcett couldn't hide his smile. "I told him about the state amateur and the mid-amateurs and then told him that I lost in my club championship a few weeks ago, but that was fun. He just stared at me, then I told him I was an electricity salesman."

Demsey, himself an inspiration given his courage and strength to fight through brain tumors, thought it was a great story.

Which it is, spoiled not in the least by Fawcett's opening 72 yesterday that left him tied for 104th. There's a long way to go, which appears to be the way he prefers it.

So far, so good

Michelle Wie's first experience at the final stage of LPGA Tour qualifying got off to a solid start in Daytona Beach, Fla., as the onetime child prodigy birdied her final hole to shoot 3-under-par 69 and settle into a tie for sixth. After Sunday's fifth and final round, the top 20 players will receive full-exempt status, so Wie, 19, has to be pleased with her start, though we don't know for sure. That's because she is not talking to the media until after the tournament. Thus it was left to her instructor, David Leadbetter, to speak for her. "If there's anything such as a stress-free round, this is it," said the famed swing coach after Wie made just one bogey on the Legends Course, the tougher of the two being used at LPGA Tour headquarters . . . Paired with Wie, Alison Walshe of Westford opened with a double bogey and never got untracked. She shot 79 and has a long road ahead of her. Anna Grzebien of Narragansett, R.I., and amateur Jaclyn Sweeney (both 71, T-18) of Andover had much better starts, while veteran Carri Wood of South Dennis opened with a 74 and Briana Vega of Andover shot 81 . . . Out in La Quinta, James Driscoll of Brookline began with a 4-under 68 to get into a share of 19th as he attempts to retain full-exempt status on the PGA Tour. Geoff Sisk of Marshfield shot 69 and is in a tie for 36th along with two Rhode Islanders, Patrick Sheehan and Rod Butcher, while Michael Sims (76), the onetime University of Rhode Island standout, and Kevin Johnson (77) of Pembroke stumbled out of the gates. The top 25 and ties after Monday's sixth round will earn cards for 2009.

Not so fast

For head-scratching, end-of-year stories, nothing quite compares to the one involving Shane Bertsch. A 38-year-old journeyman, Bertsch in 2007 played in just four tournaments because of a bout with vertigo, so last season he was entitled to a major medical extension. No problems there, it happens frequently, and Bertsch knew he had 25 tournaments in which to make at least $785,180. When he got to $841,248, Bertsch figured he was all set for 2009, but soon discovered there had been a serious misunderstanding. Bertsch thought the $785,180 was to get him exempt for 2009, but he was told it only made him fully exempt for 2008. To cover himself for 2009, he had to finish within the top 125. Thinking he had been safe, Bertsch skipped the penultimate tournament of the season, then missed the cut at the finale, falling from 124th to 126th on the money list. Bertsch pointed the finger at a PGA Tour official he said offered incorrect information, but the truth is he has no one to blame but himself. It's up to every player to know his sport's rules and regulations. His story has garnered a lot of sympathy and was further compounded by two situations - first, he didn't bother to enter Q School, thinking he was exempt for 2009; second, he fell down the stairs in his Colorado home a few weeks ago and broke his right foot - but there is a layer of reality that puts the Bertsch dilemma into perspective. That is, playing opportunities for No. 126 are plentiful the following season. In fact, in five of the previous six years, No. 126 on the money list played in an average of 24.8 tournaments the following season and four times that enabled the player to get back within the top 125.

Hardy souls

Seventy-six players teed it up Sunday in the annual Fordie's Shootout at Hyannis Golf Club. All 19 foursomes took on the challenge in weather that featured temperatures in the 30s, some wind, rain, and sleet. Using a format in which all birdies and eagles count, a team led by 2007 Cape Cod Open champion Jeff Dantas of the Elite Golf Center in Seekonk rolled to victory at 38 under. Jerry Lake of Ridgewood CC in Moultonborough, N.H., Adam Read of Ledgemont CC in Seekonk, and Steve Tavernier of the Elite Golf Center rounded out the winning team . . . Joe Keller of Oyster Harbors closed with a 71 -303 to finish 19th in the Dale Morey Senior at Twin Eagles CC in Naples, Fla. . . . At the Polo Golf Junior Classic in Reunion, Fla., Richard Werenski of South Hadley and Brittany Altomare of Shrewsbury each shot 73-77 -150 and missed qualifying for the match-play portion of the competition . . . The New England Golf Course Owners Association named The Oaks Golf Links in Somersworth, N.H., its course of the year.

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