There are two barometers that play a significant role in the final round of any Qualifying School.
One comes from within. The other comes from the weather forecast.
Both conspired against Josh Udelhofen during Friday’s final round of PGA Tour Latinoamerica Qualifying School at Howey-In-The-Hills, Florida. Playing in steady 15-20 mph winds that gusted to 25 mph during his round, the Platteville native struggled off the tee throughout and paid a price during a bumpy seven-hole stretch in the middle of his round that he played in 9-over-par en route to a 7-over 79 that cost him at least conditional status on the developmental circuit by two shots.
Udelhofen finished the 72-hole event on El Campeon Course at Mission Inn Resort & Club at 6-over 294 -- 17 shots behind MJ Maguire, who fired a closing 69 to finish at 11-under 277 and win by three strokes over fellow Americans Harry Higgs (70) and John Chaney (72). The top 35 plus ties at each of five qualifying venues over the next five weeks will gain status south of the border with the winner at each site exempt for the entire season, the next 10 for the first half of the year and the remaining 24 plus ties being exempt conditionally, meaning that they will be added to tournament fields as opportunities based on size and quality of the field allow.
“It is really disappointing, looking back and seeing how close I was,” Udelhofen wrote via text message to Wisconsin.Golf. “It was right there and I didn’t show up when I needed.”
After playing solid and opening 70-72-73 the first three rounds, the former Clarke University golfer saw the forecast felt he could handle the breezy conditions when he saw the forecast. Having his driver cause him problems, however, was a curveball that ultimately cost him.
“Windy conditions are something I would say I’m used to, being from Wisconsin,” Udelhofen said, crediting caddie and former college teammate Andrew Castle of Cloquet, Minnesota, for helping him deal with the nerves of Qualifying School. “I felt comfortable in it and was hitting the ball well all week. (I was) just struggling off the tee (Friday) and it caught up to me on 16, 17, 1 and 3. I hit balls out of play on those holes and it cost me three double(-bogeys) and a bogey.”
Udelhofen started on the back nine and birdied No. 13 to move into the top 15 five holes into his round. However, a bogey at the par-3 15th hole triggered a bogey-double-bogey-bogey finish to the front nine that left him 4-over for the day and 3-over for the week entering the back nine.
Errant drives at Nos. 1 and 3 led to two more double-bogeys and dropped Udelhofen to 8-over for the day. But he rallied with birdies at Nos. 4 and 7 around a bogey at No. 6 to finish strong on a day when the average score -- 75.376 -- was almost two shots higher than it had been the first 54 holes.
“The first three days, I played solid; kept it in play, just couldn’t get a rhythm,” said Udelhofen, who finished the week with 14 pars, 14 bogeys and the three double-bogeys he made Friday. “Definitely a lot of positives to take away. Definitely a good (amount of) pressure was felt.”
Udelhofen, who finished 12th at the 2017 Wisconsin State Open, will now turn his attention to MacKenzie Tour/PGA Tour-Canada Qualifying School. Like the Latinoamerica Tour Q-School, the qualifying process for the developmental tour north of the border also features five qualifying options in California, Florida, Arizona and British Columbia in March, April and early May.
“(It) would make for an amazing summer to play on the MacKenzie tour,” Udelhofen said.