Best of the Best—PGA Tour Q-School of 1971 (Part 2)

(Editor’s note: This is the second in a series. Read Part 1.)

By John Coyne


Copyright © John Coyne. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

THE PGA TOUR Q-SCHOOL IN THE FALL of 1971 was six rounds of stroke play, but it was also two days of afternoon classes. Joe Dey, commissioner of the Tournament Players Division, gave the young pros (and as soon as a player enters the qualifying school he is considered a professional) classroom instruction by tournament players and the tour staff on players’ ethics and conduct, relations with the public, tournament sponsors and the news media, plus a written examination on the PGA Constitution, Tournament Players Division Regularities and the rules of golf.

Tour pros then talked to the students about life on the circuit and the game of golf.

Best of the Best—PGA Tour Q-School of 1971 (Part 2) 1
Gardner Dickinson

Gardner Dickinson, a journeyman on the tour who had won over $450,000 in his career playing steady, unemotional golf, told them, “Sensationalism doesn’t get you anywhere. Good golf,” he said, “comes from hours on the practice tee. Learn to score from around the green.”

Bert Yancey, another tour winner, gave the young hopefuls a few basic principles for the circuit:

• Stay with one teacher

• Get a golf tempo

• Learn to putt all kinds of putts

• Practice difficult shots

He also told the kids to get plenty of rest every night, keep themselves in good physical condition, do exercise and eat the right food.

Throughout the lectures the young professionals were quiet and attentive, dressed neatly in slacks and sports jackets (required). Some jotted down notes, but all of them, I’m sure, were thinking ahead to the six rounds of golf that was where the real tests would be held.

The number of players who would pass onto the tour itself would be the top twenty-three, plus ties. That number was determined by Dey, and was based on the total number of golfers at the school and Dey’s estimation of how many new golfers the tour could support.

The tournament began on Monday in the rain, the first day of rain in months for Florida. It was a rain the pros were not disappointed to see, as it would help to slow the hard, fast greens of the championship East Course at PGA National.

In the long week of golf there was drama and excitement as many of the also rans, local pros such as Spike Kelley from Shawnee, Oklahoma, an assistant at a nine-hole course, tried to make the cut. Many private dreams of glory faded in the sun. It was all over for the majority until the next school in the next year, and another 108 holes of golf.

The first to fall was baseball’s great Ken Harrelson, the Hawk.

(To be continued.)

John Coyne is a bestselling author whose latest book is The Caddie Who Won the Masters. Learn more at John Coyne Books.

Photo of author
Neil Sagebiel

1 thought on “Best of the Best—PGA Tour Q-School of 1971 (Part 2)”

  1. How times have changed. Its televised now and this is pretty cool. The drama at tour school is some of the best in golf. Do or die for these guys. One of the best tests in golf. The new changes they are talking about are really big time changes to the structure of the Q school and the Nationwide.


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.