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In  golf, the phrase “rabbit” is used to describe a player who chases the tour seeking to Monday qualify.  The process can be grueling and the odds are always stacked against the aspiring qualifier.  Perhaps it’s the underdog, trial-by-fire nature of the occasion that makes the observer admire anyone who can advance.  Sean Martin recently documented the feel good story of Patrick Reed, the Augusta State product who found the backdoor into three consecutive PGA tour events.

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Reed was a first-team All-American last year at two-time national champion Augusta State but is without status on any major tour. After finishing 35th at the Texas Open, he made the nine-hour drive with his fiancee, Justine Karain, to New Orleans. They arrived at 2:45 a.m., sleeping four hours before the Zurich Classic’s Monday qualifier. An 8-iron to 2 feet on the second playoff hole earned him a second consecutive start. He birdied five of his final eight holes at TPC Louisiana to tie for 24th.

The pair took a circuitous route to this week’s Tour stop in Charlotte. Their first flight went from New Orleans to Chicago’s Midway International Airport. The next one landed in Greenville, S.C., some 90 minutes from Charlotte. They arrived at the hotel around 1:15 a.m. Monday, with another Monday qualifying round awaiting. He shot 65 to advance to the Wells Fargo Championship.

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I guess there’s something of a throwback feel that survives in Monday qualifiers.  It wasn’t that long ago that many touring pros were traveling by car, sharing hotel rooms, and accepting meals wherever they could.  For pros trying to Monday qualify, nothing is guaranteed and that very fact makes them more real and more personable.  I know I was rooting for Reed this week at Quail Hollow (he finished T32).

Aside from the traveling, there is something to be said for the hottest players getting the nod.  Golfers, as opposed to other athletes, come to be defined by their potential.  How low can you go?  Good weeks come in intervals, and the distance between the peaks and valleys can be vast.  No matter how long a golfer may have been “off”, the Monday qualifier let’s them get back to the highest level with one good week. This process ensures the hottest players get a shot, even today with the available spots down to only four.  If it was up to John Erickson, that number of spots would increase significantly.  From a recent thread discussing Q-School modifications and alternative tour formats:

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The other thing is that no matter how big it grows, it would always be set up for a healthy Monday culture so with 20 or 30 spots on Monday, you have the best players getting in every week. It really keeps the dream alive for people.. and if a player finds something in their swing or putting stroke, they can quickly go out and follow a few events around and play their way into the tour right away if they can shoot the scores. Golf should always be about who is playing good now.. not Mike Weir or Angel Cabrera.

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Fortunately, the loss of a traditional Q-school may have the unintended consequence of growing the Rabbit culture – on the Nationwide Tour.  While PGA Tour events generally have 4 MQ slots available, Nationwide events typically have 14.  Those spots should become more attractive to mini tour players who would normally maximize their time on, for example, the Hooters tour before taking a shot at the PGA Tour through Q-school.  Martin explains:

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Russel Knox started 2011 without Nationwide Tour status. He had earned more than $300,000 in the past three Hooters Tour seasons but was “100 percent willing to go broke,” he said, trying to Monday qualify for Nationwide Tour events. That statement is testament to the difficulty of the task.

He finished second in his first Nationwide Tour start to earn status. It’s not as easy as he made it look, though. Monday-qualifying events often have more than 200 players spread over two courses.

More players will enter Monday qualifying if the Nationwide Tour becomes the only route to the PGA Tour. The PGA Tour should respond by increasing the number of Monday-qualifying spots.

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Keep your eye out for Monday qualifiers as we proceed into the “Post Q-School” era.  We just might see a return of the rabbits.

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