The last PGA Tour Q-school as we know it wrapped up on Monday with one final batch of great dramas.
A 17-year-old South Korean boy and a two-time heart transplant recipient were among those players who earned their cards to play on the PGA Tour next year.
Canada wasn’t left out of the excitement. Brad Fritsch of Ottawa tied for seventh place at the grueling, 108-hole qualifying tournament or Q-school to make an emphatic statement that he, too, belongs on the big tour.
Like more than 100 others at PGA West in La Quinta, Calif., Adam Hadwin of Abbotsford, B.C., felt the sting of disappointment. He finished just two shots short of earning a spot on the 2013 PGA Tour.
Beginning next year, Q-school will no longer be a direct gateway to the PGA Tour. The tour will still hold a qualifying tournament but graduates will only gain entry to the second-tier Web.com Tour.
For many fans, it’s a sad end to a pressure cooker of a tournament that always produced both Cinderella stories and heartbreaks.
Dong-hwan Lee, with a six-round score of 25-under-par 407, will go down as Q-school’s last champion.
But the 25-year-old South Korean, a two-time Japan Golf Tour winner who’s played just twice on the PGA Tour in his career, wasn’t the only Cinderella to make it to the ball Monday.
His compatriot, 17-year-old Si Woo Kim, tied for 20th place to become the youngest player in tour history to win a card.
Kim won’t be able to join the tour officially until he turns 18 next June.
Erik Compton, who has resumed his career after undergoing a second heart transplant in 2008, shared seventh place with Fritsch and Jin Park, also of South Korea.
Among other notables to finish in the top 25 and earn cards Monday were European Tour winners Ross Fisher and Robert Karlsson and 2008 RBC Canadian Open champion Chez Reavie.
Fritsch had already secured his 2013 card by finishing in 18th place on the Web.com Tour money list this season. But he enrolled in Q-school anyway, hoping to finish better than 18th and improve his standing on the pecking order to get into PGA Tour events next year.
He did exactly that. The 35-year-old shot four-under 68 Monday on PGA West’s Stadium course to move up to seventh, three shots behind Lee.
By being higher up the list of Q-school and Web.com Tour graduates, he improved his chances of getting into PGA Tour events next year. He should be able to enter any of the full-field events in 2013, but would still need to play his way into bigger tournaments such as the invitationals and majors. “Very worthwhile coming to Q-school,” Fritsch tweeted. “-22 out here feels awesome.”
Hadwin also made a surge Monday, reeling off five birdies on his back nine en route to shooting 68. But he needed two more.
He shared 32nd place with a group of 10 other players that included three-time PGA Tour winner Camilo Villegas and four-time Tour winner Heath Slocum.
“Gave it the ol’ college try on the [back] nine today but fell a couple short,” Hadwin tweeted. “Had my chances, but that’s golf. Proud of the way I battled.”
His consolation is that he gets full-time status on the Web.com Tour, an improvement from his part-time status in 2012.
Hadwin’s close call was eerily reminiscent of his bid for a PGA Tour card at the Web.com Tour Championship this fall. At the circuit’s season finale, he went low in the final round but fell one shot shy of getting inside the top 25 on the tour's money list and securing his PGA card.
Roger Sloan of Merritt, B.C., also grabbed one of the full-time Web.com Tour spots by tying for 73rd place Monday.
The 25-year-old has been making progress in his career on the third-tier PGA Tour Canada (formerly Canadian Tour), where he has a win and finished 10th on the money list this year.
Other Canadians at Q-school – Richard Scott of Kingsville, Ont., Ryan Yip of Calgary, Matt Hill of Sarnia, Ont., and Mitch Evanecz of Red Deer, Alta. -- finished outside the top 75 and will have to content themselves with part-time Web.com Tour status in 2013.
Edward Loar, who also tied with Hadwin, wins the heartbreak award this year. Starting in third place Monday, the American finished his round with a double bogey and bogey to miss his card by two.
There was also 20-year-old Patrick Cantlay, once the No. 1-ranked amateur in the world. He tied for 95th which gives him conditional status on the Web.com Tour next year.