- Associated Press - Tuesday, November 23, 2010

JACKSONVILLE, FLA. (AP) - Brett Waldman received his share of quizzical looks at the second stage of Q-school because he had no reason to be there. He caddies for Camilo Villegas, who won the Honda Classic and earned over $3 million this year.

Except that Waldman wasn’t working.

He was playing.

And even though his own clubs have been collecting dust, he’s playing well enough that he might not be a caddie much longer.

Waldman shot a 68 in the final round at the TPC Craig Ranch outside Dallas last week and made it through yet another stage of PGA Tour qualifying. He is one of only nine players still alive after starting this improbable journey by having to go through pre-qualifying. Now he’s in next week’s final stage at Orange County National in Orlando, where the top 25 earn their tour cards.

“Some of these guys who do it for a living, they play and practice all year through,” said Lance Bennett, the caddie for Matt Kuchar who was on the bag for Waldman the last two stages. “He picks his clubs up for one month and gets to the final stage.”

Oddly enough, it was at Orange County eight years ago that Waldman failed to get past the second stage of Q-school, deciding then to give up on his playing career and go to work as a caddie.

Why he decided to go back to school at this stage in his life remains a mystery.

With a family to raise and bills to pay, Waldman has earned a steady income as a caddie for his cousin, Tom Pernice Jr., for Ben Crane and most recently for Villegas. Encouraged by his wife and friends, he waited until the final hour to submit his application and $5,000 fee.

It was a long shot. He knew that.

“I never once thought about getting to the final stage,” Waldman said Monday night. “Playing the PGA Tour was always a dream of mine, but I didn’t know how realistic it would be with no practice and with a full-time job.”

As always, there are plenty of compelling stories at Q-school, six rounds of stomach churning that starts Dec. 1.

Billy Hurley has finished his U.S. Navy service. Also advancing was Ty Tryon, who first made it through Q-school at age 17. Erik Compton, on his second heart transplant, also has reached the final stage.

What makes Waldman interesting is that he only made it to the big leagues as the hired help.

“Absolutely, I think he can do it,” Bennett said. “He’s got such a good attitude about it. He can get down on himself a little, which every player does. But being a pro caddie as long as he has, it’s easy for him to let a shot go.”

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