- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 7, 2005

CLARKSBURG — Agony is an early morning 69 at a Four-Spot Qualifier.

Like the 94 other players who showed up yesterday at Little Bennett Golf Course for the Booz Allen Classic’s final four field spots, William Mackenzie began the day with minimal expectations and a mammoth dream.

‘This is the worst part,’ said the 30-year-old Mackenzie, who posted a 69 in the second group of the day and then settled in for a six-hour wait to see whether the score would hold up, watching helplessly as wave after wave of players trickled off the 6,706-yard, par-72 course. ‘The wait is just brutal.’

Time seemed cruelly suspended as Mackenzie milled about the clubhouse, practiced putting, phoned a girlfriend, practiced chipping and even took a drive around Clarksburg — anything to avoid watching the impossibly slow scorecard trickle, anything to keep his mind from becoming married to the dream with a potential playoff in the offing. His anxiety was as palpable as the day’s excruciating humidity and unquestionably more difficult to endure.

But the possible payoff is worth a mountain of misery. The PGA Tour’s Monday Qualifiers, more commonly known as Monday Four-Spots, are professional golf’s ultimate opportunity to author a legendary long-shot tale. It’s a true tin-cup crapshoot; every player in the field is just an 18-hole hot streak from the tour.

Anybody with $400 and a handicap index of 2.0 or less is free to enter a Monday Four-Spot. With the exception of the majors and a few select events and invitationals (Tour Championship, Players Championship, Memorial, etc), there is a Monday Four-Spot at every PGA Tour event. And for the four players fortunate enough to survive, a spot awaits in that week’s field. This week that payoff is a tee time at the Booz Allen Classic, which begins Thursday at Congressional Country Club and features a field that includes four of the world’s top-five players.

?That’s the beauty of these things; that’s what keeps us coming back,? said Mackenzie, who came to Little Bennett having never qualified in a four-spot. ?There’s always the chance that you can take it deep on Monday and Thursday morning you’ll be teeing it up at Congressional with Ernie Els.?

Mackenzie, a conditional PGA Tour player who has made five PGA starts and two Nationwide Tour starts this season, was on the high end of the rather low-profile field. Most of the 95 players in attendance had no PGA Tour status, and many never had played in a Nationwide Tour event.

Some were minitour regulars hoping for a stroll in the show. Some, such as recent Clemson standout Brent Delahoussaye, were college players hoping to get a taste of the tour.

‘I just turned pro last week, and I’m hoping to play some Nationwide events, some Hooters Tour, anywhere I can, to be honest with you,’ said Delahoussaye, who joined Mackenzie with a 69 later in the day. ?Obviously, everyone’s dream is to jump from one of these to a PGA Tour event to a high finish that will help you stick out there. Just making the top four in one of these four-spots is a long shot. Once you’re in the field [at a PGA Tour event], who knows what can happen.?

The parking lot featured license plates from seven states, and several cars were outfitted with the nomad’s makeshift backseat clothes rack, hinting at the lifestyle of the average four-spotter.

‘Yeah, if you’re four-spotting regularly, you’re either living in your car or you have some backers because it gets expensive,’ said Mackenzie, who as a conditional tour player (a player who makes it to the final stage of Q-School) doesn’t have to pay the entry fee. ‘Over the last five years, I probably donated $50,000 to the PGA Tour in these things. It’s definitely nice to have my fees waived and my travel covered by my equipment deal. It was awful getting in the car every Monday knowing that not only did you not get in and not only did you have a long drive ahead of you but also that you were considerably poorer.?

After most such qualifiers, the players scatter for various minitour events dotted across the country. Delahoussaye was scheduled to play in a Tar Heel Tour event today in Charlotte, N.C. Mackenzie canceled an afternoon flight to Chicago, where he was scheduled to play in this week’s Nationwide Tour event, the LaSalle Bank Open.

Medalist Brad Adamonis (67) had no such plans. After losing his Nationwide Tour card last season, the Rhode Island native hasn’t made a single start on either the PGA or Nationwide tours this season. Instead, he has been in Florida working on his game, preparing to make a second professional surge and suffering each time he catches a pro tournament on TV.

‘It’s absolutely brutal watching other guys you know out there competing week in and week out,’ Adamonis said. ‘I can’t tell you how good this feels. And it actually feels doubly good to be heading to Congressional. I’ve heard it’s the best course the PGA Tour ever plays.’

Adamonis and Nationwide Tour regular Sean Murphy (68) will be able to start forming their own opinions of Old Blue today in Bethesda. But for Mackenzie, Delahoussaye, PGA Tour veteran Brendan Pappas and journeyman Eli Zackheim, the waiting continues. All four posted 69s and then were chased from the property by severe thunderstorms before completing the first hole of a sudden-death playoff. The four players will meet again today at Little Bennett at 8 a.m. For two players, the 24-hour odyssey will have been more than worth the stress and struggle. For two others, there’s always another week and another Monday.

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