Big Vic heads to Florida looking to make the PGA?Tour
At 27, Victor Ciesielski hasn’t seen the inside of a classroom for several years.
But the Cambridge golfer is heading back to the biggest school he’ll ever attend. The three-time Canadian Open qualifier leaves today for Florida to try and earn his first PGA Tour card at PGA Q-school.
The grueling three-stage qualifier begins for Ciesielski at Grasslands Golf and Country Club in Lakeland, Fla., from Oct. 16 to 19. That means no more slices, no more hooks, and hopefully no fairways with dirty nooks.
“All I have to do is finish in the top quarter of the field, which shouldn’t be a problem,” Ciesielski said of first stage qualifying.
That’s right, about 20 of the 78 players in 14, 72-hole qualifying events move onto the second stage. Then, around the same move out of six, 72-hole second-stage qualifying tournaments to the final stage – a six-round event at PGA West TPC Stadium Course and the Nicklaus Tournament Course in LaQuinta, Calif.
That’s when the fun stops. But he didn’t get to find out in 2009 when he tried PGA Tour Q-school in McKinney, Texas. He recalled that his driver was “a little wonky” and he missed moving on to the second stage, tying for 58th, with only 22 spots available.
Those four days turned into a valuable lesson.
“It was a good experience and definitely a difficult grind like they all say,” he said.
“I learned that I don’t have to shoot 65 every day; I have to shoot 70 every day and I’ll have an extremely successful PGA Tour career. It’s more about consistency and not making mistakes than firing at everything and trying to win golf tournaments. Q-school is just about survival.
“It’s not about winning the tournament; it’s about finishing top 20. As long as I do that, finishing 20th, 20th, 20th, I’d be very content.”
Ciesielski also knows that the deeper he gets into qualifying, the tougher the field.
“As you continue on and the stronger players advance, the field gets a little stronger and tighter and you have to play a little better. If I shoot two-under every day I’ll be through and get my PGA Tour card. That’s pretty much how it works every single year.”
He added that this year, his game will be the only thing on his mind at Q-school. He doesn’t have to worry about his expenses or the total of $12,000 in entry fees if he makes it to all three stages. A sponsorship from Cambridge’s Comcor Environmental Ltd. will pay for his fees and expenses.
Ciesielski isn’t afraid to admit that it’s a huge burden off his shoulders and the reason why he hasn’t tried to qualify for the PGA Tour every year.
“They’re giving me the opportunity to go and be stress free with no financial worries. Just go play like I know how.
“They’ve been incredible. It’s been a great little relationship so far. I’m pretty fortunate to have a great Cambridge company behind me.”
Ciesielski met the company’s owners through being a full-time member at Whistle Bear Golf Club, where he trains with coach Dave Smallwood at The Golf Performance Centre. The sponsorship started by getting him in the Canadian Open qualifier and then they plotted out their plan for this year.
Ciesielski had a choice of going to Q-school or attending Monday’s qualifiers for Web.com events – formerly the Nationwide Tour – for six to eight weeks in a row. He decided to take his chances in Florida, where he already trains with Smallwood in the winter at the Old Corkscrew course in Estero.
He said he’s more than ready to tackle the courses in Florida – the second stage is in the same state at Southern Hill Plantation Club in Brooksville – as he’s been playing on the Great Lakes Tour and in the Canadian Tour championship since his two rounds in the Canadian Open.
Despite missing the cut in Hamilton by one shot, he said his game hasn’t faltered.
“My game was there. I didn’t hit it spectacular the first day but I was working pretty hard just to keep it there and then the rain kind of killed everyone’s spirits, even the guys I was playing with,” he said, noting his second round score of 66.
“The confidence is high anytime you finish under par at a PGA Tour event, so it just reiterates the fact that I know I can play our there and I know I should play out there.”
Getting to the final though is the most important thing, as the top 25 players get their PGA card, and the next 50 receive a full Web.com card. There is also non-exempt status and conditional status on both tours to be had.
“The goal is to make it to the final stage because I’ll have a job pretty much secured if I make it there.”