MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Bangor native Jesse Speirs, winner of the 2011 Greater Bangor Open, is preparing to make his third try at qualifying for the PGA Tour this fall.
He has to go through three stages of tournaments and finish in the top 25 of the third stage to get his PGA Tour card.
And because he qualified for the Canadian PGA Tour this year, Speirs will have a leg up in this year’s PGA Tour attempt. That’s because he gets to skip the pre-qualifying stage he had to play in his first two tries in 2010 and 2011. The pre-qualifying stage is primarily for newcomers to the pro ranks. Top finishers at that stage then advance to the three regular stages. Some players, based on performance, earn exemptions that allow them to enter at either the second or third stages.
“Any stage you can eliminate increases your chances of making it to the final stage,” said Speirs, who didn’t advance out of the pre-qualifying stage either time. “This’ll be nice to start the first stage, play good and get through it.”
Besides eliminating a difficult step, Speirs, 25, gets more practice time.
While the pre-qualifying stage is wrapping up this week, Speirs can prepare for his stage, which will be held at The Lakes at Castle Hills in Lewisville, Texas, a few miles outside Fort Worth.
There are two days available for practice rounds Oct. 21-22 followed by four rounds of competition Oct. 23-26.
There are 13 first-stage sites in October, the second round is at six sites in mid-November, while the final stage is a six-round tournament at PGA West’s TPC Stadium Course and Nicklaus Tournament Course in La Quinta, Calif., starting Nov. 28. That also happens to be Speirs’ birthday.
More than 1,000 players will participate in the first stage. Prize money is available only in the final stage and only to the ones who earn playing privileges on the PGA Tour ($50,000 down to $25,000 for the top 25 and ties) or Web.com Tour ($5,000 each for approximately the next 50).
Everyone else in the final stage is a conditional qualifier for the Web.com Tour (formerly Nationwide).
Speirs is hopeful of a better result this year in qualifying.
“My game has continued to get better through the summer,” although it might not show in his results, said Speirs, who did finish tied for 31st in the Canadian Tour’s Windsor Roseland Charity Classic in Windsor, Ontario.
“I’m reducing my three-putts,” he said. “I used to have two to three after the first two days, which is a killer. Obviously, you don’t want any, so we’re getting closer to that goal.”
He also believes his course management is better, and he’s doing a better job of keeping down the number of bad holes.
“It could have been a pretty tough year mentally, but in golf you always have to stay positive and look at what you’re doing good and what needs to get better,” said Speirs, who won the 2009 Maine Amateur and tied for second in the 2002 GBO as a 15-year-old amateur.
“I’ve played the entire year looking forward to the fall and where my game needs to be for the fall qualifying school.” he said. “I believe it’s where it should be and I believe I’m where I need to be mentally.”
Except for Canadian Tour qualifying next week, Speirs isn’t planning on playing in any more tournaments as preparation, mainly because of the expense.
“I was given help throughout the summer,” said Speirs, but now he’s looking for sponsors again.
“I’m just … practicing right now. Ideally, it would be nice to play an event or two before [qualifying], but the good thing is I’ve played a full season from February until now. I’m not able to play mini-events from now until qualifying,” he added.
There are Monday qualifiers for Web.com events he could play in, but he doesn’t feel comfortable doing that now.
“It’s a tough deal because it takes quite a bit of money to get out there and keep it going, and it’s a combination of raising money and also playing good and making money,” said Speirs.
He’s not discouraged.
“I’m looking forward to it very much. It’s a great opportunity. It only comes around once a year. You’ve got to make the most of it,” he said.
Anyone interested in helping sponsor Speirs, or even to send encouragement because the Germantown, Tenn., resident doesn’t get back to Maine much now to see his friends and family in person, can email him at email@example.com or contact him through through Twitter: @jessespeirs.