Bangor native Jesse Speirs will take his golf clubs to China to try to qualify for another crack at the Web.com Tour by playing on the PGA Tour Series-China circuit, which begins next month.
The 31-year-old Speirs recently shot a 5-under-par 283 to finish fifth Sunday in one of the international qualifying tournaments at the Mission Hills Golf Club’s Sandbelts Trails Course in Haikou, China.
The top 15 qualified for the China tour, which is composed of 14 tournaments.
“I played pretty solid all week. You have to stay away from big mistakes (and I did),” said Speirs, the winner of the 2011 Greater Bangor Open.
He added that he is excited about playing in China because it is an opportunity to play his way back onto the Web.com Tour after a frustrating 2017 campaign.
“If you want to keep playing, you have to play these tours. It’s a good opportunity for me. I’m looking forward to it. It should be fun. Hopefully, I’ll play well and regain my Web.com status,” said Speirs.
Speirs played on the Web.com Tour in 2016 but finished 140th on the money list. He lost his tour card and then failed to regain it at qualifying school later that year.
Speirs was in position to regain his Web.com Tour card entering the final nine holes of the fourth and final round of a qualifying school tournament in Winter Garden, Florida in December, 2016, but a triple bogey and two bogeys on the back nine resulted in a 3-over-par 289 which was six shots off the 283 required to earn his card.
The top 45 finishers earned their Web.com Tour card and he finished tied for 105th.
That meant Speirs had to play Monday qualifiers to earn his way into a Web.com tournament and he failed to do so. He also tried to qualify for PGA Tour tournament spots but wasn’t successful.
“It was a tough year,” said Speirs. “It is what it is.”
He decided to play in a tournament in Hong Kong in November and by finishing 15th, he qualified to play on the PGA-affiliated tours in China, Canada and Latin America.
If he finishes atop the money list in China, he will regain his Web.com Tour card and can play in all of its tournaments in 2019. If he finishes second through fifth, he will be able to play in some tournaments and can also go to the third and final stage of qualifying school, bypassing the first two stages to earn a full-time spot on the Web.com Tour.
If he winds up sixth to 10th on the money list, he can bypass the first two qualifying stages and go right to the final stage tournament. If he places 11-20, he would have to play in stage two and, hopefully, earn his way into the final stage tournament and the Web.com Tour.
“The more stages you can avoid, the better,” said Speirs.
Speirs added that he intends to play in some Canadian events in between tournaments in China.
He has played in five tournaments in China during his career and has three top-10 finishes. He said most of the courses are suited to his game, which is accentuated by his long drives.
During his season on the Web.com Tour, in which he made the cut seven times in 17 tournaments and made $19,464, he ranked fifth in driving distance at 318.7 yards per drive.
“The courses in China are set up really good for me,” said Speirs, who now lives in Fort Worth, Texas. “If you hit the ball pretty far, it will open up a lot more opportunities for you and make things easier. You can gain two shots on the field if you hit it straight.”
Speirs’ best finish on the Web.com Tour was 20th at the News Sentinel Open in Knoxville, Tennessee.
The purses on the PGA-China series are decent, approximately $175,000 per tournament, which means the winner can pocket $30,000 to $35,000.
He said airfare is costly, approximately $1,500 round trip from Texas to China, but the hotels are reasonable ($100 to $150 per night) for a four- or five-star establishment.
Speirs, who played at Texas Christian and the University of Mississippi, said he is constantly working on his short game and his putting. He is motivated by seeing golfers he had played against earning PGA Tour cards.
“I know I can compete with them,” said Speirs, who will spend time working with his golf coach, Jon Tattersall, in preparation for his China tour debut.
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