The Masters may be a tradition like none other. But come every October, Northern Nevada has a tradition of its own at Dayton Valley Golf Club.
For the 11th straight year, Dayton's Arnold Palmer-designed course will host the first stage of qualifying for the PGA Tour. The 72-hole, four-round tournament will run from Tuesday, Oct. 18 through Friday, Oct. 21. Play is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. each day and fans can watch the event for free.
Dayton is the only course in the nation to host the first stage qualifier for 11 straight years. Dayton is one of 14 courses across the nation to host the first stage of qualifying.
Sixty-seven players are scheduled to play at Dayton, with approximately the top 25 percent of finishers plus ties moving on to the second stage of qualifying. The top finishers in the second stage will move on to the PGA Qualifying School, a 108-hole event to be held Nov. 30-Dec. 5 in Winter Garden, Fla. The top 35 players plus ties at the PGA Qualifying School will advance to the PGA Tour.
Dayton Valley general manager Jim Kepler calls qualifying for the PGA Tour the toughest feat to accomplish in sports. He noted that out of about 1,200 golfers who begin the qualifying process, only 35 will make the PGA Tour.
Kepler also noted that many of the players who have begun the qualifying process at Dayton keep coming back. Warren Schutte, who played on the 2005 Nationwide Tour, will make his 11th appearance in 11 years at Dayton. Kepler said on average, it takes most players about four-to-six times to advance past the first stage of qualifying.
The golf course is probably in the best shape it's ever been, Kepler said. Kepler said some of the players who will compete next week have already come to play the course and that they gave the course rave reviews. Most of the players will arrive for the event on Sunday and will play a practice round on Monday before beginning play on Tuesday.
"The tour comes back because we're just wonderful people," said Kepler jokingly on why the PGA keeps using Dayton. "They're just happy with the way we run it. It's very prestigious for our club. It gives us a feather in our cap."
The biggest reason who the PGA comes back is the course simulates the conditions that players will face on the PGA Tour. The course also makes sure that the best all-around players - not just those who can hit the ball the farthest - move on.
"The course is fair," Kepler said. "It's more of a shot makers course than a pounders course."
The score need to advace to the next level has fallen over the years from 1-over-par to as low as 8-under. The score needed to advance depends greatly on the weather and last year's scores rose somewhat due to what at times were brutal conditions. "Our Nevada weather can change in a minute," Kepler said.
Among the players in this year's event will be Carson High gradaute John Chirila, who played at St. Mary's. Chirila will make his first appearance in the event. Others include for mer Reno prep star and UNLV standout Travis Whisman, former Nevada players Brett Bingham, Carlos Concha and Mike Haack. Top Southern Nevada players scheduled to be in the event are Billy Harvey, who played on the 2005 Nationwide Tour and 2002 PGA Tour player Jeremy Anderson.
Top players who have gone through Dayton include Notah Begay, Casey Martin, Bob May, Steve Allan and Rod Pampling. "It's quite a list of players who have qualified out of here," Kepler said.