Text: Greg Johnson
Tom Werkmeister, a Michigan Golf Hall of Fame member following a banner amateur career, is playing this week, Nov. 17 through Nov. 22, 2019 in the first of two stages planned for the PGA Tour Champions Qualifying School.
It’s the third consecutive year since turning professional at the age of 50-years-old that the Grandville, Michigan resident has undertaken the mission. Werkmeister tied for 23rd in the final stage in 2017 and tied for 18th in the final stage in 2018; both times finishing among the top 30 players who received status for entry into the Monday qualifiers that are presented each tournament week through the season.
The top five in the final stage is the goal. Those are the only players who earn fully exempt status for the season on the tour that makes it very challenging for qualification by players who did not have stellar PGA Tour careers that included wins and high earnings rankings.
“What I’ve been going through the last couple years is a roller-coaster ride,” Werkmeister said. “I’m more accustomed to it, and I know what to expect and how it works. I think I will handle it better because I’m prepared better with what I’ve learned.”
Werkmeister has played in seven tournaments throughout the last two seasons and earned more than $48,900 in official Champions Tour money. He was 110 in the Schwab Cup rankings at the end of the 2019 season, and had to make it via pre-tournament qualifying each time—including two U.S. Senior Open appearances.
Werkmeister has also played well in several mini-tour events, including a few one and two-day wins, and played well in the Michigan Open each year. He is at one of three first-stage tournaments this week: He will play in Florida at TPC Tampa, and the other first-stage events are being played in Texas and California.
“They take the top 30 percent of the field on to the final stage, and there are 75 players in this one, so you have to get in that top 20,” Werkmeister said.
His game is on solid footing at this point and he hopes it carries through the four rounds this week.
“I’ve been playing pretty good in the last several rounds in Michigan, and I’ve played good the last few rounds down here,” Werkmeister said. “I’m looking forward to it.”
Werkmeister also noted he doesn’t really set goals, and he prefers to play a lot of rounds leading up to a competition over having practice sessions.
“I like to just play because every day something can be different and it always becomes a matter of adjusting how your game is that day,” Werkmeister said. “Maybe your driver is off and you have to find ways to get in the fairway. Another day the putter is off and you have to grind out some pars. You go with the flow. That’s what I’ve always done. That’s what has worked for me. We will see once again where that goes. Overall, I’ve been doing a lot of good things lately.”
Although a two-year sponsorship package he initially put together has expired, Werkmeister has been in discussion with his financial backers.
“A lot depends on how I do in Q-School and that only makes sense,” Werkmeister said. “It adds some pressure I guess, but there’s pressure every week trying to win a qualifier and I’m not looking at it that way. I’m committed to this and I’ve seen enough of the lifestyle, the life of a tour player that I know it would be great for me and that it’s something I want.”
Werkmeister also went on to say he missed the friends and tournament organizers and volunteers from his amateur days, which included record-setting wins in West Michigan golf, two Michigan Amateur championships, a GAM championship and a banner Michigan Open win.
“I don’t miss being an amateur golfer,” Werkmeister said. “I miss the people is probably the way to put it, but I’ve also developed some great friendships and done a lot of really cool things, played around the country on a lot of great courses, and made a trip to Europe the last two years. I’m looking forward to more of that, getting more chances to make that happen. I know I can compete with these guys. I know I can do this.”
He also noted the support from his family and friends has been incredible.
“It is amazing,” Werkmeister said. “Everywhere I go people surprise me with their support for me. It is awesome to have that. It’s great when people believe in you. It helps you to believe in yourself.”
Photos courtesy Greg Johnson taken during Michigan Open at The Bear at Grand Traverse Resort