By John Manley
Richard Coughlan can go ahead and confirm that reservation in La Quinta, Calif., for mid-November. That’s where and when the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament will be held this year, and Coughlan’s participation is mandatory if he hopes to retain his playing privileges in 1999. The rookie from Birr, Co. Offaly, failed in his attempt to reach the top 125 on the money list, despite a 19th-place tie in the National Car Rental Classic at Walt Disney World.
Coughlan began the final official event of the year with a 1-over-par 73, placing him in midpack. He found his groove in the second round, coming home in 68, allowing him to comfortably clear the cut line. He finished with two rounds of 70, his score adding up to 7-under 281, which was nine off John Huston’s winning total of 272.
Coughlan earned $21,750, which increased his winnings for the year to $174,035, placing him 151st on the list. No. 125 turned out to be Blaine McCallister whose $228,304 is $54,269 more than Coughlan’s. The rookie would have needed to tie for at least sixth place at Disney to have earned that difference. Adding to Coughlan’s misfortune is that, should he be off his game at Q-School, numbers 125-150 on the money list receive a limited exemption for 1999 and are often able to squeeze into less popular events, where one good outing can buy the next year’s exemption. Mark Carnevale got the last spot, with $435 more than Coughlan.
But despite the dire tone struck here, Coughlan had a very good year for a first-year man and has a solid foundation on which to build a career here in the States. Among those who are lined up behind Coughlan this year are Corey Pavin (No. 155) and Tom Kite (159). Keith Nolan, who didn’t play Disney, finished 251st on the money list with $17,203.
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The PGA Tour’s developmental counterpart ended its season at the Magnolia Grove Crossings course on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail in Mobile, Ala., with the Nike Tour Championship. The top 15 on the Nike money list
automatically advance to the 1999 PGA Tour. John Kernohan was riding along in 36th place and needed a big finish to latch onto one of the coveted 15 places. It didn’t happen, so Kernohan also faces the specter of Q-School.
The course yielded high scores throughout and only three men broke par. Kernohan began with a 4-over 76, which he duplicated in the second round. There was no cut, due to the limited field of 50 golfers, who represented the top money earners of the year. Kernohan’s scores improved slightly over the weekend, as he shot 75 and 74 to finish 13 over at 301, which was 18 strokes off Bob Burns’s winning score. Kernohan tied for 37th in this event and earned $1,785. He was passed by two others in the money standings, finishing 38th with $71,145. This was his first year playing in America after a long stint as a regular in Asia. A Kentucky resident, Kernohan’s parents hail from Belfast and Tyrone.
European Seniors Tour
The season ended with a whimper as the 54-hole Tour Championship was whittled down to 36 holes, due to heavy rain at the Buckinghamshire Golf Club in England. The result was familiar to fans of Eddie Polland, who finished second along with Liam Higgins. The Irish duo were one shot behind England’s John Garner, who won with a score of 139. Higgins’s and Polland’s scores were identical at 69 and 71.
Christy O’Connor Jr. was in the hunt after the first round. He shot 69 the first time around, leaving him one shot off the first-round leader, despite still wrestling with the tragedy of losing his teenage son in an auto accident several weeks ago. A second-round 78 ended his aspirations and left him tied for 16th at 147.
Also having a go of it were David Jones, who tied for 11th at 145 (72-73); Paul Leonard, who tied for 13th at 146 (75-71); and Joe McDermott (73-77) and Denis O’Sullivan (71-79) who tied for 27th at 150.