PRO GOLF: Q school this weekend for Surrey’s Ryan Williams

VANCOUVER — It is the biggest test of Ryan Williams’ golfing life and he’s had lots of time to think about it.

Williams has known since mid-September that he had a pass to the final stage of the Tour qualifying school, which begins today (Thursday, Dec. 11) in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

So it’s not like Williams has had to cram for this exam.

"It has been on my mind since I got word that I was exempt through to the finals," Williams said. "It’s been hard not think about it."

Williams, a Surrey/North Delta native who plays out of Hazelmere Golf Course and now lives in Vancouver, earned his exemption to the Q school finals by winning the seasonending Tour Championship in London, Ont., on Sept. 14 and finishing sixth on the PGA Tour Canada money list this year.

Williams knows the six rounds he’ll play at the Fazio and Champions courses at PGA National Golf Club could change his golfing life.

"You try not to make a bigger deal about it than what it is," he said. "That is my attitude going into this tournament. If it wasn’t for my win, I don’t know if I would be here. I would have had to go through all three states and nothing is ever guaranteed. I look at this as if I have nothing to lose. I am going down there and I will have some status on the Tour no matter where I finish. I have a great opportunity to be an exempt player there next year. I just think it is the perfect situation for me. I don’t feel like I have the stress and pressure that maybe some of the other guys who have had to grind it out through the first two stages."

Williams will be one of two British Columbians at the final stage. Victoria’s Cory Renfrew, a graduate of the UBC golf team, was one of those players who had to play his way through the first two stages to qualify for the finals.

Four other Canadians — Wes Heffernan and Ryan Yip of Calgary, Ottawa native Brad Fritsch and Quebec resident Beon Yeong Lee — are in the field.

Williams has tried to keep his game in shape since the PGA Tour Canada season ended, but it hasn’t been easy with the recent cold snap. He represented Canada at a two-man team event in October in Argentina, played a little golf on a recent vacation to Mexico and has competed in some events on the Vancouver Golf Tour.

He left Thursday for Florida with his coach, Phil Jonas, for a week of preparation that will include trying to get comfortable with Bermuda grass.

"I will have had a good week of practice and preparation down here," he said. "I don’t think I will have any excuses when the time comes. I’ll be ready to go."

The Champions course is the site of the annual Honda Classic on the PGA Tour.

"A lot of water, a lot of sand and the courses can be windy," Williams said. "I don’t mind the wind. I am a lowball hitter. The wind doesn’t really bother me. A lot of guys have to change the way they play in the wind. I don’t feel like I have to do much. The fact the course is surrounded by bunkers and water is also a good thing for me because that kind of makes it more of a ball-striking golf course. It doesn’t suit a guy who is a total bomber because you can’t hit it anywhere. You are going to have to be more precise."

Williams also thinks the six-round format benefits him.

"The longer the better because I have proven over years that I am not really a fast starter," he said. "I am more of a finisher. I have missed a lot of cuts by a shot or two shots. Not having a cut to worry about and the fact I can just go out and play my game is good for me. I think it suits my game better. It doesn’t put the pressure on me to have to go low the first couple of days to get into contention or to win this thing."

Williams will need to finish among the top 45 and ties to earn exempt status through the first two reshuffles of the 2015 Tour season. Everyone else in the field of about 160 players will earn some kind of conditional status but those finishing in the bottom half of the field generally don’t draw into many events.

Williams and the other Canadians will be looking to replenish the Tour with Canucks. This past year, British Columbians Adam Hadwin, Nick Taylor and Roger Sloan all earned their 2015 PGA Tour cards via the Tour.

"I am excited about having the opportunity," Williams said. "It’s a pretty cool thing. Hopefully we can all do well and have some more Canadians out on the Web next year and then have a chance to move up to the PGA Tour."

Vancouver Sun

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