LA QUINTA — Happy anniversary to P.H. Horgan III, who's celebrating No. 10 this week. It's not what you think, though.
Ten years ago, Horgan was right here in this same desert playing golf and trying to survive PGA Tour qualifying school for the first time before his lungs imploded from the pressure.
Every night, Horgan would call his dad back home in Newport, R.I., to let him know how things were going . . . and if the load of trying to earn a place on tour is tough for the player, it's not easy for the guy back home either.
"I called him every night for six nights and he took the call the same time every night sitting in the same rocking chair," Horgan said. "For six days, he never changed his pants, the same gray, flannel pants. It was a good way to handle being superstitious."
It also was a good way to learn to hate flannel. Either that or it's a great way to hate qualifying school, a six-round, 108-hole, stomach-churning, mind-blowing, ego-flattening endurance test of a totally numbing and life-altering experience.
Presumably, other than that, it's one heck of a good time.
Actually, Horgan, 38, has a simple way to describe Q School.
"It's a nightmare," he said.
And welcome to it. There are 169 players working their way around the Weiskopf Course at PGA West and the Dunes Course at La Quinta through Monday, all of them trying to find their way on to the PGA Tour in 1999. They're what's left of the 1,100 who paid $4,000 each for the chance to try to qualify for the next year's tour, the richest in history, offering $135 million in prize money.
That's the good news: money. Unfortunately, the road to the bank lobby is loaded with pot bunkers and lined with rough. Only the low 35 scores and ties will make it.
Ted Purdy, 25, of Scottsdale, a former University of Arizona player, knows the odds, but he also has calculated the rewards.
"Oh, there's nothing much at stake, just the difference between being a millionaire and fighting to survive, really," he said. "It's a horse race this week."
Only this week, the horses are whipping themselves. Horgan, 38, is here because he missed keeping his tour card by $4,204, finishing No. 126 on the money list when No. 125 was the cutoff. At the Walt Disney event, Horgan came to the last two holes on the last day needing to finish par-par and finished double bogey-birdie instead.
Afterward, Horgan was repeatedly asked how he felt. "I finally said you can never know unless you see what it's like risking your job, your career."
So Horgan is back at Q School for the eighth time.
Meanwhile, there is Mike Sullivan, who has been to Q School in three decades. Sullivan is one of 17 players here who have won a PGA Tour event (they have won 34 in all). One of these is Rick Fehr, who won the 1986 B.C. Open and the 1994 Walt Disney.
After he shot 62 at the Dunes to lead the first round, Fehr showed he had the proper Q School mentality.
"Is it over yet?" he said. "Can I go home now?"
Come to think of it, attempts at being good-natured, however hollow or forced they may be, could help get you through this thing.
Jerry Foltz, 36, of Chandler, Ariz., is a former waiter, bartender and real estate salesman making his ninth Q School appearance since he left the University of Arizona in 1986.
Foltz filled out a player-information questionnaire in which he listed his heroes as "God, dad and Arnold Palmer." He also said his biggest thrill is getting his first shot of the day airborne and that if he ever won a tournament, people would find out that "my son is spoiled rotten, my wife hates me and all our friends are losers."
That's the spirit, all right. Joel Edwards of Irving, Texas, in his 10th Q School appearance, must have spent a lot of time browsing at Blockbuster. He can recite the entire dialogue of "Arthur."
Roy Biancalana is a golfer who became pastor of his church in Lake Mary, Fla., then turned golfer again. It is a circular career path that might come in handy again, depending how things turn out this weekend.
For Rick Dalpos, 41, his career choices aren't as clear. He has been out of golf the last two years, working as a teaching pro at a course in Las Vegas, but the course was sold recently and Dalpos is looking for work. That's why he's trying Q School.
Dalpos played four years on the Nike Tour and six years on the PGA Tour--1983, 1984, 1986, 1987, 1989 and 1993. In those six years, he played 174 events, made 64 cuts, won $158,139 and never kept his card.
That's why Dalpos is busy banging balls on the practice range, trying to find the timing in his swing so he'll have a place to work next year. He has six days to make it happen at Q School.
"It's just so intense," he said. "You've got to do it now. It's not like there's a next week. That's what makes it so nerve-racking. The pressure, sure, I feel it. I sense it. That's so understandable. There's just so much on the line.
"I'm older, so I should be getting used to it, only you don't ever get used to it.