There are 15 first-stage sites for PGA Tour Q school played across three consecutive weeks. In each of the first two weeks, I’ve written a recap of each site that included the medalist, notables who advanced and those who missed. I included a category called “heartbreak.”
The manner in which James Hart du Preez missed by one stroke at University of New Mexico’s Championship Course last week might need its own category.
Hart du Preez is one of the longest drivers in professional golf. The 6-foot-10 South African led the Sunshine Tour in driving distance in 2022, averaging a gargantuan 373 yards. In August, du Preez finished T-2 at the Gary and Vivienne Player Challenge in South Africa, his best finish of the season, and an encouraging sign with Q school on the horizon.
With his wife living in Texas, du Preez set his sights on Q school and playing in the U.S. in 2024. He was ready to take a break from incurring the exorbitant costs of playing the Sunshine and European Challenge tours. The expenses of playing on two international tours with small purses left him low on funds, making Q school, where PGA Tour cards are on the line, even more important.
Du Preez was paired with Zach Burry and David Hansen during the first two rounds in New Mexico, with Hansen keeping du Preez’s scorecard. Du Preez opened with rounds of 71 and 74. He knew there was work to be done in the final two rounds; he just didn’t realize how much.
Hansen, who had shot a second-round 80, gave du Preez his completed scorecard at the conclusion of Round 2 and du Preez confirmed each score hole-by-hole. The scores matched, the card was accurate and after signing the card, du Preez handed it to a scoring official. According to du Preez, the scoring official confirmed the presence of two signatures on both of his playing partners’ cards, but he couldn’t remember the scoring official confirming two signatures on his.
The group left the scoring area. Three hours later, the head rules official at the New Mexico site called du Preez and informed him that Hansen had not signed du Preez’s card. The penalty for this oversight was two strokes to be assessed on the first hole of Round 3.
“I have played over 300 professional events all over the world,” says du Preez, who turned 28 earlier this month. “I have never seen this happen.”
The following morning, du Preez started his round on the 10th hole, a 517-yard par 4. It’s a difficult dogleg-right, and du Preez made a mess of it. The frustration of opening with a double-bogey intensified when the two-stroke penalty from the previous round was added. He started his day with a quadruple-bogey, moving him well outside the projected qualifying score.
For the next 17 holes, du Preez fought his way back with four birdies and an eagle. A 69 despite the nightmare opening hole gave him a chance to advance with a strong final round.
However, the pressure of what was at stake led to bogeys on the first two holes. Du Preez again rallied, going bogey-free from there and making birdie on five of his last seven holes to post a 3-under 68. Hansen was playing in the group in front of du Preez, and on the 14th hole, he hung back and apologized to du Preez. (Hansen would miss by 13.)
Du Preez shot a final-round 68, to finish 2 under for the tournament. It was a valiant comeback considering with 35 holes to play, du Preez was 7 over on a demanding course.
The rally would fall one shot short.
Lessons learned at Q-school can be expensive. This was an unusually painful one. When I talked with du Preez as he was headed to his in-laws’ house for a meal, the frustration was still palpable. He still has status on the Sunshine and Challenge tours, but competing there while living in Texas has taken its toll on his finances. He faces an uncertain future.
All because of one missing signature.