Kang Is Medalist in Q-School 2nd Stage; Longbella Ties for 2nd, But Hitchner Misses Final Stage by 1 Stroke

December 2, 2023 | 17 min.
By Michael R Fermoyle

VALENCIA, Calif. -- During the last couple of years, Jeffrey Kang has earned a reputation as the Master of Monday Qualifiers. For those who aren't familiar with them, Monday qualifiers take place every week that there is a regular PGA Tour event. Most of the time, there are about 80 guys, each trying to get one of the four spots that are available in that weeks tournament. If you shoot 67 on one of those Mondays, you have very little chance. A 66 gives you a decent chance to get in, but you'll probably have to survive a playoff, which can have eight or 10, or even as many as 16 guys trying for one remaining spot. (Rick Lamb won a 16-for-1 playoff for the Honda Classic last year with an eagle on the first hole.) 

You get the idea. It's just really hard to get into a PGA Tour event by way of a Monday qualifier.

So the fact that Kang has gotten into five PGA Tour events during the last two years is pretty impressive. His results in the tournaments themselves, however, haven't been all that great. He's made only one cut. That came at the World Wide Technology Championship (the tournament that former University of Minnesota star Erik Van Rooyen won). Kang shot 272 (16 under par), but that was only good for a tie for 31st, and he made $46,916.

But this week Kang took a step toward becoming a full-fledged member of the PGA Tour by claiming medalist honors in the Second Stage of PGA Tour/Korn Ferry Q-School. There were three Second Stage qualifiers played from Nov. 14-17, and two more this week. Kang won the one that was played at Valencia Country Club by posting two rounds in the 60s and completing 72 holes with a score of 11-under-par 277. Only one other player had two rounds in the 60s. That was Kevin Velo, who, like Kang, started with a 66. Velo was alone in first place after a second-round 69, and he was second, two behind Kang (204 to 206), after a third-round 71. But he closed with a 77 on Friday, and that dropped him into a tie for fourth at 283.

That someone could shoot 77 in the final round and still finish in the top 5 tells you how difficult scoring was all week at Valencia -- and especially on Friday. 

Kang, a 32-year-old former USC All-American, didn't make a par in his first five holes. He parred the first two, bogeyed the next two and birdied the fifth. Then he made five pars in a row, but he went from 1 under for the round to 1 over with a double bogey at the 431-yard, par-4 11th. He added one birdie and one bogey over the last seven holes, which gave him a 1-over 73. Not exactly a great score, but of the other 18 players who advanced from Valencia to the Final Stage of Q-School, only five had lower fourth-round scores, and Kang finished first by three shots.

Thomas Longbella, the former Gopher from Chippewa Falls, was one of those five players who beat Kang on Friday. He shot 70, and that earned him a tie for second place at 280, along with Christian Banks. Longbella finished 32nd on the PGA Tour Canada money list this year by making CAD21,630. That made him exempt from the Pre-Qualifying Stage of Q-School, and he tied for 12th in the Muskegee, Oklahoma First Stage qualifier in October. He opened the Second Stage with a 73 on Tuesday, which had him tied for 35th place. The top 15 and ties will advance from each of the Second Stage Q-School sites, and he moved up into 21st place at Valencia with a 71 Wednesday.

On Thursday, he didn't improve his position all that much over the first eight holes. When he arrived at the ninth tee, he had one bogey and one biirdie on his card, but the 25-year-old former Wisconsin state high school and State Amateur champion kick started his charge into the top 15 by making an eagle 3 on the 528-yard ninth hole. He bogeyed the par-4 10th, but birdied five of the next seven holes and posted a 66. That put him in a tie for fourth with Banks. Longbella got through the front nine on Friday in even par, and he pretty much secured his place in the Final Stage by making three birdies in the first four holes on the back nine. He was alone in second place at minus 9 for the tournament with two holes to go, three shots ahead of Banks. But he bogeyed the 468-yard, par-4 17th, and Banks birdied the 17th, and the 596-yard, par-5 18th, too. As a result, Banks was able to match Longbella's 70 -- and his second-place aggregate of 280.

The Magic Number in Valencia this week was 287. Seven players finished there, tied for 13th, meaning that 19 players advanced.

There were four players who ended up one shot on the wrong side of that number, tied for 20th at 288, and Derek Hitchner, the former Minnesota State Amateur champion (2021) and Pepperdine All-American, was one of them. Hitchner, 24, got off to a horrible start, with a first-round 77. That had him tied for 59th in a field of 73. He shot 71 on Wednesday and 72 on Thursday, but was still languishing in a tie for 40th going into the final round. On Friday, he went out in 34, with birdies on both front-nine par 5s -- No. 1 and No. 9. He birdied the 11th, bogeyed the 13th and then birdied both of the par 3s on the back nine -- the 208-yard 14th and 223-yard 16th -- on his way to a 68, the low score of the day. But he didn't birdie either of the back-side par 5s -- No. 15 (527 yards) or 18. That, basically, was what kept him from getting to the Final Stage of Q-School, which will be played Dec. 14-17 in Ponte Vedra, Fla. From there, the top five finishers will receive full status for the 2024 PGA Tour season, and the next 40 finishers will have exempt status on the Korn Ferry Tour.

Nevertheless, Hitchner will have a place to play in 2024. He was No. 23 on the final PGA Tour Canada money list, after earning CAD26,442 in six events. That got him exemptions through the Pre-Qualifying and First Stage of Q-School, and it guarantees him a spot next year on the PGA Tour Americas, which will combine what used to be the PGA Tour LatinoAmerica and the PGA Tour Canada.

PGA Tour/Korn Ferry Q-School 


There were five Second Stage qualifiers played from Nov. 14 to Dec. 1, and the top 15 finishers from each -- plus ties -- will advance to the Final Stage, which will be played in December in Ponte Vedra, Fla., at the TPC Sawgrass Valley Course and Sawgrass CC. Only the top five finishers from there will get PGA Tour status for 2024, but everyone who makes it to the Final Stage will have at least limited status on the Korn Ferry Tour next year. 

Valencia, Calif.

Nov. 28-Dec. 1

At Valencia Country Club

Par 72, 7,300 yards

Final results

1. Jeffrey Kang, Los Angeles                         66-71-67-73--277 (-11) 

T2. Thomas Longbella, Chippewa Falls     73-71-66-70--280

T2. Christian Banke, Scottsdale, Ariz.            68-72-70-70--280

T4. Jared du Toit, Canada                              70-67-73-73--283

T4. Kevin Velo, Danville, Calif.                        66-69-71-77--283

What it took -- 287 (7-way tie for 13th)

T20. Derek Hitchner, Minneapolis                77-71-72-68--288

59. Ben Sigel, Minnetonka                            74-76-78-78--306

Port St. Lucie, Florida

Nov. 14-17 

At The Tesoro Club - Palmer Course

Par 72, 7,316 yards

Final results 

T1. K Limbhasut, Phoenix                           72-70-67-69--278 (-10)

T1. Danny Walker, Jacksonville, Fla.          69-72-68-69--278

T3. Van Holmgren, Wayzata                     72-71-66-70--279

T3. Davis Shore, Sarasota, Fla.                 69-73-70-67--279

T3. Kristoffer Ventura, Palm Bch., Fla.       71-70-69-69--279

6. Brendon Jelley, Scottsdale, Ariz.             75-69-66-70--280

What it took -- 284 (2-way tie for 14th)

T16. Will Grevlos, Sioux Falls.                 72-72-70-71--285

T26. Angus Flanagan, Surrey, UK            75-72-70-70--287

Savannah, Georgia

Nov. 14-17

At The Landings -- Deer Creek

Par 72, 7,185 yards

Final results 

1. Bryson Nimmer, Okatie, S.C.                72-71-68-62--273 (-15)

T2. Luke Long, Fayetteville, Ark.               67-73-72-62--274

T2. Brandon Crick, McCook, Neb.            66-71-70-67--274

T9. Andre Metzger, Sioux Falls               72-74-68-65--279

Magic Number -- 280 (6-way tie for 12th)

76. Jack Ebner, Edina                             78--76-73-71--298

Dothan, Alabama

Nov. 14-17

At Robert Trent Jones Trail at Highland Oaks

Marshwood Course

Par 72, 7,632 yards

Third-round results 

T1. Connor Burgess, Richmond, Va.              66-68-67-68--269 (-19)

T1. Mark Goetz, Greensburg, Pa.                   69-62-71-67--269

3. Steven Fisk                                                  69-71-63-67--270

What it took -- 281 (3-way tie for 13th)

T77. Brady Madsen, Raymond                     74-78-78-72--302 

FIRST STAGE (13 sites, Oct. 10 through Oct. 27)

The top 20 finishers and ties -- or in a couple of cases, the top 19 and ties -- advanced from each of the 13 First Stage sites to the Second Stage.

Madison, Mississippi

Oct. 17-20

At Lake Caroline GC

Par 70, 6,835 yards

Final results 

1. Zander Winston, Scottsdale, Ariz.       67-63-67-60--257 (-23)

2. Thomas Giroux, Canada                      66-64-63-67--260

T3. Peyton Shore, Saluda, S.C.               66-62-68-66--262

T3. Nic Cassidy, Athlens, Ga.                  67-64-66-65--262

5. Ryan Hall, Knoxville, Tenn.                 67-66-65-66--264

T15. Van Holmgren, Wayzata               66-71-66-65--268

What it toook -- 269 (3-way tie for 18th)

T27. Andrew Israelson, Staples           68-68-69-67--272

Rockwall, Texas

Oct. 17-20

At Rockwall G&CC

Par 72, 7,414 yards

Final results 

1. Luke Long, Fayetteville, Ark.          69-69-66-63--267 (-21)

2. Matthis Besard, Belgium                 68-70-67-69--274

3. James Swash, Ruston, La.             68-73-70-64--275

4. Chad Sewell, Conroe, Texas           72-68-69-67--276

5. D. Armstrong, Jacksonville, Fla.      70-68-69-71--278

What it took --284 (6-way tie for 19th)

T46. Derek Chang, Dallas                 73-73-73-71--290

T59. Trey Fessler, Hanover               73-75-72-72--292

Florida 2

Lake Worth, Fla. 

Oct. 17-20

The Falls Club 

Par 71, 6,735

Final results

1. Jimmy Hervol, Lake Worth, Fla.        66-67-64-64--261 (-23)

2. Shunyat Hak, Lake Mary, Fla.           68-65-66-66--265

3. Dan McCarthy, Palm Beach Gdns.   69-69--65-63--266

4. Logan Sowell, Bluffton, S.C.             68-68-66-65--267

What it took -- 273 (7-way tie for 16th)

T66. Evan Long, New Castle, Pa.       75-69-74-73--291

Albequerque, New Mexico

Ocdt. 17-20

At University of New Mexico Championship Course

Par 71, 7,555 yards

Final results 

1. Matthew Walker, Ottumwa, Iowa             67-68-67-68--270 (-140

T2. Andrew Gibson, Angus, UK                   71-69-66-67--273

T2. Spencer Tibbits (a), Vancouver, Wash.  70-69-67-67--273

T2. Brandon Tsujimoto, Pamona, Calif.        67-72-66-68--273

5. David Timmins, Sandy, Utah                     72-65-69-68--274

What it took -- 281 (6-way tie for 20th) 

T26. Austin Vukovits, Noblesville, Ind.        70-67-71-74--282

Lincoln, Nebraska

Oct. 10-13

At Wilderness Ridge CC

Par 71, 7,107 yards

Final results 

1. Alex Scott, Traverse City, Mich.                69-62-70-69--270 (-14)

2. Tripp Kinney, Des Moines                         64-66-68-76--274

3. Emilio Gonzalez, Charlotte, N.C.              67-68-68-74--277

T4. Ben Sigel, Minnetonka                         68-69-74-67--278

T4. Jason Thresher, West Suffield, Conn.    70-70-69-69--278

T4. Cooper Musselman, Louisville                66-68-73-71--278

T7. Jack Ebner, Edina                                  67-64-73-75--279

T10. Brady Madsen, Raymond                    68-68-69-75--280

What it took -- 281 (5-way tie for 16th)

T64. Jack Hiemenz, Blaine                           71-72-74-76--293

T66. Ross Miller, Maple Grove                     74-72-75-75--296

Maricopa, Ariz. 

Oct. 10-13

At Ak-Chin Southern Dunes

Par 72, 7,546 yards

Final results

T1. Tanner Gore, Farmers Branch, Texas.         66-67-66-72--271 (-17) 

T1. Jonathan De Los Reyes, Ripon, Calif.         70-69-72-70--271

3. Brendon Jelley, Scottsdale, Ariiz.                    70-64-71-68--273

4. Blake Hathcoat, Fresno, Calif.                         68-70-68-68--274

T5. Daniel Robertson, St.. Petersburg, Fla.         71-65-68-71--275

T9. Angus Flanagan, Surrey, UK                       72-71-65-69--277

T16. Andre Metzger, Sioux Falls                        68-74-67-72--281

What it took -- 281 (6-way tie for 16th)

Muskogee, Okla.

Oct. 10-13

At Muskogee GC

Par 70, 6,702 yards

Final results

1. Luis Gerando Garza, Guanajuato, Mexico   69-68-63-70--270 (-10)

T2. Wil Gibson, Jonesboro, Ark.                       67-68-68-68--271

T2. Tyson Reeder, Edmond, Okla.                    71-66-67-67--271

T4. Brayden Garrison, Franklin, Tenn.              69-71-62-72--273

T4. Alex Schaake, Omaha                                 67-68-68-70--273

T4. Blaine Hale, Richardson, Texas                   64-71-67-71--273

T7. Will Grevlos, Sioux Falls                           68-71-69-66--274

T12. Thomas Longbella, Chippewa Falls       70-66-69-71--276

T18. What it took -- 278 (5-way tie for 18th)

T46. Thomas Lehman, Scottsdale, Ariz.       71-71-74-70--286

Florida 1

Champions Gate, Fla. 

Oct. 10-13

At Champions Gate GC

Par 72, 7,107 yards

Final results 

1.  Michael Sweeney, Port St. Lucie, Fla.          71-63-72-64--270 (-18)

2. Taylor Funk, Jacksonville, Fla.                        69-65-69-68--271

3. Hunter Eichhorn, Chattanooga, Tenn.             69-69-67-68--273

T4. Julian Suri, Ponte Vedra,  Beach, Fla.          69-66-73-67--275

T4. Juan Guerra, Orlando, Fla.                            73-66-69-67--275

T4. Tom Adrounie, Montverde, Fla.                      72-63-69-71--275                       

What it took -- 279 (6-way tie for 19th)

T72. Taylor Sundbom, Duluth                           73-76-74--223 


Chardon, Ohio

Sept. 20-22

At Mayfield Sand Ridge Club

Par 72, 7,275 yards

39 qualifying spots

Final results

1. Andrew O'Leary, Norfolk, Mass.                    68-67-74--209 (-7)

T2. Tyler Jones (a), Westerville, Ohio               69-68-73---210

T2. Reid Martin, Columbus, Ohio                     72-70-68--210

T8. Jack Ebner, Edina                                    72-73-69--214

What it took -- 220 (5-way tie for 35th)

Newton, Kansas

Sept. 13-15

At Sand Creek Station GC

Par 72, 7,339 yards

24 qualifying spots

Final results 

1. Andres Acevedo,m San Antonio              68-67-67--202 (-14)

2. Wil Gibson, Jonewboro, Ark.                    68-68-67--203

3. Michael Bakker, Sanford, Fla.                   71-71-65--207 

T5. Brady Madsen, Raymond                      76-68-79--212

What it took -- 219 (3-way tie for 22nd)

T42. Dawson Wills, Chaska                        80-77-80--237

Woodstock, Ill.

Sept. 13-15

Bull Valley GC

Par 72, 7,190 yards

23 qualifying spots

Final results 

1. Matthis Besard, Belgium                   68-68-73--209 (-7)

2. Andrew Walker, Holt, Mich.               74-72-67--213

3. Spencer Tibbits, Vancouver, Wash.  73-70-71--214

T10. Jack Hiemenz, Blaine                  76-68-79--223

What it took -- 228 (2-way tie for 22nd)

Brunswick, Ga. 

Sept. 20-22

At Brunswick CC

Par 70, 6,802 yards

37 qualifying spots

Final results 

1. Erik Edwards, Louisville, Ky.               66-67-67--200 (-10)

T2. Kyle Sterbinsky, Jupiter, Fla.             67-72-66--205

T2. Brent Hamm, Warner Robins, Ga.     67-70-68--205

T2. William Hartford, Palm Beach, Calif. 67-69-69--205

T20. Aaron Wilson, Chaska                  73-71-69--213

What it took -- 216 (7-way tie for 33rd)



Michael R Fermoyle

Mike Fermoyle’s amateur golf career features state titles in five different decades, beginning with the State Public Links (1969), three State Amateurs (1970, 1973 and 1980), and four State Four-Ball championships (1972, 1985, 1993 and 2001). Fermoyle was medalist at the Pine to Palm in 1971, won the Resorters in 1972, made the cut at the State Amateur 18 consecutive years (1969 to 1986), the last being 2000, and amassed 13 top-ten finishes. Fermoyle also made it to the semi-final matches at the MGA’s annual match play championship, the Players’, in 1982 and 1987.

Fermoyle enjoyed a career as a sportswriter at the St. Paul Pioneer Press Dispatch before retiring in 2006. Two years later he began a second career covering the golf beat exclusively for the MGA and its website, mngolf.org, where he ranks individual prep golfers and teams, provides coverage on local amateur and professional tournaments and keeps tabs on how Minnesotans are faring on the various professional tours.

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