October 5, 2022

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Just Do Travel

Luke Gannon leads John Deere Classic qualifiers

5 min read

The John Deere Classic’s Monday qualifier at Oakwood Country Club ended in a rarity for 2021. No playoff was needed to determine the final spots in the field of this week’s PGA TOUR event.

Luke Gannon, 22, was medalist after shooting 63 (-8). He will make his PGA TOUR debut at TPC Deere Run. Gannon has worked a maintenance job for his dad’s church while trying to make ends meet as a professional golfer, per Ryan French’s Monday Q Info account on Twitter.

Alex Smalley, Eric Cole, and Rodrigo Lee finished in a 3-way tie for second at 6 under. An elite group that include Brooks Koepka’s younger brother (Chase Koepka), a former TOUR winner (Eric Axley), and a player who successfully Mondayed just two weeks ago (Stephen Stallings Jr.) finished a shot back.

Rodrigo Lee will join Gannon in making his PGA TOUR debut. 

Q&A with Alex Smalley

PGATOUR.com spoke with Alex Smalley after he successfully qualified Monday for his fifth career PGA TOUR start. 

PGATOUR.COM: What did your back-to-back top-5 finishes on the Forme Tour do for your confidence leading into this Monday qualifier?  

Alex Smalley: I knew I was playing well coming into this week, so I just had to do the same things I’ve been doing. I played in the Rocket Mortgage qualifier last week and missed the playoff by one, so I knew I was close. It was certainly nice to be able to get over the hurdle this week.

PGATOUR.COM: How hectic will preparation be this week after you revise the travel and lodging plans?

Alex Smalley: Travel and lodging are always difficult when you qualify because most hotels in the area (especially this week) are sold out. Thankfully I was able to find a place. The TOUR gives out courtesy cars for players, so that certainly helps the finances for the week not having to worry about a rental car for seven days. I am currently trying to cancel my return flight to Atlanta that I booked for 6 a.m. Tuesday if I didn’t make it. That is currently the most difficult thing that I’m dealing with right now. 

PGATOUR.COM: How have your expectations matched your goals since turning professional?

Alex Smalley: I’m not sure I had a whole lot of expectations turning pro. I was trying to feel it out the first few months. The thing I did realize pretty quickly is just how competitive all levels of pro golf are. Monday qualifiers, mini-tour events, and Q-School are all crazy competitive, so I’ve had to adjust my expectations after competing in a few of those. Especially for Monday qualifiers, you could go a whole year playing well in those and never make it into an event. Just trying to manage that part of it is difficult, mentally speaking. 

PGATOUR.COM: What has been the most surprising to you the most about the grind of a professional golfer? 

Alex Smalley: I think the most shocking thing is how lonely it can all be. Traveling back and forth between events is tough, but doing it alone would be even tougher. I’m lucky that my mom travels with me and caddies for me in the Monday qualifiers and mini-tour events. She actually caddies for me in the Forme events as well. Going back to what I said in the last question, it’s just so competitive. I was 20 under last week at the Forme event in Auburn and finished T3 with four other guys. That’s just crazy. I’ve also played in three-day mini-tour events where the winning score was -24. If you’re not shooting 6 to 8 under every day in some of these events, especially Monday qualifiers, you’re not going to sniff winning. That’s probably been the thing I’ve realized most. Everyone is so hungry and driven to get to the PGA TOUR. 

Qualifiers

Luke Gannon
Age:
22
College: Southern Illinois University 
Turned pro: 2019
PGA TOUR starts: 0
Cuts Made: 0
Notes: Gannon has played in three Korn Ferry Tour events in the 2020-21 season. He finished in the top 20 in two consecutive events on the Adams Pro Tour in June. Gannon helped lead Southern Illinois University to two NCAA Regional appearances in 2016 and 2019. He was ranked the No. 7 junior in Kansas in 2015.

Alex Smalley
Age:
24
College: Duke University
Turned pro: 2019
PGA TOUR starts: 4
Cuts Made: 2
PGA TOUR earnings: $93,000
Twitter: @asmalley_golf
Notes: Smalley made the cut at Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship in 2020 (T14) and 2021 (T22). Before Monday, Smalley finished in the top 5 in consecutive starts on the Forme Tour. Smalley was a member of the 2019 U.S. Arnold Palmer Cup team and the Walker Cup team, registering a 3-1-0 record in each event. He also finished one stroke back of the all-time scoring record during the 2016 U.S. Amateur stroke play, winning medalist honors by shooting 65-68. He also competed in the 2017 U.S. Open, missing the cut after rounds of 73 and 74. He won the prestigious Sunnehanna Amateur in 2018 and 2019, the first player to go back-to-back in that event since Rickie Fowler.

Eric Cole
Age:
33
College: Nova Southeastern University
Turned pro: 2009
PGA TOUR starts: 2
Cuts Made: 1
PGA TOUR earnings: $28,000
Notes: Has won more than 50 times on the Minor League Golf Tour. Finished T23 at Final Stage of Korn Ferry Q-School in 2017 to earn temporary status. Cole has made 26 starts on the Korn Ferry Tour in the 2020-21 season, including a third-place finish. His dad, Bobby Cole, won the 1966 British Amateur and won his solo PGA TOUR title in 1977 at the Buick Open. His mother, Laura, is the youngest player to win the U.S. Women’s Amateur at age 16 in 1971. She was the 1973 LPGA Rookie of the Year and finished in the top 10 of 70 LPGA tournaments. 

Rodrigo Lee
Age:
33
Turned pro: 2010
PGA TOUR starts: 0
Cuts made: 0
Notes: The John Deere Classic will be Lee’s first PGA TOUR start. He has recorded a top-10 on PGA TOUR Latinoamerica every year since 2017. He was 2011 Rookie of the Year on the China Tour. 

Notes

Notables who missed qualifying: Stephen Stallings Jr., Eric Axley, Chase Koepka, Robert Garrigus, Tain Lee, Akshay Bhatia, John Augenstein, Hayden Springer, M.J. Daffue, Justin Suh, Dylan Meyer, Ben Crane, Andrew Loupe, and Broc Everett. 

2020-2021 Monday Qualifier statistics:
Last event’s qualifier result (Rocket Mortgage Championship): Connor Arendell (MC), Justin Suh (MC), Daniel Wetterich (MC), and Tain Lee (MC)
Total money earned by Monday qualifiers on TOUR this season: $1,002,323
Best finish: M.J. Daffue (T12, Sanderson Farms Championship).
Next Monday Qualifier: Barbasol Championship at Boone’s Trace National Golf Club in Richmond, KY (July 12, 2021)