Picturesque, power golf swings and sweet putting strokes will stock both Alvamar courses Monday, when competitors will try to go low enough to qualify for the Midwest Classic, a Nationwide event scheduled to tee off Thursday at Nicklaus Golf Course at Lions Gate in Overland Park.
Former Kansas University golfer and Lawrence resident Chris Thompson, who has qualified for one Nationwide event this summer, will be in the field of potential qualifiers Monday.
He enters the qualifier on fire.
Confident that he’s playing the best golf of his career, Thompson qualified for a Nationwide event in Omaha, Neb., and made the cut two weeks ago, but did not qualify for this weekend’s event in Springfield, Mo. Instead, he played in the three-round Northwest Arkansas Open, an Adams Golf Pro Tour Series event. Tied going into Saturday’s final round, he blew away the field, firing a 10-under-par 62 to finish 22-under, seven strokes better than the second-place finishers and one stroke shy of the Lost Springs Golf and Athletic Club course record.
Thompson was 7-under-par over the final seven holes, carding an eagle, five birdies and a par to finish the back side with a 29.
“I feel like I’ve had a good year,” Thompson said. “No excuses. I’ve got the qualifier at my college home course, and I love Lions Gate.”
Some golfers will choose the longer, more wide-open public side, others the tighter private course, which requires precise positioning off the tee and more strategic decisions than the “upstairs” course. The low seven scores from the public and the low seven from the private qualify.
Thompson initially was leaning toward playing the tighter course, but in the end decided to play the public side.
“Obviously, I’ve played both courses a lot,” Thompson said. “I’ve played tournaments on the public, but I don’t think I’ve ever played a tournament on the private side. It’s easy to hit drivers when you’re just freewheeling with your friends, but there are some pretty awkward tee balls. I think playing upstairs is a lot safer option.”
The Monday qualifiers move on to play in the $550,000 Midwest Classic and will vie for the $112,500 first-place prize money, roughly $100,000 more than Thompson’s check for winning in Rogers, Ark. Thompson predicted that a 67 on the public and 68 on the private should be good enough to at least make a playoff for a qualifying spot.
Matt Gogel, a former Kansas University golfer and PGA Tour pro, holds the Alvamar public course record of 64.
“I think it has a chance to go down,” Alvamar pro David Dunn said. “The country club’s going to play a little harder. I expect the guys who have course knowledge to play well down there.”
Former KU golfer Ryan Vermeer, now a teaching pro at Oak Hills Country Club in Omaha, Neb., brings course knowledge and will play the private side.
Spencer Wilson of Golf USA in Lawrence and Alvamar assistant pro Tyler Henderson will play the private side. Their Monday morning tee times: Wilson 7:45, Vermeer 10:09, Henderson 10:27. Thompson tees off upstairs at 7:45.