Nearly one year ago, I submitted my last final at UNC-Chapel Hill and the nearly twenty-one years of schooling had officially come to a close. However, about a year later I’d return to school, with another final test. A test that is more daunting, more difficult, and more important to me than anything I attached my name to as I climbed the ranks of education. 

I’ve graduated from elementary, middle, high school, and college. Making it through with good grades in each and never doubted if I’d make it to the next level. That is until I reached school this year. 

It’s a different type of school. One where pencils are used to write your score on the scorecard. The score can determine the fate of what your next year will look like. It’s a small school of just 179 female students. Our backpacks look a little different and weigh pounds more than the ones I used to shove in my middle school locker. They are wider and filled with our learning tools that most principals would determine as weapons. Well, I guess we do too. In our back pockets, we carry our books. Despite graduating from elementary school they are picture books. Picture books we scribble on and jot down notes that we lean on to pass the test. Our test is open note, open book, and open to the elements of mother nature. Our test is long, in distance and hours. Our test is draining, both mentally and physically. Our test is through a course, nope not the ones with modules one through twenty. Our test is usually set in a beautiful location, not the normal cinder block walls and uncomfortable desks. Don’t let that mislead you, our test is still uncomfy. Our test is the game of golf. Our test results are the sum of our scores on each of the eighteen holes. Unlike most tests, the lower the better. The lowest will graduate. Graduate from Q School. 

Scribbling in my “picture book”.

Q School is short for LPGA Qualifying School. For those unfamiliar, let me give you a brief explanation. Q School is one of the few ways professional golfers can earn their way onto the LPGA tour, the pinnacle of professional golf. 

Q School has three stages and quite simply, it’s survival of the fittest. Here’s a quick breakdown of how it works. 

Stage 1 

  • Field Size: roughly 680 players. 
  • Entry Requirements
    • Any female player who believes they have the skills to pass the test. 
  • Top 85 and ties advance to Stage 2 

Stage 2 

  • Field Size: roughly 180 players.
  • Entry Requirements 
    • Top 85 from Stage 1 
    • Players ranked 36-120 on Symetra Tour Money List 
    • Players outside the top 150 on LPGA Money List 
    • Top 5 Collegiate Players 
  • Top 45 advance to Q Series 

Q Series 

  • Field Size: roughly 110 players 
  • Entry Requirements 
    • Top 45 from Stage 2
    • Players ranked between 11 and 35 on Symetra Tour Money List 
    • Players ranked between 101 and 150 on LPGA Money List 
  • Top 45 players and ties graduate and receive LPGA Status 

Out of the top 1000 players in the world 45 graduate. Most schools wouldn’t accept this graduation rate.

On October 17th, I arrived at Plantation Golf and Country Club to begin my preparation for Stage 2 of Q School. I earned entry because after ten tournaments on the Symetra Tour, quizzes we can call them, I was ranked 93rd on the money list

The official test would begin on October 21st. But just like any test, there is note-taking, studying, and practice to be done beforehand. Some players will cram hitting ball after ball on the driving range as fast as high schoolers go through flashcards five minutes before a test. Others will trust their skills, take time to rest knowing that the studying has been done throughout the year. I’m probably somewhere in the middle. 

Regardless of the preparation method, each player will put a tee in the ground on the 21st and begin this final test. And we won’t know how the class ranks end up until the final putt drops on the afternoon of the 24th. 

And when that putt dropped, I was outside the top 45. Some might say I failed, by the numbers I did. I could choose to hang my head on that and boil the whole year down to one missed opportunity. I’ve never failed a final in school before. That’s probably why I always moved onto the next grade level. However, I don’t remember my teachers ever harping on the grade I received at the end of the year. What I do remember is my teachers pointing out how I’d grown between the start and finish. That is something you can’t put a numerical value on. But, perhaps that has the most value of all.  

I realized in Q School that it’s not about passing the test. It’s about growing so much as a student that eventually you become the master. When we focus on growing, the results take care of themselves. Because any master no longer finds themself in school.