Through three rounds last week in the Web.com Tour's first qualifying stage in Maricopa, Ariz., Grant Rappleye was 6 over par and five shots outside the top 34 that would advance to next month's second stage.
With one round to play in his first attempt at "Q school," the best Rappleye had done was a 1-over 73. The Elk Grove resident and 2012 Sacramento State graduate who turned pro a year ago was not, however, discouraged.
"My game wasn't that far off all week," he said. "I just made a couple of loose swings each day."
Rappleye figured a final-round 65 would guarantee he moved on; a 66 would be close – optimistic thinking under the circumstances.
Rappleye birdied his last hole to complete a seven-birdie, no-bogey round of 65 to rally into a 21st-place tie, two shots inside the qualifying number.
"My best round as a pro," he said.
Sacramento's Matt Montez and Woodland's Dillon Dougherty easily advanced in the field of 78 at Southern Dunes Golf Club. Folsom's Kevin Lucas, who shared the first-round lead after a 66, had a final-round 77 to miss moving on by one stroke.
John Catlin, Scott Gordon, Jake Johnson, Erick Justesen and Cameron Rappleye are competing in first-stage qualifying this week at Dayton Valley in Nevada.
Del Paso impresses
Few players are more qualified to critique a United States Golf Association venue than Scott Simpson.
The winner of the 1987 U.S. Open at Olympic Club has finished in the top 25 in 15 of his 28 starts between the U.S. Open and U.S. Senior Open. The more difficult the test, the better the 58-year-old longtime touring pro likes it.
Simpson played Del Paso for the first time Monday, squeezing in a fundraising round between Champions Tour tournaments in North Carolina. His impressions of the host course for the 2015 U.S. Senior Open?
"Par will be a good score after they grow the rough," Simpson said. "It will play plenty long for us, 7,100 yards and par 70."
The last three holes – a 469-yard par 4, a 208-yard par 3 and a 430-yard par 4 that each require a carry over water – caught Simpson's attention.
"A lot can happen over those last three holes," he said. "There are going to be some (double bogeys). If you miss the fairway on No. 18, deciding whether to lay up or go for the green is going to be tough. It's going to make for an exciting finish."
Hoffman on a roll
Emilee Hoffman kissed a trophy and she liked it.
Two months after the 15-year-old Vista del Lago High School sophomore won the first American Junior Golf Association event in which she played, she made it two for two last weekend with a four-shot victory in the AJGA Junior All-Star Invitational in Norman, Okla.
The wins on the high-profile international junior circuit have quickly made Hoffman a hot topic among college coaches.
Lemaster: Master blaster
Sacramento's Heather Lemaster won the 2013 Re/Max Women's World Long Drive Championship last month in Mesquite, Nev. The Granite Bay assistant pro edged two-time winner Sandra Carlborg by four yards (306-302) in the finals, and had a long drive of 336 yards during qualifying.
Ryan Winther, a Sacramento native who lives in Lodi, was unable to attempt to defend his men's title because of a rib injury.
Another horrible break
If anybody knows how to persevere through injury to achieve athletic success, it's Bryce Johnson. While a sophomore at Woodcreek High School, Johnson spent six months in a body cast prompted by a broken back, yet rebounded to earn a college golf scholarship.
Last month, three weeks into his freshman year at Chico State and before he could compete for the Wildcats, Johnson was broadsided in a car accident.
He suffered a ruptured diaphragm, lacerated spleen, partially collapsed lung, fractured ribs and a fractured pelvis.
"My torso ended up in the passenger's seat," Johnson said. "The place where I was supposed to be sitting was not intact anymore. Everyone thought I was dead by the look of the car."
Johnson is taking this semester off from school. He expects to fully recover and hopes to return to the golf team next season.
"I got lucky," he said. "Extremely lucky. Hopefully, I'm getting all the bad stuff out of the way early."
Call The Bee's Steve Pajak, (916) 326-5526.