Making the Rounds: Cameron Rappleye, Scott Gordon keep hopes alive

Scott Gordon also overcame some hairy moments to advance in qualifying.
Scott Gordon also overcame some hairy moments to advance in qualifying. Todd & Barbara Photography

Cameron Rappleye and Scott Gordon are nine years apart in age and in vastly different places in their pro golf careers, but they shared some “Oh, &#!@” moments during the first stage of Tour qualifying last week in Northern Nevada.

Rappleye, 24, was 12 under par through 70 holes at Dayton Valley Golf Club. With two holes to play in the four-round torture test, he was in the top 10 and comfortably on his way to advancing to the second stage for the first time in his budding career.

Then he hit three balls in the water over his final two holes and suddenly nothing was for sure.

Gordon, 33, in his 11th trip to what is referred to as “Q-School,” was cruising at even par through 16 holes of his final round, experience telling him that two more pars and a 6 under total would punch his ticket to the second stage for the eighth time.

Then he hit three balls off the 17th tee, freaking out his mother, who couldn’t figure out what was going on.

Spoiler alert: Both players recovered to finish in the top 30 and keep alive their goal of making the Tour.

“I’m staring a 12 in the face if I don’t pull off one more good swing,” Rappleye said of his par-5 penultimate hole (the course’s No. 8) on which he hit two balls in the water and made a triple bogey. He double-bogeyed his final hole for a 2-over 74 to tie for 23rd.

“I’m thinking, ‘This is how it’s going to end? I make a 10?,’” Gordon said of the par-4 17th hole on which he pulled his drive and his provisional drive so far left that he hit a second provisional. His first ball stopped on a cart path 1 yard from out-of-bounds stakes, from where he salvaged a bogey and a 73 to tie for 29th without a stroke to spare. His first provisional was OB.

Rappleye has pFalayed professionally for a little more than a year. The Elk Grove resident competed on minitours with modest success throughout 2014 after failing to get through the first stage of Tour qualifying last year.

“I feel like I played OK, but I need to close out final rounds better than I have,” he said. “I let big chunks of money right out the window.

“I’ve gotten better and I learned some things, but maybe I didn’t take as big a step as I would have liked.”

After opening with a 76 at Dayton Valley, he went 67-64 to give him some final-round cushion. Good thing.

“I’m glad I could make those swings, still get through and have the next three weeks to think about them and make sure they don’t happen again,” Rappleye said.

Gordon essentially retired from competitive golf after washing out in the second stage last year. He made four cuts in 26 starts on the (then Nationwide) Tour in 2008 and two cuts in 19 starts on the PGA Tour in 2010, but after a successful minitour year in 2013, he was tired of the grind, unfulfilled and decided he was ready for something new.

The Fair Oaks resident completed his degree in economics from UC Davis, considered getting into commercial real estate and financial services, then spent the fall season as the assistant men’s golf coach at UCD.

“I wasn’t getting to where I wanted to be,” he said. “But I knew in the back of my mind that Q-School comes up once a year.”

Although Gordon played a couple of times a week, he didn’t compete for a year and hardly went to the range. Playing alongside fun-loving college players helped reignite his passion for the game, and the decision to step away freed him mentally, he said.

He is no longer obsessed with getting to the big tours. His mindset after a bad shot: “If I keep doing that, I don’t want to be (on tour) anyway.

“I’m definitely more positive now,” he said.

The 17th fairway may be the most generous at windy and water-lined Dayton Valley. Gordon estimates the landing area is 100 yards wide.

“It’s a driving range,” he said.

He tried to knock down a driver into the wind and pull-hooked his tee shot 40 yards left of his target toward an OB fence that shouldn’t be a consideration.

“Somehow it stopped on the cart path,” he said. “Someone was looking out for me.”

▪ Erick Justesen also advanced at Dayton Valley, as did Erik Flores in Georgia. Stephen Edman, Tyler Raber, Jake Johnson, Kenneth McCready and Tom Johnson did not advance.

▪ Ben Geyer, Grant Rappleye, Matt Hansen and Kevin Lucas began first-stage play Tuesday in Southern California.

Levin trends upward ...

Spencer Levin’s strong play in the first two events of the 2014-15 PGA Tour season has him in prime position to maintain his fully exempt status for the remainder of the season.

Levin needs to earn $317,703 in eight tournaments as he completes his Major Medical Extension. He has compiled $199,833 with a tie for 21st and tie for 10th.

Accurate driving has helped his cause. He has hit 75 percent of the fairways through two events to rank second on tour.

The Sacramento native and resident is not playing this week in the McGladrey Classic.

... So does Sutherland

Sacramento’s Kevin Sutherland’s average drive in nine starts on the Champions Tour is 290.7 yards, which places him second in the 50-and-over crowd. He has seven top-25 finishes and earnings of $342,833 since turning 50 in July.

It seems only a matter of time before his fitness and power translates to a victory. Maybe this week in the AT&T Championship in San Antonio, which would vault him into the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship next week in Arizona.

Call The Bee’s Steve Pajak,

(916) 326-5526.