Michael Buttacavoli's quest for a 2012 PGA Tour Card brings the former Rice Owl back to Houston as the second stage of the Professional Golf Association's Q-School takes place on the Members Course at Redstone Golf Club in Humble.
The four-round tournament played Tuesday through Friday is the second of three stages in which the Top 25 finishers and ties earn full status on the PGA Tour while the next 50 finishers gain full status for 2012 on the Nationwide Tour.
The tournament at Redstone is one of six being played as part of the second stage of Q-School. A predetermined number of the top finishers from each of the six, second stage tournaments will advance to play in the Final Qualifying Stage at PGA West in LaQuinta, Calif., Nov. 30-Dec. 5.
Last month, Buttacavoli fired a four-round 280 (69-72-72-67) at the first stage of Q-School. The eight-under score was good for a tie for 14th. The top 22 finishers at the stage advanced on to the six second-stage events which will all be played next week.
At three-under par after three rounds of the first state, Buttacavoli was outside the cutline.
His final round began an hour and a half late because of weather and the course conditions. Six holes into the round, play was again called by weather. The delay lasted three hours before Buttacavoli got back on the course and finished around 6 p.m.
Despite the delays and weather conditions, Buttacavoli said he had one of the best ball-striking rounds in competition in a long time. He hit his last 17 greens in regulation and made the putts he needed to make.
"The cut after three days was about a five, so I had a feeling it could jump to six or seven, but didn't really know because of the weather. The wind had picked up and it was wet so the course was playing longer," Buttacavoli said. "I just knew I had to shoot a good score because I was only three-under going into the final round. I knew it would take something under par, how much I wasn't sure, but I tried to play one shot at a time, hit as many good shots as I could and make as many putts as I could. Keep it that simple."
Now, Buttacavoli heads to a course in which he has familiarity.
Players had an opportunity to rank the course sites in order of preference for both the first and second stages. Buttacavoli's first choice for the second stage was Redstone. During his playing career at Rice, he had an opportunity to play the course and the Miami Beach, Fla., native considers Houston his second home.
"I like the golf course," he said. "It's always nice to have seen a golf course before. It's an advantage to anyone to have played a place more than just a day or two prior to practice rounds so that was a big appeal. I know the playing conditions.
"In general, it gets pretty windy in Texas which I'm used to and Redstone gets the greens pretty firm and the ball rolls pretty fast. My home golf course, La Gorce Country Club in Miami Beach, has some of the best Bermuda greens I have ever putted on and they are very fast all the time. It's what I'm comfortable with because that's what I grew up on. If I can go and putt on greens that are similar to that, it's definitely an advantage."
In the coming week, Buttacavoli will be playing against a field of professional golfers who all have the same thing in mind - play well and advance. The 70-plus player field includes 2008 PGA Championship winner Shawn Micheel and Brian Watts, who was the runner-up at the 1998 U.S. Open, as well as others who have had success on the PGA Tour.
"You are playing against really good players. It's exciting," Buttacavoli said. "It's fun to play against guys that have won, especially if you beat them. You want to play against the better golfers. It's why you play and having done a bunch of Monday qualifiers all year, you get used to it."
In about a year and a half since helping the Owls advance to the NCAA Regional Championships as a senior, Buttacavoli has had success as a professional. He finished 65th on the National golf Association's Hooters Pro Tour money list. He advanced to the U.S. Open Sectionals and also during the year qualified for a Nationwide event before missing the cut by one stroke.
"I think my game has improved a lot since leaving college," he said. "I had some moments of playing really well on the Hooters tour but I haven't really put four rounds together in a tournament and that has held me back. Not making it out of the U.S. Open Sectionals and missing a Nationwide cut by one stroke, in all of my experiences, I have been able to draw something. It's conditions that I was unfamiliar with a year ago and anytime I can put myself in a new position I'm going to mature as a golfer and become better."
Culminating in the PGA's Q-School, Buttacavoli's first full year as a professional has truly been an education for the young golfer.
"I might have not played as well as I had hoped at times, but it's an experience," he said. "I'm getting better at handling the pressure. There are a lot of really good players who are not on the PGA or Nationwide tours and there are a lot of guys that are on the tours that may not look unbelievably good but they know how to get the ball in the hole because they know how to handle themselves. You learn how to handle yourself in a tournament setting. Continuing to play against better and better competition is the best thing for me."
On the Members Course at Redstone in the coming week, school is back in session.