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Shelby native has shot at PGA Tour card

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Brown advances to Q-school's final round

By Todd Martin

Brandon Brown isn't so excited for Thanksgiving Day this year, but forgive him if his mind is wandering.

Brown is more focused on the week after the holiday, particularly Dec. 3-8, when he'll head out to La Quinta, Calif., to shoot for his dream - a PGA Tour card.

Brown, a Shelby County High School alumnus, cruised through the first two stages of Qualifying School, shooting a 6-under 278 over 72 holes at Martin Downs Country Club in Palm City, Fla. He then crushed Hombre Golf Club in Panama City, Fla., for a 10-under 274 on another 72 holes. Brown's worst round in the eight rounds of golf over the first two stages - a par 71 on the first round of Stage 2.

"I've been playing pretty confident golf recently," he said. "Even through the last few rounds I played on the Hooter's Tour, I've had pretty low scores. I think over my last 17 or 18 rounds of golf, I've been at par or under."

This year's trip to Q-school has been easier, Brown said, because he's taken the pressure off himself.

"The first couple of years it was difficult," he said. "I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to make it and get through. But this year, I decided that I wasn't really going to think about it, or what anybody else was doing on the course.

"I just wanted to go out and play my game and just not worry about what happens. I'm just looking at Q-school as another tournament."

Although he never has played at the PGA West course, or even in California, Brown said the third, and final stage, will be the most pressure free.

"There won't be nearly as much pressure on me as the guys who've already been on the tour," he said. "I'm already moving up no matter what happens. So if I'm shooting birdies or bogeys, I just have to go on to the next hole and try to play confident."

The top 25 players in the third stage, consisting of 108 holes of golf, earn a PGA Tour exemption that allows them to play at the highest level next season. The next 50 earn Nationwide Tour cards, which would be almost like playing in Class AAA baseball before heading onto the major leagues.

After that, everyone that qualified for the third stage at least earns exemptions for some Nationwide tournaments, a level Brown hasn't reached yet.

"My dream is the PGA, so of course my goal is to finish in the top 25," he said. "But no matter what, I'm getting better. I just have to do what I have been doing - keep practicing and stay confident."

Brown is staying with a friend in West Palm Beach, Fla., and will remain there until he leaves for California.

"I wanted to come back and be with the family and hang out for Thanksgiving, but I'm going to stay here and keep practicing," he said. "Once I started looking at it, I couldn't really miss that much time from practice.

"It might not be the best Thanksgiving this year, but hopefully it will be a really good early Christmas gift for everybody."