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Beckman completes unique Q School treble

When it comes to noteworthy streaks on the PGA Tour, Cameron Beckman is right up there with Ernie Els and Tiger Woods.

Els has recorded at least one PGA Tour victory in each of the last seven seasons, the longest active streak on tour. Woods has won three consecutive majors, a feat achieved by only one other player in history, Ben Hogan.

Beckman's streak is a little more disreputable.

The 30-year-old from Minnesota wasn't even aware of his distinction as he chased down a cold beer Monday night to celebrate his 7-under-par65 in the final round of the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament, which secured his job in the big leagues for another year.

For the past three years, the longest active streak in golf, Beckman has finished six pressure-packed rounds of Q-school with a smile on his face and a card in his hands.

"Three years in a row," he repeated softly to himself during a telephone interview from La Quinta, Calif. "I'd like to be done with that one.''

The first week of September was no different than the last two for Beckman, who invested $3,500 and a stamp to officially enter Q School, the tournament in which the dreams of every PGA Tour wannabe seem to depend on every shot.

Some argue that Q School is every bit as stressful as Sunday afternoon in a major championship. A place in history is not on the line, only a place to play.

For Beckman, one week in the pressure-cooker has been much easier than 30-plus weeks in run-of-the-mill PGA Tour events.

"I don't know why I play so good at tour school,'' he said. "I'm starting to wonder if I'm sick, because I truly enjoy it. To me, it's a true test.''

It's a nightmare to so many others.

A year ago, Jaxon Brigman should have qualified on the number. But he inadvertently signed for an incorrect score -- one stroke higher than it actually was -- had to accept the higher score and was relegated to the Tour.

This year, the tragic figure was Tim O'Neal. He looked like a sure bet to double the number of black players on the PGA Tour to two. Instead, the former Jackson State standout made triple bogey on the last hole and missed by two shots.

Then there's Joe Daley.

He was in the thick of the race Saturday afternoon until he hit into the water on the 17th hole. That wasn't the worst of it. Daley had a 2-foot putt for double bogey that dropped into the center of the cup -- and then bounced back out.

Daley threw his hat down in disbelief. The cup was not installed properly, allowing for the ball to hit the cup at just the right angle, with just the right speed, to pop out.

"I could have told you then that he was going to miss by one stroke,'' Beckman said. "Sometimes in golf, I think people who win tournaments ... it's determined before you tee off. Because the stuff that happens is completely goofy.''

That's what makes Beckman's Q School hat trick so unusual. He has not let minor setbacks eat at him. Nothing goofy has happened. He has approached Q School full of optimism, not dragged down by dread.

"You've got to learn to enjoy tour school,'' Beckman said. "That's what I've tried to do. Make it a challenge, and see what you've got.''

That's not to say he is immune from pressure.

Beckman couldn't sleep on the eve of the final round because of the ninth hole on the Jack Nicklaus Tournament Course at PGA West, 456 yards with water down the right side. "A triple-bogey hole,'' he called it, and it was for O'Neal.

Beckman was on the bubble Monday, two strokes away from the cutoff, when he came to No. 9 and played it safe -- 2-iron off the tee, 2-iron left of the green (and way left of the water), a chip onto the green and a par.


"It was like the weight of world was off my shoulders,'' he said.

He made six birdies for a 30 on the back nine, and once again made Q School look easy.

Now comes the hard part.

Beckman loves a good challenge, but would rather it take place on the back nine of a $3.5 million official tournament, not a qualifier that cost him $3,500 to play.

He finished 172nd on the money list as a rookie in 1999. He was injured earlier this year and needed a late surge over the final two months to finish high enough on the money list (139th) to advance to the final stage of Q-school.

"If I'm going to play this game, I want to play it at the highest level,'' said Beckman, the 1991 NAIA champion from Texas Lutheran. "That's the fun of it, getting to Sunday in the last couple of groups where you're nervous as hell and can't see straight.''

Beckman has been in that situation. All he wants now is a different stage.


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