In this file photo, UTC golfer Stephan Jaeger competes in the Carpet Captial Collegiate golf event at the Farm near Dalton.Staff file photo by John Rawlston
Former University of Tennessee at Chattanooga golfers Jonathan Hodge and Stephan Jaeger have reached he final stage of PGA Tour Qualifying School, which begins Wednesday at PGA West in LaQuinta, Calif.
If they finish tied for 25th or better at the end of a grueling six-round tournament, they will play on the PGA Tour. The Times Free Press caught up with the former Mocs in separate phone interviews over the weekend.
Q: How do you mentally approach going to the final stage of Q-School?
A: I think the hardest part has been done. I think there's a lot more pressure going into second stage for a guy like me. Because if you don't get through second, then you get nothing. If you go to third and play decent, you're on some tour. There's nothing to lose for us, and I think that's good for us.
Q: What sort of prior experiences can you rely on this week?
A: I don't know how many guys had to go through pre-qualifying, but I probably have the most Q-school experience possible this year. I've got 11 rounds of golf in me in that pressure. It's a golf tournament and you have to do the best you can and play as best you can. At the end of the week you add them up. If it's enough for a win, that's great. If It's enough for a top 25, that's great.
Q: As a native of Germany, why did you attempt to reach the PGA Tour instead of the European Tour?
A: I've been here for so long and I've grown to be a good golfer in the States. I like to practice here, I've got more friends here than I have at home. There are a lot of distractions at home that I don't have here. I like my set-up here in Chattanooga. It's a good set-up for me as a professional athlete.
Q: How much of a difference is there between a mini-tour pro like yourself and former PGA Tour guys who have to go through Q-School again?
A: I feel like I'm in the same category. I've played with Harris [English] and this guy and that guy [on the PGA Tour], and that gives me confidence to think I belong there. For some of them going to Q-School means they didn't have a good year. I'm on an upward trend, and for some of the guys who have to go to Q-School, they didn't play good enough this year. I think that's an advantage. I have confidence up, and my game is as good as it's ever been.
Q: What is your mindset as you approach the final stage?
A: My mind is OK right now. I feel like this my first finals and it's easy to get caught up in what everything means and what could happen. I'm trying to keep it simple and not overdo it. I feel that I can practice too much this week, and I don't want to do that. I want to keep things simple and what I know produces success for me -- that's not the same for everybody. I want to keep doing my thing.
Q: You're living in Jasper with your wife [former UTC softball player Brooke Loudermilk], so where do you practice?
A: Most of the time I practice at Council Fire, which is a haul for me. Now I go to Black Creek some, but mostly I go out to Council Fire.
Q: What growth have you seen in your game since graduating from UTC [in 2010] and by playing on the mini-tours?
A: Oh, man, there's been lots of growth. I know more about my golf game as far as when I get off, I know how to get back on track quicker. More so, I just matured a lot since college. It was live-or-die in college. It's not that way anymore, especially since I've been married. It's still a big deal -- I practice harder than I ever have -- but it's not as big of a deal for me as it used to be. There were times when I took it too seriously and I got down on myself when I didn't play well. I still want it as much as ever. But at the end of the day, it's just golf.
Q: How has being married changed your perspective?
A: My wife is pretty awesome when it comes to the whole golf thing -- and in general. She's supportive of me being gone. I would think a lot of wives wouldn't think that. That's made it easy for me to be gone two or three weeks at a time. But it still stinks because I like being at home with my wife. It's OK if I don't play awesome.
David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...