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Wide range of emotions on the final day of q-school

LA QUINTA, Calif. -- Heart and heartbreak. They define q-school.

Exhibit A: Erik Compton, a double heart transplant recipient who is headed back to the PGA TOUR next season after a second straight 67 Monday to tie for seventh at PGA West, where 26 players graduated to the PGA TOUR for 2013. Among those 26 was Brad Fritsch, who had already earned his card via his finish on the Tour but improved his status with a tie for seventh.

"Six rounds of TOUR school, this is hell week," Compton said. "Being able to have a chance to win four years after what I went through, you can't even dream up a story like that.

"Maybe I made it look easy, but it's not. The mental part of what it does to you is different. You can have a train wreck the last two holes."

Exhibit B: Edward Loar, who twice hit it in the water on the final two holes of the Stadium Course to finish in a tie for 32nd and two strokes short of getting his card.

"We all know how cruel the game is," an emotional Loar said following a 78. "Hopefully I can learn from it. Thirteen years, hopefully this won't set me back too much."

It certainly won't make the road for Loar, or anyone else who failed to finish in the top 25, easy. This is the final year players could earn PGA TOUR cards through q-school. Beginning next year, they'll be granted only Tour status.

In other words, it was the end of an era, a sort of last bastion of hope for journeyman and 41-year-old Jeff Gove, who considered giving up the game at one point this season while struggling through a miserable year on the Tour.

In 26 starts, Gove missed the cut 14 times and recorded just two top 10s, earning just over $87,000. He was a member of the PGA TOUR just once since 2007, and he failed to keep his card that season after missing 10 cuts in 30 starts.

Now he's headed back after getting his card for the first time via q-school. He joins, among others, Dong-hwan Lee, who earned medalist honors after finishing at 25 under.

"It changes my whole life," said Gove, who birdied three of his last four holes and four of his last seven on the Stadium Course en route to a 67 to tie for 10th. "I'm happy to see it go, though. It's going to give the Tour more credit and I think that's a better way to earn your card."

In some ways, the latter is less exhausting. Six rounds in the desert can be another story.

"It's mentally and physically draining," Gove added. "It's a hard deal. It's one week. You have to be on your game. You gotta play great."

Don Constable had to go a step further. Actually, two steps further.

The left-hander out of the University of Minnesota was one of four players to secure a card having survived four stages of q-school, beginning with pre-qualifying. Derek Ernst, Si Woo Kim and Henrik Norlander were the others.

At 17 years, 5 months and 6 days old, Kim also became the youngest player to receive a card through q-school, surpassing Ty Tryon, who achieved the feat in 2001 at 17 years, 6 months and 1 day old.

Kim, however, can't take up membership on TOUR until he turns 18 at the end of June.

Patrick Reed, on the other hand, will be a member next season.

After the former Augusta State standout successfully Monday qualified six times in eight attempts this season, Reed finished on the number at PGA West, shooting a 67 on the Stadium Course to finish at 17 under.

"Every Monday I try to shoot 6 under," Reed said.

On this Monday, he needed just a 5-under 67.

Heath Slocum could have used a similar score. Instead, the four-time TOUR winner shot a second straight 72 to finish two strokes outside the number along with three-time winner Camilo Villegas.

Making the finish a bit tougher to swallow for Slocum was a penalty he called on himself when his ball moved on the 17th hole a day earlier. He also hit his tee shot on the 18th hole of the Stadium Course in the water.

"They say crazy stuff happens at q-school and it does," Slocum said. "The ball has never moved on me like that before. You never know what one shot can do in an event like this."

Still, Slocum was pleased with the progress he's made since the final event of the Regular Season at Disney and, along with Villegas, figures to play a mix of PGA TOUR and Tour events in 2013.

"Good play will get me back on TOUR," Slocum said. "I might just have fewer opportunities."

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