Another Twenty Graduate to the Big Show

By Sports NetworkNovember 30, 2004, 5:00 pm
Nationwide TourThe 2004 Nationwide Tour has come to a close and with it, 20 players moving on to the PGA Tour. All 20 of those players advanced through their finish on the money list. There were no three- time winners this season, but five players won two events apiece.
The player of the year also has one of the best names in the business. Jimmy Walker does not resemble his name-sake of acting lore that starred in the 1970's sitcom 'Good Times,' but he did collect two wins and seven top-10 finishes.
Walker's season was dynamite. He burst onto the scene quickly with a win at the season-opening Panama Open. After the tour returned to the U.S. from Australia and New Zealand, it was more of the same for Walker.
He picked up win No. 2 at the Louisiana Open, the first event on the U.S. mainland. Walker cooled over the next few weeks with two missed cuts in a four-week span.
However, the 25-year-old wrapped a sixth-place finish and a tie for fourth around the second of those two missed cuts. After his tie for fourth at Knoxville, Walker went eight straight events without a top-10 finish.
Walker got back in the groove and helped secure his playing privileges on the PGA Tour with two runner-up finishes in a three-start stretch. He finished four shots off the pace to share second place at the Virginia Beach Open. Two weeks later, he ended two strokes short of Scott Gump at the Boise Open.
Walker finished outside the top-25 in the final three events, but still won the money title by nearly $40,000 over D.A. Points.
Despite being inconsistent off the tee, Walker ranked 120th in driving accuracy, he did rank ninth in driving distance. It was Walker's putter that saved him as he ranked sixth in putting average (1.744 putt per round), which in turn helped him finish fifth in scoring average (70.06)
Walker joined the tour in 2002 when he made the cut in eight of 10 starts, with two top-10 finishes. He improved that in 2003 with five top-10s in 18 starts before moving into the winners circle for the first time in 2004.
Joining Walker as two-time winners this season were Points, Charles Warren, Kevin Stadler and Daniel Chopra, who won twice in just three starts on tour. Points, Warren and Stadler will join Walker on the PGA Tour next year as they all finished in the top-20 on the Nationwide Tour money list. Chopra will also be a PGA Tour member next year as he finished 108th on that tour's money list this season.
After picking up two international wins, Brendan Jones decided to bring his talents to the Nationwide Tour in 2004. Despite the fact he played in only eight events, Jones finished sixth on the money list with five top-10 finishes in six cuts made.
Jones opened the season with a tie for second in his homeland at the Jacob's Creek Open Championship in Australia. He came right back the following week with another tie for second at the New Zealand PGA Championship.
The 29-year-old missed the cut at the Henrico County Open in May, in what was his first start on U.S. soil in 2004. Jones lost to Chris Anderson in a four- way playoff the following week at the Carolina Classic
Jones shared fourth at Knoxville, then finally broke through. He carded a final-round 67 to pass D.A. Points and win the LaSalle Bank Open by one stroke.
The Australian took a break from the tour for over two months at that point, but continued competing at a much higher stage. Jones competed in three straight majors on the PGA Tour.
He missed the cut by three at the U.S. Open, then missed the cut by two across the pond at the British Open and finally fell six strokes short of the cut at the PGA Championship.
Jones returned to the Nationwide Tour the week after the PGA Championship and missed the cut at the Alberta Classic. His final event was the season-ending Tour Championship where he finished 52nd, but his PGA Tour card was secured.
Jones also collected two wins on the Japan Golf Tour in 2004 that for a time had boosted him into the top-100 in the world rankings.
Proving his worth as the player of the year, Jimmy Walker had his hand on the tournament of the year as well. At the Louisiana Open, Walker trailed Robert Garrigus by eight strokes entering the final round.
Garrigus posted a birdie and an eagle on the opening nine, but they were off- set by two bogeys and a double-bogey. On the back nine, Garrigus continued to struggle with two more bogeys and a triple-bogey leading to a final-round 78.
Walker meanwhile birdied four of his first nine holes to jump into contention a minus-13. After a bogey at the 13th, he bounced back to birdie 14.
Walker proved to be dynamite down the stretch and closed with three straight birdies to get to 16-under. He held on to win as Rick Price closed with a 68 to end at minus-15 and Charley Hoffman got within two with a final-round 66.
The eight-stroke comeback matched the third-best comeback in Nationwide Tour history. Gary Hallberg, 2002 Northeast Pennsylvania Classic, and John Flannery, 1991 Reno Open, erased 10-stroke deficits. Stan Utley also erased an eight-stroke deficit at the 1995 Louisiana Open.
The five two-time winners all had solid seasons. Those five were Jimmy Walker, D.A. Points, Charles Warren, Kevin Stadler and Daniel Chopra. Each won two tournaments this season and earned their playing privileges on the PGA Tour for the 2005 season.
Franklin Langham, a six-year PGA Tour veteran, regained his privileges for the PGA Tour with a fourth-place finish on the Nationwide Tour money list. Langham got to that point with a win, two runner-up finishes, a third place finish and eight top-10s overall. Langham finished in the top-10 in seven different statistical categories including leading the tour in scoring average (69.80).
Ryuji Imada picked up his second tour win and finished third on the Nationwide Tour money list. To go along with his win, he had five top-five finishes and seven top-10s in 18 cuts made. Imada's top stat was his 70.00 scoring average that placed him fourth in that category.
Ty Tryon turned pro as a teenager, but that move now seems to have been a mistake. Tryon, who turned 20 in June, played two years on the PGA Tour and finished 242nd in 2002 and 196th in 2003 on the PGA Tour money list. His troubles continued on the Nationwide Tour as he made just six cuts in 22 starts in 2004. He earned just $9,058, placing him 199th on the money list, with his best finish a tie for 48th at the West Virginia Classic.
Dave Stockton, Jr., who was a PGA Tour member for eight years, came in 145th on the money list with just seven cuts made in 23 events started. He did manage two top-25 finishes among those seven made cuts.
It is tough to pick on a guy who finished 33rd on the money list, but for Jason Buha things could have and should have been a lot better. Buha played on the PGA Tour in 2000 and 2003, but this year he played in a Nationwide Tour- high 30 events. He did make 19 cuts, but posted just five top-10 finishes and was unable to reclaim his PGA Tour card with his 33rd place finish on the money list.
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