PALM HARBOUR, Fla. – The Golf Channel Am Tour National Championships are back on the east coast for the first time since 2013. This year, the 1,151 qualifiers will take on first-time nationals host Innisbrook Resort & Club in Tampa, Fla.
After back-to-back events on the west coast in Scottsdale, Ariz. and La Quinta, Calif., the championship is back in Florida. This year's field is even larger than the last time the event was held on eastern time in 2013 at TPC Sawgrass. The event officially kicked off tonight with the customary welcome dinner and reception, hosted this year by Morning Drive's Gary Williams and Lauren Thompson.
This week's qualifiers will tee it up at three of the four championship courses at Innisbrook, including PGA Tour's Valspar Championship host Copperhead Course. The Copperhead is well-regarded on tour as being a fine and fair test of golf. It's challenge climaxes with the infamous "Snake pit," which is a hazard-heavy stretch that we'll check up on later in the week to see how the golfers are doing. The 72-hole event is rounded out with the Island and North courses at the resort as well as nearby Fox Hollow Golf Club.
Some of these golfers will have the inside track thanks to strong results in the Winter Championship, a major championship held here at Innisbrook at the beginning of the year. The winner of the Championship flight, Timothy Gardner, from Cincinnati, Ohio is in the field this week. The win at the Winter Championship was the highlight of a busy campaign in which he competed in 27 events.
Also here is Terry Winfrey, from nearby Wesley Chapel, who won the Hogan flight. Meanwhile, Hogan flight winner Dave Davlin is coming from Texas to defend his Winter Championship. Sarazen winner Clint Payton, from Seymor, Ind., is here. And lastly, Danny Anderson will have a tall order ahead of him, as his victory in the Snead flight bumped him up to Jones (16.0-19.9), where he'll try to climb the ranks.
A few more facts about this year's Am Tour National Championships:
- 33 past national champions are in the field this week hoping for a return to glory.
- Over $125,000 was raised for Feherty's Troops First Foundation during the course of the 2016 season at Am Tour majors and local events. That is up 9,000 compared to 2015.
- 10 women are in this week's field of 559.
- 52 golfers this week are under the age of 30, including six teenagers.
And while Senior Nationals are next week, eight golfers above the age of 60 have chosen to compete with the pups this week.
We'll have daily articles from the event, which you can find on our Golf Central event landing page. For those of you with friends and family competiting this week, you can view the daily leaderboard right here.