Feherty kicks off Am Tour National Championships in La Quinta

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LA QUINTA, Calif. – In what has become an annual tradition, David Feherty was on hand to kick off the Golf Channel Am Tour National Championships tonight at La Quinta Resort & Club.

"This is the people's amateur," said David Feherty. "The people who drive the industry. The people who pay my wages…"

Coming off a new deal this week with NBC-Golf Channel, Feherty used the opportunity to reminisce about the surprising offer while he was still competing on tour to become a broadcaster. He told the story of being approached by CBS after the first round of an event to hang up the clubs and work for them.

"I didn't even play the second round," he said, upon being offered the job in a bar after the first round. "I went 71-Announcer."

Feherty has become a regular at Am Tour Nationals in large part due to the fact that over the course of the season, $116,000 was raised by Am Tour members at their local tours for Feherty's Troops First Foundation, which he co-founded. Feherty's Troops First is a non-profit organization that develops, operates and supports initiatives to benefit today's military personnel.

"This room is a great example," said Feherty. "This is my people, you're the ordinary golfers that get out there that love the game."

A regular host of the national championships, La Quinta and PGA West hosted an Am Tour major earlier this year, The Western Masters and several flight champions of that event are competing this week.

Phil Walker, from San Diego, Calif. shot an opening day 69 on the Stadium Course en route to a two-day 4-under par and four shots clear of the field in the Championship Flight.

Brandon Spalding, of Fontana, Calif., won the Hogan Flight (8.0-11.9 handicaps) by a shot and is back to contend in his first National Championship.

Evan Tsuchiyama, from Playa Vista, Calif. won the Jones flight (16-19.9 handicaps) and also qualified for his first Am Tour National Championship.

The field in each flight at Nationals are much larger than the majors, with over 600 competitors from 42 states, Puerto Rico and Canada. The stakes are higher too. Winners receive a big piece of crystal, plus a gift card from Golfsmith and additional golf gear, includinga  personalized staff bag from Cleveland-Srixon. The first balls are in the air at 7 a.m. Saturday at four courses at PGA West.

There are six flights, and competitors in each flight will compete to be the low gross score over 72 holes of stroke play. The Hogan flight, the largest of the six flights at Nationals with over 150 competitors, will get the first crack at the TPC Stadium Course at PGA West, which along with the Nicklaus Tournament course were added to the rotation of courses for the PGA Tour's CareerBuilder Challenge in 2016. We'll be recapping the action every day here on Golf Central, and will crown six winners on Tuesday evening.

And for those Am Tour members following the action from home, it was announced tonight that the 2016 National Championship host will be Valspar Championship host Innisbrook Resort, in Tampa, Fla., in the event you needed some motivation for 2016.