Couch Gets Shot at Battlefield Promotion


The Nationwide Tour heads south this week from Chicago and into the hills of Tennessee for the 16th edition of the Knoxville Open.
One of the original events on what was the Ben Hogan Tour back in 1990, the tournament will be played for the seventh straight year at the Fox Den Country Club, which ranked as the 24th toughest course on tour in 2004.
Headlining the field will be Chris Couch, who won his second tour event of the year at last week's LaSalle Bank Open and will most assuredly be eyeing the PGA Tour's coveted Battlefield Promotion when he tees it up this week.
The Battlefield Promotion, implemented in 1997, grants immediate access to the PGA Tour for any Nationwide Tour player who racks up three wins in a season.
In the eight years since the promotion has been in effect, only six players have achieved the award, beginning with Chris Smith in 1997. The others are Heath Slocum, Chad Campbell and Pat Bates in 2001, Patrick Moore in 2002 and Tom Carter in 2003.
After the award was given out three straight years from 2001 to 2003, no one on tour last year reached the magic numbers of three wins, although there were quite of few contenders.
Jimmy Walker, who would eventually be named the tour's player of the year, took just four tournaments in 2004 to notch his second victory of the year. He then went winless the rest of the season, though coming close on several occasions, including a pair of runner-ups finishes late in the year.
Kevin Stadler, son of PGA Tour player Craig Stadler, also reached the two win plateau in 2004, as did D.A. points and Charles Warren.
Couch, who took home his second trophy in just the 12th event of the season, hopes a third victory will give him yet another shot at success on the PGA Tour.
After winning the Nationwide Tour Championship in 2003 and finishing fourth on the tour's money list, Couch graduated for the second time to the PGA Tour. A tie for 10th at the Southern Farm Bureau Classic last October, however, was the highlight of the year as he placed a disappointing 217th on the final money list and lost his card.
With his victory at the LaSalle Bank Open, Couch brought his total of wins on the Nationwide Tour to five, placing him in a tie for third all-time, one win shy of Sean Murphy and Matt Gogel, both of whom own six career wins.
The victory at the LaSalle Bank Open pushed Couch's winnings in 2005 to $275,995. It also vaulted Couch past Troy Matteson on the money list by some $22,000.
Also in the field this week is Big Break II winner Kip Henley, who is playing in the fourth of his six Nationwide Tour exemptions.
With just three events left on his schedule, Henley is going to need quite a run if he has any hopes of making it full time on the tour. Last week, Henley's rounds of 74-73 left him five back of the cut line. It was the third straight cut for the 44-year-old Tennessee native.
The purse in Knoxville is $475,000 with $85,500 going to the winner.
Related links:
  • Full Coverage - Knoxville Classic