The Nationwide Tour begins its two-week stay in the Golden State of California with the Mark Christopher Charity Classic (Begins Thursday at 5:00PM ET on The Golf Channel). Last year, Andy Miller became the third Monday qualifier to win in 2002 on the Nationwide Tour, as he defeated Doug Garwood, John Restino and Dave Stockton Jr., on the first hole of a playoff for his first career title.
Miller, who graduated to the main tour, has struggled mightily this season, making only 13 cuts in 22 events, with his best finish a tie for 31st at the B.C. Open. Miller currently sits 187th on the money list.
Miller, who trailed by five shots heading into the final round, fashioned a 5-under 66 to gain entrance into the playoff. He then birdied the first extra hole by two-putting from 40 feet on the par-5 18th hole for the win. Miller, the son of Johnny Miller, a 25-time PGA Tour-winner and current NBC commentator, recorded the victory in just his fifth career start.
Garwood held a two-shot lead with just three holes remaining, but bogeyed 16 and 17 to fall back into a tie. Miller's win becomes the best final-day, come-from-behind victory in tournament history, breaking the previous mark of four set by Brad Elder in 1999.
This is the fourth straight year in which Empire Lakes Golf Course is hosting this event. The championship course was designed by Arnold Palmer and offers four signature lakes, undulating fairways, fingered bunkers and hazardous foothill washes.
The Empire Lakes Golf Club finished the year ranked No. 16 out of 29 courses on the 2002 Tour schedule. For the week, Empire Lakes played to a scoring average of 70.918, .082 strokes below par.
Moreno Valley Ranch Golf Club had hosted this event the first six years of the tournament. In the nine years this tournament has been held, there has never been a winner who has gone wire-to-wire.
The Nationwide Tour moves down the coast to Seaside, Calif., for the Monterey Peninsula Classic at the Bayonet & Black Horse Courses, where Roland Thatcher is the defending champion.