There are only seven full-field events remaining on the 2004 Nationwide Tour calendar before the Tour Championship. That means just seven more opportunities to try and qualify for the season finale, which will ultimately determine who gains their 2005 PGA Tour card.
After its all said and done, the top 20 on the money list will be promoted for the following season. The rest will press their luck at the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament, return to the Nationwide Tour, or have to find somewhere else to play.
A win this week will garner one fortunate individual $81,000. But it wont guarantee him his PGA Tour card for next year. Currently, there are three players who have won a Nationwide event this year and still reside outside the top 20 in earnings (Ben Bates, No. 22; Brad Ott, No. 26; David Hearn, No. 42).
Also on the outside trying to play his way in is Michael Long, at 27th on the money list.
The now 36-year-old New Zealander won last years Virginia Beach Open, when the tournament was contested in May. Hes back to defend his title, trying to become the first player in tour history to win the same tournament in successive years.
Long has this opportunity only because he failed to earn another top-10 last year outside of his Virginia Beach triumph. He finished the season 35th on the money list. Two years prior, he took the 15th and final spot on the money list to gain his PGA Tour playing privileges for the first time.
Now, the top 20 get a promotion, giving Long and everyone else better odds to professional progression.
This is the fifth playing of the Virginia Beach Open, which, as it has done every year, will again be contested at the TPC of Virginia Beach (par 72, 7,432 yards).
This tournament has not been kind to its winners, in terms of advancing them to the PGA Tour.
Cliff Kresge, the 2002 champion, is the only Virginia Beach winner to finish high enough on the money list to earn his PGA Tour card for the following season.
Ryuji Imada won in 2000 and finished the season 32nd in earnings. Trevor Dodds won in 2001 and was 40th. Kresge rode his victory to a fifth-place showing on the 2002 money list.
The magical number seems to be 277. Each of the last three winners has finished at 11-under-par 277. Imada won the inaugural event with a 275 total that still stands as the 72-hole tournament scoring record.