While football begins, baseball enters the stretch run, the PGA Tour playoffs continue, and the Ryder Cup looms, the Nationwide Tour heads to Pittsburgh for a new event in what's shaping up to be one of the most exciting seasons in the tour's 21-year history.
Pennsylvania natives Arnold Palmer and Rocco Mediate will have a strong presence this week as honorary chairman and unofficial host, respectively. Arnie will be on hand to watch his grandson, Sam Saunders, compete, while Rocco will be playing on the Nationwide Tour for the first-time ever in front of what he termed, 'my people.'
'You have no idea how great the people are in this part of the country,' Mediate told me a week ago, 'This might be the best event on the entire schedule.'
Time will tell on that one, but there is an unusual amount of excitement for a first-year event.
Time will also tell if this year is what one tour official speculated to me yesterday.
'We have an exceptionally deep talent pool this year,' said the official.
Having been around this tour since its inception in 1990, I agree. Recent rules changes have allowed more access to the younger, unproven players who typically don't have a voice when the PGA Tour Policy Board makes its decisions regarding eligibility. This access has come at the expense of the veterans who are in the middle to latter part of their careers and that's ruffled a few feathers, but has been very positive, and long overdue in my opinion.
Consider this: Right now six of the top seven players on the money list are 26 years old or younger. Twelve of the top 25 are still in their 20's. Chris Kirk, Jamie Lovemark, and Kevin Chappell all came to the Nationwide Tour with very impressive credentials, and all three will likely waste little time building those on those accomplishments next year on the PGA Tour. They all have different styles, but they share a wealth of talent. I think it will prove to be the most talented trio of young golfers to ever come from the Nationwide Tour. Again, time will tell.
Kirk is taking this week off to rest up for the long run to the Nationwide Tour Championship. Counting this week, seven of the last nine tournaments will be televised on Golf Channel and with each passing week, the pressure mounts for those battling for a top-25 position and a PGA Tour card for 2011.
So while you're channel surfing through your favorite sports on the weekends between now and Halloween, stop by Golf Channel and join us for a little Nationwide Tour coverage. These guys are fun to watch.