Plenty of Buzz at the Cliffs

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Kevin Costner will surely get the Greenville, SC., fans to come out of the woodwork for the BMW Charity Pro-Am at the Cliffs. Kurt Russell will have plenty of star-struck patrons lining the fairways for him as well. Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player are certain to draw the lions share of golf loyalists along with their pairings, and Cheech Marin and Alice Cooper will add their own brand of public appeal to the proceedings.
 
But Tuesday afternoon, the players on The Nationwide Tour were abuzz with the rumored presence of someone far less famous to the masses.
 
The BMW Charity Pro-Am signals the beginning of The Golf Channels domestic broadcasts of The Nationwide Tour. We will televise 14 of the remaining 25 events, so for us, this is the exciting beginning to The Nationwide Tour.
 
Exciting because weve seen this tour develop at a monumental pace in recent times.
 
Exciting because weve seen firsthand just what this tour means to the young rising stars.
 
Exciting because weve witnessed the birth of many of golfs current stars through the years.
 
And exciting because amongst the many stars of screen, stage, and sport on hand this week, we know that The Nationwide Tour players will be the stars of our show not only by weeks end, but all year.
 
The Nationwide Tour schedule is already six tournaments deep, but the plot has already started to develop. Jimmy Walker set a record by winning two tournaments out of the first four'the fastest ever. And now hes on the brink of a Battlefield Promotion to the PGA Tour with just one more win. Today he shook hands and chatted with someone who embodies just what success on this tour means, and hes already hearing comparisons to Chad Campbell and Zach Johnson.
 
Through the first six events, seven Australians are currently in the top-20. Theyre there primarily because of the Aussie friendly conversion rate from the two co-sanctioned events with the Australasian PGA Tour earlier this year down under. That number is likely to dwindle, but Euan Walters, currently second on the money list, has arrived to start his stateside campaign.
 
The Australian proved his metal earlier this year by winning the Jacobs Creek Open in Adelaide, Australia, and he should prove himself worthy during the remainder of the season'much the same as Andre Stolz did last year after earning his way onto the Nationwide Tour. And although Euan is new to The Nationwide Tour, he knows what the rumored player on site Tuesday symbolizes.
 
Everybody on this tour shares the same goal. In short, its not to be here next year. Defending champion is not a title anyone relishes on The Nationwide Tour. Champion is always a nice title, but defending champ? Thank you but no.
 
This is the second year that 20 players will graduate come years end. They graduate to the PGA Tour where each year Nationwide Tour players feel more comfortable. Their ease in transition comes courtesy of the current mass of former Nationwide Tour players that make up a virtual whos who of the PGA Tour. Already, Walker and Walters have amassed enough to all but guarantee themselves a trip to the show next year.
 
Once players get comfortable with the fact that theyre likely to graduate, then they readjust their aim in search of the top spot. Many benefits come with money leader honors. First, No. 1 means a fully-exempt card on the PGA Tour. The other 19 graduates reshuffle with other members throughout the year.
 
No. 1 means being able to set a schedule. No. 1 means added endorsement dollars. No. 1 means a better chance of getting into some of the bigger and more exclusive invitationals on the PGA Tour. No. 1 means the respect of your peers and the added confidence of hearing your name in the same sentence with Tom Lehman, Chad Campbell, Stewart Cink, and Zach Johnson. And No. 1 means that you are a shoe-in to be voted by those same peers to be presented with the Jack Nicklaus award signifying player of the year.
 
Jack Nicklaus is again playing this year at the BMW Charity Pro-Am with his four sons.
 
Wednesday hell be at a ceremony to present the first ever Jack Nicklaus award. Of course, hell be presenting it to the one young man who stands for everything this years players hope to achieve.
 
Zach Johnson arrived a day early to see his old friends. Tomorrow hell shake hands with Jack, but today he unknowingly did something that earned him even more respect. He spent time with the guys, his old friends, the ones who emulate his success and character, the ones all vying to be the next Zach Johnson.
 
And he turned plenty of heads in the process.
 
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