Charles Charge - The Road to the Top 15

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When you make 25 birdies and an eagle for the week, you figure things might go your way. For Charles Warren, it did go pretty well at the BMW Charity Pro-Am at The Cliffs. He won by four shots. His total of 25 birdies was three more than anyone in the field, and when you realize that he made just four bogeys for the week, you'd expect a pretty good finish.
 
Bottom line is this - Charles Warren is a very good player. At just 26 years of age, his future is no doubt headed toward the PGA Tour. Actually, Warren was already there just a few years ago after turning professional out of Clemson. He earned his way through the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament in Palm Desert, Calif.
 
Things didn't go as well as he expected. But the three-time All-American who won the NCAA individual title in 1997 never let his chin drop too far. He's worked hard, contended a few times, endured a few injuries and now appears ready to put it all together.
 
Warren really wanted to win in Travelers Rest, S.C., last week. It's the tour event that is closest to Clemson and an event with a Tiger history. No, not that Tiger! The Clemson Tigers. Fellow Tiger Jonathan Byrd won the same event last year and used it as a springboard to the PGA Tour, where he figures to have a long career.
 
Aside from the birdie totals I mentioned, he can point to a three-hole stretch on the back nine which really made the difference. On Saturday and Sunday, Warren birdied the 12th, 13th and 14th holes in succession. If that isn't a charge, I don't know what is.
 
It's never too early to look at potential locks for the Top 15. Warren figures to be one of them. He's long on experience, and now has a win under his belt that should propel him to bigger things this year. And his victory check of $94,500 should put him in pretty good position to begin the quest with some confidence.
 
Because the event was in Warren's backyard, he likened it to a 'major' of sorts on the Buy.Com Tour. If that's the case, then this week's stop is at least as good.
 
The tour's sixth tournament of the year is the Virginia Beach Open at the TPC of Virginia Beach - a track sporting a yardage of more than 7,400. Some holes are wide open, some are tighter than your upstairs hallway. And the wind might just blow a little as well.
 
Warren might be a good fit. His swing is in a groove right now, his wedge game is superb and his length can only help. If not Warren, how 'bout a guy like Jeff Freeman or Todd Barranger? Both are 'bombers' and both spent a good part of the weekend at The Cliffs Valley Course in contention. Sunday hurt them both, however.
 
Still, the TPC of Virginia Beach is right up their alley. This is the early part of the season, so most players won't be taking a week off. The exception is Stan Utley, who has three Buy.Com Tour wins to his credit and the PGA Tour's 1989 Chattanooga Classic on his resume as well.
 
Utley made 18 birdies at the BMW Charity Pro-Am at The Cliffs to go along with just one bogey all week! Astounding numbers and he didn't even win. Still, he tied for third with veteran Ken Green. While Green will most likely play, Utley was headed home to Columbia, Mo., to go to 'job B.' Utley's short game teachings are catching on, and lessons are calling.
 
The great part about this tour is that you just never really know what to expect. Who knew we'd be talking about guys like Jeff Klauk or Scott Sterling or Andy Sanders? But we are, and the Buy.Com Virginia Beach Open gives them a chance to join Warren in the charge toward the PGA Tour.