A Return Tripp How Fast

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For those of you who think the biggest stories in golf revolve around Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Annika Sorenstam ' heres one thats worth following.
 
Tripp Isenhour has won twice on the No. 1 on the tours money list.
 
Most importantly for Isenhour is the chance to head back to the place he feels he belongs ' the PGA TOUR.
 
This week the Nationwide Tour visits Athens, Georgia for the first time. Its the inaugural Athens Regional Foundation Classic. Tripps a Georgia Tech grad looking to buzz the field in the land the the Dawgs. And make no mistake, the buzz on tour is Tripp.
 
Isenhour played with the big boys in 2001 (16 cuts made in 31 starts ' 146th on money list), 2002 (14 cuts made in 21 starts ' 154th on money list) and 2004 (8 cuts made in 22 starts ' 218th on money list.) Nothing great, but like so many with similar resumes, hes realized what it takes to hang around.
 
During each of the last two years Isenhours battled injuries. But during that time hes never been a complainer. I know. As a fellow Orlando guy, Ive seen Tripp and his family at church and weve chatted in the hallways while dropping off our little ones at pre-school. All the while, hes kept his eye on the prize and worked to get a little better.
 
Ah yes, better.
 
Tripps a good player trying to become a better player and all that really does is make him like a whole lot of players in professional golf. Being great is another league all together.
 
But heres what Isenhour can do this week or perhaps next week in Greenville, South Carolina at the BMW Charity Pro-Am at the Cliffs. He can make history.
 
While Isenhour has his sights set on becoming the 8th player to win three Nationwide Tour events in one season - thus earning a Battlefield Promotion to the PGA TOUR - nobody has done it in six or seven events.
 
Chris Smith won three in 1997. Heath Slocum, Chad Campbell and Pat Bates each won three in 2001. Patrick Moore won three in 2002. Tom Carter won three in 2003. And Jason Gore won three in 2005.
 
A look at that list tells you that dominating success at the Nationwide Tour level guarantees very little at the PGA TOUR level.
 
And the Nationwide Tour is certainly full of spots for those whove been to the show but didnt show enough.
 
Guys like Tommy Tolles and Franklin Langham who came close to winning but couldnt quite stay the course. Guys like Garrett Willis and Tom Scherrer who won, but couldnt sustain. And guys like Matt Kuchar and Jeff Quinney whove won the United States Amateur but havent been able to keep their star on the rise.
 
It sure is fun rooting for the underdog. Its fun trying to find the guy whos the next great graduate (Chad Campbell.) And its fun to follow them once they reach the range where the stars hang out (Jason Gore.)
 
Bart Bryant and Loren Roberts are guys who found their greatest success after the age of 40. Fred Funk qualifies as well. Tom Lehman used the Nationwide Tour to gain confidence before major championship status. You can come up with others.
 
Tripp Isenhour may never reach that status. But the beauty of this game is the drive to see how good you can be. For some ' winning once on the PGA TOUR is realizing a dream. For others, three wins on the Nationwide Tour keeps that dream alive.
 
So this week, take your mind off the Shell Houston Open for just a minute or two and check the leaderboard in Athens, Georgia. See if Tripps trip back to the PGA TOUR is still alive.
 
Professional golf goes way beyond the world rankings. To me, stories like that are worth rooting for. People like Tripp are worth following. Agreed?
 
Email your thoughts to Kraig Kann