Worth the Watch


Go ahead, call me a self-promoter if you want. I think you should take a look at whats going on here in Prattville, Ala. at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail.
This is the tour that not enough people know enough about. Its players are strong and someday youll recognize their efforts without promotion like this. I ask, has there ever been a better year on this tour? I think not.
David Duval won the first ever Buy.Com [then Hogan] Tour Championship in 1993, graduated to stardom on the PGA Tour and has been a household name ever since. Chris Smith earned the first ever Battlefield Promotion in 1997 on this tour and has now settled in on the PGA Tour reaching the potential that was expected.
But this year has been different. Two young men have matched the feat of Chris Smith. Heath Slocum and Chad Campbell both earned the promotion with three victories this season and are playing this week in the tours championship event. Also in the field: Brett Quigley, whos not in the coveted top-15 - but doesnt need to be. After a Buy.Com Tour win earlier this year in Arkansas, he made the most of a PGA Tour opportunity in Greensboro, nearly won and stayed out on the big tour the rest of the way. Hes got a PGA Tour card because of it.
Could Campbell and Slocum play their way into a Sunday final-round pairing? It would be great. But look out for some others, like Bo Van Pelt, a top-15 resident coming in who has PGA Tour experience already. A long hitter, hes got what it takes to tame this beast of a course that measures over 7,600 yards. Thats right - 7,600 yards. Pat Bates won last week and told me on Wednesday that hes never been this relaxed about his game, showing a quiet confidence he didnt have in his first crack at the PGA Tour some five-odd years ago. Not many putt better than Bates, except maybe Deane Pappas, a South African whos also been to the PGA Tour before. Hell need to roll them well on this course - it has greens inside greens. Each of the 18 has its own small quadrants, so putting it close and rolling it home will be a tall order.
Buy.Com Official Money List
This tour deserves every bit of spotlight it can get. You might not know names like John Rollins and Jeff Gove, but each has been to the big tour before and have sights on a return. If you want to steer away from the youth movement and guys like Campbell and Jonathan Byrd (another star in the making), why not root for vets like Richard Zokol and Steve Haskins. Both in their 40s, and Haskins has never been to the PGA Tour before. Right now, he's just on the outside of the Top-15, but can you imagine the emotion of realizing a lifelong dream this week? What an interview that would be.
In fact, thats what this tour is all about - realizing dreams. So pick a player, maybe a Rod Pampling or a Tim Petrovic or even a rookie like 24-year-old D.A. Points. Im not begging you to care about these guys, but I am urging you to take a look. Theyve earned a few moments of your time this week. This is their biggest stage ' at least for now! And when they do reach the PGA Tour, you can say I saw them when...