Hearn holds down fourth spot on the Canadian Tour money list but his triumph in Calgary, and the subsequent exemption onto the PGA Tours premier feeder circuit, has opened the door for another player to sneak in and grab one of the coveted top two spots on the Order of Merit and, more importantly, gain an exemption into the second stage of PGA Tour qualifying school.
With this weeks $225,000 event closing out the 2004 schedule, Hearn, with $58,461 in Canadian Tour earnings this season, was one of just three players in a position to overtake Miamis Erik Compton, who has pocketed $85,876 to date.
One year ago, Jon Mills of Oshawa, Ontario became the first Canadian to win the money crown since some guy by the name of Mike Weir did it six years prior. Mills, who is close friends with Hearn, would advance to the final stage of PGA Q-School later that fall and nail down a Nationwide card for this year. On Sunday afternoon in Calgary, Mills placed eighth.
Compton finished 16th in Calgary and has decided to roll the dice this week and pass on the Bay Mills Open Players Championship to tee it up as the Nationwide Tour rolls into Utah. Once the dust settles Sunday afternoon in Michigan, we will see if the decision was a wise one.
The law of averages would seem to be on Comptons side. With two wins under his belt this season, Compton leads fellow countryman Stephen Woodard by just over $6,000. Only Woodard ($79,420), Sutterfield ($63, 951) and Hearn ($58,461) can combine to knock Compton to third spot, and with the latter now taking his swings on the Nationwide, that number has been reduced by one.
Woodard is coming off back-to-back wins in Edmonton and Montreal, the first player in four years to do that, and will go for the three-peat this week. A win here and the 31-year-old North Carolina native would become the first player in Tour history with three straight triumphs. A Woodard or Sutterfield triumph in Michigan, along with the $36,000 winners check, would mean an Order of Merit championship. Should Sutterfield finish second, the $21,600 payday would leave him $300 short of catching Compton.
With Compton just over $22,000 away from Eduardo Ferrara, last years 70th place finisher on the Nationwide money list, a target which would get him full-time status on the circuit, Compton admits his decision was not an easy one.
It was really a tough decision for me, said Compton. I played in Bay Mills last year, and it was a fantastic tournament and an excellent course. Ive told everyone the past few weeks how great this Tour is, and Davids win (Sunday) just proves that point. Our top players can compete with the best. The Canadian Tour has been awesome to me, and I know Im taking a chance this week. Anything can happen. Right now, I am in position on the Nationwide Tour to take it to the next level, and Ive got to give it a shot.
But the top two spots on the Canadian Tour money list are certainly not the only perks on the line this week. Once checks are dished out Sunday afternoon, the top six off the Order of Merit will be exempted into the Bell Canadian Open, to be staged Sept. 9-12 at Glen Abbey.
The next 20 will gain a berth in the final qualifying phase for the BCO, which this year marks its 100th anniversary as Canadas national championship.
Also up for grabs this week is the Srixon Stroke Average Award, handed out to the player with the lowest scoring average for the year. It should not come as any surprise that Compton also leads in that category with a 69.36 average. The former U.S. Walker and Palmer Cup team member is the only player with a sub-70 ranking for the season, followed by Woodard (70.02), Hearn (70.06) and Sutterfield (70.17).
The Most Improved Canadian and International Player award is given to the player with the greatest improvement in earnings and scoring average combined from the previous season. Woodard would seem to be a lock for the International honor after making $79,420 this season, $61,628 more than he did in 2003, and shaving more than a full stroke off his average.
On the Canadian side, Hearn has taken home just over $39,000 more than last season, but his average (70.06) is pretty much identical to 2003, when his 70.08 score was second to American Michael Harris. Craig Taylor of Hunter River, P.E.I, (+$26,701, avg. dropped from 71.60 to 71.38) will also be in the hunt for the Canadian award should he fare well this week.
Dan Swanson of Vancouver, B.C., with $19,691 in earnings, would seem to be in the drivers seat to win Canadian Rookie of the Year, while Will Moore of Dallas, Tex. ($23,568) is the player to catch for International Rookie kudos.
Opening round action gets underway Thursday at the scenic 7,101-yard, par-72 Wild Bluff GC in Northern Michigan, just a stones throw away from the Canadian border.
The Golf Channel will once again broadcast all four rounds of the Bay Mills Open Players Championship live (TGC - Live Thursday 1 p.m. ET).
Another player to keep an eye on this week will be Mario Tiziani of Chanhassen, Minn., who seems to be at his best when playing at opposite ends of the International Bridge spanning Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. and Michigan. During the Tours first visit to Wild Bluff in 2002, Tiziani placed second to Jeff Quinney. Last season, Tiziani won his intital Tour crown at the Northern Ontario Open in the Soo and followed that up with a fifth-place result at the season-ender in Brimley.
Rodney Butcher of Tampa, Fla. made four strolls through Wild Bluff last summer and came out with a 10-under 278 total to win his first Tour event by five shots. Mills came in second, good enough to give him the money title