Keeping the Card

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Come Sunday afternoon there will be 15 new members on the 2002 PGA Tour.
 
The top 15 players on the Buy.Com money list following this weeks Tour Championship will earn their cards for the big tour next season; and along with it, a chance to forever more avoid the developmental tour.
 
Of course, that not a likely scenario for many of the graduates. At some point in their careers, a return trip to the Buy.Com Tour is in order.
 
Traditionally, Buy.Com grads fare better on the PGA Tour than their Q-School counterparts ' at least percentage-wise for the following season.
 
The Qualifying Tournament offers tour cards to the low 35 players and ties, compared to the hard 15 from the Buy.Com Tour.
 
Current 2001 Buy.Com money list
 
With just two official events remaining on the PGA Tour schedule, six Buy.Com and 11 Q-School grads are currently inside the top 125 on the money list.
 
Current 2001 PGA Tour money list
 
Thats 40 percent of the 2000 Buy.Com graduates and 27 percent (41 graduates) of those from last years Qualifying Tournament.
 
At the top of both lists is J.J. Henry, who finished 13th on the 2000 Buy.Com money list. The 26-year-old is currently 54th in earnings, thanks to a pair of runner-up finishes in the Kemper Insurance Open and the Texas Open.
 
Chris Smith, who was the first player in 1997 to earn a promotion onto the PGA Tour by winning three Buy.Com events in the same season, stands in 58th place. He finished sixth on the 2000 Buy.Com money list and has found similar success this season, with over $860,000 in earnings. His best finish is a tie for 3rd in the BellSouth Classic.
 
Smith is a classic product of the Buy.Com Tour. He has alternated between the two tours over the past six years, playing on the smaller circuit in 1995, 97 and 2000; and in the big leagues 1996, 98 and 99.
 
Rounding out the six 2000 Buy.Com graduates currently inside the top 125 on the PGA Tour money list are Briny Baird (64), David Berganio, Jr. (73), Paul Gow (81) and Spike McRoy (125).
 
McRoy was the 2000 Buy.Com Player of the Year, winning twice and finishing first on the money list.
 
Chad Campbell and Heath Slocum are vying for that honor this year. Both have won three times, thus already having earned a promotion to the PGA Tour. No.1 Campbell leads No. 2 Slocum by $28,662.
 
Statistically, there is a big difference between finishing first or second on the season-ending money list.
 
Since the Buy.Com Tours inception in 1990 ' not including this year ' six of the ten players who won the Buy.Com money title finished inside the top 125 on the PGA Tour money list the following year. On the other hand, only three of the ten runners-up accomplished that feat.
 
It will soon be three of 11, unless Mark Hensby goes on an 11th-hour tear. Hensby, who finished second on the Buy.Com money list last year, resides in a paltry 183rd place on the big tour this year.
 
Hensby is one of nine 2000 Buy.Com grads currently outside the top 125 on the PGA Tour money list.
 
Ian Leggatt is 130th in earnings, after battling back from seven missed cuts and a withdrawal to start the season. And John Riegger is the only other player inside the top 150 at 138th. Nos. 126-150 on the money list at seasons end earn conditional exemption on tour in 2002.
 
The remaining 2000 grads are Tripp Isenhour (152), Jeff Hart (162), Kent Jones (201), Kelly Grunewald (209) and Tim Clark (225).
 
Clark has only played in three events this year; and none since February, do to injury. Jeff Gallagher, who finished 12th on the 2000 Buy.Com money list, has also dealt with an injury that has prevented him from competing at all in 2001.
 
Sunday evening in Prattville, Ala., PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem will hand out 15 tour cards for the 2002 season. Some will eventually trade those cards in for another one in 2003. Others will be back on the Buy.Com Tour (or whatever the name will be), going through the graduation process yet one more time.
 
Full field at this week's Buy.Com Tour Championship