Gores Triple Highlights Nationwide Season

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Nationwide TourDuring one Sunday night in mid-June, a bubbly family man from Southern California was robbed on his way to play in the U.S. Open.
 
The thieves took his underwear, his car stereo, and just about everything else in a car with no kitchen sink.
 
It was a spectacularly cruel way to begin the week -- with no underwear! -- but luckily for Jason Gore, his clubs and golf shoes were safely on their way to Pinehurst No. 2 in caddie Louis Pullen's car.
 
In the week that followed, a Nationwide Tour grinder became the Everyman's sentimental favorite -- this side of John Daly's cigarette -- and a good-guy icon in a sport not lacking class acts.
 
That he fell from grace during one awesomely-bad round doesn't detract from what was a life-changing week for Gore, our selection for Nationwide Tour Player of the Year.
 
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Jason Gore
Jason Gore became the first Nationwide Tour player to win three consecutive starts.
Gore didn't win the U.S. Open; in the final group on Sunday, he and Retief Goosen folded to the cruel nature that is challenging for the title at a major championship which has turned away its fare share of challengers.
 
What Gore managed to accomplish, despite his 14-over-par 84 on Sunday, was to establish the public persona of a man who could play that poorly on the biggest day of his professional career and respond casually with a phrase like, 'That's golf.'
 
After tying for 49th place at the Open, Gore went on to win three consecutive starts on the Nationwide Tour to earn a battlefield promotion to the PGA Tour.
 
During a stretch of spectacular golf that began with a win at the Pete Dye Classic and ended with a playoff victory at the Cox Classic, Gore cemented his place as the circuit's No. 1 draw and its toughest competitor.
 
He played just 12 events on the Nationwide Tour in 2005, but finished second on the money list with $356,579 and was one of just a few dozen golfers with at least four top-10 finishes (most of the others played in at least 20 tournaments).
 
Along the way Gore became bigger than the tour, which garnered top headlines only when he did something special, like shoot a 59 in the second round of the Cox Classic.
 
Which segues nicely into...
 
TOURNAMENT OF THE YEAR
If you're looking for a surprise, Google a picture of the goblin shark. That a creature this grotesque actually exists is proof that unexpected things can and do occur on this blue and green marble we call home.
 
Okay, so that was a little out there.
 
But it should come as no surprise that our choice for Tournament of the Year is the one which sent Gore to the PGA Tour for good -- at least for now.
 
Gore shot a 59 in the second round of the Cox Classic, becoming only the third player on the Nationwide Tour to reach the magical number after Notah Begay III and Doug Dunakey. His reaction?
 
'That was pretty cool, wasn't it?'
 
It was -- to the tune of nine birdies, two eagles and just one bogey. But Gore's 12-under-par round wasn't the only highlight of the year's best tournament. He still had a field to beat, as well as a supportive gallery to vindicate.
 
And as the event stretched into the Omaha dusk on Sunday, Gore found himself neck-and-neck with Roger Tambellini for the lead. The two went to a second playoff hole, where Gore rolled in a five-foot birdie putt for the win.
 
His reaction?
 
'It's pretty cool, pretty cool.'
 
SHOT OF THE YEAR
Gore was 10 under par with the driveable par-4 ninth to play during his second round of the Cox Classic. It was his final hole of the day, and he needed an eagle for the magical 59.
 
In keeping with fate's doggish determination to make him a star, Gore knocked his drive within 20 feet and rolled in the putt for his 59 and the most important shot of the year.
 
'It was a good day,' Gore said after he improved 12 shots over his even-par first round. 'I was trying to get a decent round in after playing so shabby yesterday. I thought, 'This is cool stuff.''
 
Gore made a handful of other great shots during the Cox Classic, including a couple late on Sunday when it looked like -- looked like -- he might fold the same way he did at Pinehurst. But a 20-foot eagle putt for 59 is hard to beat, isn't it?
 
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Steven Bowditch had a record-setting rookie year on the Nationwide Tour and ended fourth on the money list ($333,329) to earn his PGA Tour card for 2006.
 
The 22-year-old Australian made the cut in 14 of his 21 starts and collected six top-10 finishes. He earned his first career victory at the Jacob's Creek Open Championship in February, becoming the second-youngest winner ever on the Nationwide Tour at 21 years, eight months and 12 days.
 
The following week, Bowditch held the opening-day lead at the ING New Zealand PGA Championship. He fell back after a poor third round, but made a charge on Sunday with a course-record-tying 63 to set up a playoff with Peter O'Malley, which he lost on the fourth hole.
 
But the $64,800 paycheck for second place pushed Bowditch past the $200,000 mark faster than any player in Nationwide Tour history.
 
GOOD YEAR
If not for Jason Gore's surprising rise to golf stardom -- and the numerous stories it provided -- Troy Matteson would be the Nationwide Tour Player of the Year.
 
Matteson won twice and ended as the leading money winner with $495,009, which broke the Nationwide Tour record for earnings set by Zach Johnson ($494,882) in 2003.
 
The 26-year-old made the cut in 24 of his 27 starts this season and collected 12 top-10 finishes. His victories came at the Virginia Beach Open in April and the Mark Christopher Charity Classic in September.
 
Chris Couch was the only other player besides Gore and Matteson to win twice this season. On the strength of his victories at the Rheem Classic in May and the LaSalle Bank Open in June, Couch finished third on the money list with $337,205. But he also either missed the cut or withdrew in each of his final five events of the season.
 
BAD YEAR
Pete Jordan was a member of the PGA Tour from 1994-2002. After spending a few years in the early 1990s on the Nationwide Tour, he returned to the circuit two years ago.
 
Jordan had a bad year.
 
In 21 events this season, the veteran made just four cuts and finished no better than a tie for 28th place (at the Northeast Pennsylvania Classic in June). He was disqualified twice -- at the Virginia Beach Open and Knoxville Open -- and finished 192nd on the money list with just $8,200 in earnings.
 
Andy Sanders also had a bad year, earning just $10,708 in 20 events. He missed 14 cuts, including six straight to end the season, and finished no better than a tie for 29th place (at the BMW Charity Pro-Am in May).
 
Related Links:
  • The Year in Review