The Nationwide Tour Year in Review

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Nationwide TourAs a golf writer, one thing I am hardly ever prepared for is an obscure question. You tell somebody you're a golf writer, and they respond with something like, 'Who was that amateur golfer back in the '60s who everyone thought was going to be great, the one who was arrested for killing his neighbor's cow?'
 
OK, so that never actually happened, but you get the idea. These obscure questions are often posed during a round of golf -- mostly they're about golfers, records, majors, etc.
 
It happened recently when a colleague and I were paired with another twosome in the middle of a round: one quiet and dutiful, the other as loud as his red shirt. Well, Loudy McTalksalot wanted to know if we'd ever heard of 'that golf writer who ...' Which ended up turning into a conversation about the great Grantland Rice, of whom this golf writer was apparently a contemporary. Sue me. I didn't know the golf writer from Adam.
 
But this type of thing has happened a lot since I began writing about golf 2 1/2 years ago. So I have prepared myself to answer certain questions that might arise randomly when I tell a stranger or a friend-of-a-friend that I am a golf writer. It doesn't hurt that I spend more than 40 hours a week writing, watching and talking about this stuff.
 
I thought of this potential question recently: 'Who is the best golfer I don't know?' Which led to this challenge: 'Name a golfer I don't know now, but who I will know soon.'
 
My answer to the second question is Nick Flanagan, the Nationwide Tour breakthrough star who won three times on the developmental circuit this past season to earn a promotion to the PGA Tour.
 
He's our pick for Nationwide Tour Player of the Year.
 
PLAYER OF THE YEAR - Nick Flanagan
The week Flanagan made his debut on the PGA Tour, all three Sports Network golf writers agreed that he would fare well. Which he did when he tied for 18th place at the Turning Stone Resort Championship to earn a $73,029 check -- more than the second-place finisher claimed that same week on the Nationwide Tour.
 
One of the biggest advantages of making the jump to the PGA Tour at the end of the season is that, like Flanagan, the golfer will inevitably crash the party with so much momentum and confidence that a good finish is very likely, if not almost guaranteed. Especially against lackluster fields in the mostly-middling tournaments that made up the Fall Series.
 
Remember when Jason Gore shot a 59 at the Cox Classic in 2005, won the tournament for his battlefield promotion, then walked away with victory at the PGA Tour's 84 Lumber Classic?
 
In golf, confidence mostly begets good play. And good play can get you a long way when Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson & Company are taking time off. So it wasn't surprising that Flanagan made a good debut, and it wasn't shocking that he followed it up with a T17 the next week at the Viking Classic for $49,000 more.
 
What was surprising was the way the young Australian stormed the Nationwide Tour for his three victories in a span of less than four months. From his playoff win at the Henrico County Open on April 29 (when he was just 22) to his one-shot victory at the Xerox Classic on August 19 (two months after his 23rd birthday), he was clearly the most exciting player on tour.
 
Flanagan finished third on the Nationwide Tour's 2007 money list with $369,952 even though he played in only 17 events. Money leader Richard Johnson played in 25 and Roland Thatcher, second on the list, made 28 starts. Both of them won twice -- but Flanagan gets our automatic nod for Player of the Year for his three wins.
 
There's no doubt he would have held the money title at the end of the year had he played a busier schedule and a full season. There's also a good chance he would have won again.
 
TOURNAMENT OF THE YEAR - Eight was enough.
That Brad Adamonis escaped a four-way playoff to win the WNB Golf Classic in October was hardly the story. That he needed eight holes to do it was the big news.
 
Adamonis made a par at the eighth extra hole to knock off Tjaart van der Walt for his first Nationwide Tour win. Adamonis and Van der Walt played six playoff holes head-to-head after Ron Whittaker was eliminated on the first sudden-death hole and Vance Veazey was knocked out on the second.
 
It matched the second-longest playoff in Nationwide Tour history, and Adamonis made eight consecutive pars to come out on top as darkness fell in Midland, Texas.
 
'I don't care -- any way I can get a win is great,' Adamonis said. 'I just kept on grinding. That's kind of the way I've always played my game. I just hung in there and finally got a break in my career.'
 
SHOT OF THE YEAR - 'Things just went right for me.'
Flanagan needed an improbable finish at the Xerox Classic in August to become the first player in two years to earn a battlefield promotion to the PGA Tour. He began the final round seven shots off the lead, then made an eagle and five birdies to shoot a 63 on Sunday.
 
The shot that got him the win? A 30-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole to move one shot ahead of third-round leader James Driscoll. Flanagan said all he wanted to do was fulfill his potential. Check.
 
'I can't believe I won today, that's for sure. I didn't think I could quite get there from seven back,' he said. 'Things just went right for me.'
 
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR - Tie goes to the professional.
Nineteen-year-old Jason Day -- like Flanagan, an up-and-coming Aussie -- won the Legend Financial Group Classic and finished fifth on the money list after making 14 cuts in 19 starts during his first full season on the Nationwide Tour.
 
In addition to his win, Day collected one runner-up finish, a third-place finish and seven top-10s in 2007. He gets the nod over surprising 23-year-old Daniel Summerhays.
 
Summerhays became the first amateur ever to win a Nationwide Tour event when he shot a final-round 69 on Sunday at the Children's Hospital Invitational. He was one of 10 All-Americans invited to play that week at Ohio State's Scarlet Course, one of the toughest on the 2007 schedule.
 
After turning professional a week later, Summerhays made 10 cuts in 12 more starts and earned $46,000 for the season. It would have been considerably more had he been able to collect his first-place check at the Children's Hospital Invitational.
 
'I'm still trying to get used to the feeling,' the first-time winner said.
 
GOOD YEAR
Richard Johnson - He won the Nationwide Tour Championship to take over the money lead on the last day of the season, closing out a strong 2007 with a 20- under 264 over his last four rounds to win for the second time in his last four starts. In between those two victories, Johnson missed two cuts in a row. But it doesn't matter. He's off to the PGA Tour next year.
 
Roland Thatcher - Johnson's win at the Tour Championship knocked Thatcher out of the No. 1 position on the money list, where he'd been perched for more than three months. He had partly himself to blame. Thatcher managed scores of only 73-70 in the last two rounds of the Tour Championship and took home $5,425 for a tie for 29th place. The difference between Johnson's first-place windfall ($139,000) and Thatcher's 29th-place check was more than enough to give Johnson the money title.
 
Kyle Thompson - Behind Flanagan, Johnson and Thatcher, Thompson was the only other player to win at least twice this season. His victories helped him finish 14th on the money list. He missed 16 cuts in 28 starts and only had four top-10 finishes -- hardly a consistent presence near the top of the leaderboard -- but if you win twice on the Nationwide Tour in one season, you make this list.
 
Jon Mills - Nobody had more top-10s on the Nationwide Tour this season than Mills, who collected nine of them. He won once, finished runner-up once, and posted five top-fives. He finished fourth on the money list behind Johnson, Thatcher and Flanagan.
 
BAD YEAR
David Ogrin - Nobody made at least 20 starts on the Nationwide Tour this season and collected less money that Ogrin. In his 20 starts, he made just five cuts and $7,320 without posting a single top-10 finish. Ogrin won in 1996, but at almost 50 years old, his professional career has probably seen its last days.
 
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