Can hosting a Nationwide Tour event sway college recruits?

By May 9, 2012, 4:17 pm

Come to our school, which has a golf course that hosts a Nationwide Tour event, and it'll give you a leg up on the competition as you prepare for life as a professional.

It's quite a pitch, right?

Chris Haack, the men's golf coach at the University of Georgia, leads one of only two collegiate programs that can make it.

The Athens-based school has hosted the Nationwide Tour's Stadion Classic at the on-campus course for the last two years. And UGA players have won the tournament both times. 

Russell Henley previaled last year while still a student, securing Nationwide Tour status for the first two seasons of his pro career. Last week, recent grad and newly minted pro Hudson Swafford shot a course-record 62 in the final round to beat Luke List and two-time U.S. Open champion Lee Janzen.

With the plan to pave only one path to the PGA Tour, through the Nationwide Tour, the chance to claim a tournament site on the circuit as your home course – with a pair of alums as champions – should be on the front of the program brochure. Haack, however, sees the event as more of an asset to his program than who wins it. 

'I don't know that it's a recruiting tool,' Haack said in a telephone interview on Wednesday. 'It's just another thing a kid is going to look at, a throw-in thing.

'It keeps the program on the front burner of kids' minds. We get to show off our course, our practice facility that's as good as any in the country and how the community supports us. With some alums in the field, it's like a little homecoming.'

Nationwide Tour president Bill Calfee believes the Georgia event, as well as another held on the campus of the Ohio State University, is a mutually beneficial relationship.

'As a coach, I could understand using it as a recruiting tool,' Calfee said, 'but we're not trying to help colleges recruit. These schools are great partners and do a great job running their events. If we can help their program, that's fine, but it's not our primary objective.'

No Nationwide Tour regulars have picked up the phone to complain about the run of Bulldog wins.

'I'm kind of surprised I haven't gotten a call from some players about this,' Calfee quipped.

J.J. Killeen led the Nationwide Tour money list last season. A graduate of Texas Christian University, Killeen sees the value of the event.

'It's a great course and a great tournament,' he said Wednesday. 'They definitely have an advantage playing there every day. It doesn't hurt them to have it.'

Five other schools have hosted Nationwide Tour events. The last to fall off the schedule was at the University of Maryland, which decided not to keep the event after a two-year run. It will move this year to nearby, Tour-owned TPC Potomac.

Jason Rodenhaver is the director of intercollegiate golf in College Park. His father, Barry, recruited Calfee to the Terrapin program. The Nationwide event there may be gone, but it is still a selling point.

'It's great for the university, great for the program,' Rodenhaver said. 'It's great for our credibility. It put out facility on TV. It's free advertising. I used it with every recruit I talked to and still can use it.'

Chuck Winstead is at the helm of Georgia’s Southeastern Conference rival, Louisiana State University. He hopes the Stadion Classic doesn't deter a player from coming to play at University Park in Baton Rouge.

'Certainly any of these types of events can give your school different types of exposure,' Winstead said in an email on Tuesday, 'and sometimes that exposure can certainly change opinions of your (program). Yet, I hope the ultimate decision that is made on where to attend college is made on more substantial factors.'

Even with the imminent changes to PGA Tour qualification, Haack does not see the prospect of a pro home game as swaying the minds of future players. He, as does Rodenhaver, anticipates some current students turning pro sooner to take their shot before the Q-School window closes. 

For most players, that may be the best course. Haack recommends the Nationwide Tour as a graduate program from Athens.

'The Nationwide Tour is actually a really good avenue for a lot of players,' he said. 'It's a great place to cut your teeth.'

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Lewis hopes to win at Volvik with baby on the way

By Randall MellMay 27, 2018, 12:55 am

Stacy Lewis was listening to more than her caddie on her march up the leaderboard Saturday at the Volvik Championship.

Pregnant with her first child, she is listening to her body in a new way these days.

And she could hear a message coming through loud and clear toward the end of her round at Travis Point Country Club in Ann Arbor, Mich.

“The little one was telling me it’s dinnertime,” Lewis said.

Lewis birdied five of the last six holes to shoot 5-under-par 67 and move into position to make a Sunday run at winning her 13th LPGA title. She is two shots behind the leader, Minjee Lee, whose 68 moved her to 12 under overall.

Sunday has the makings of a free for all with 10 players within three shots of the lead.

Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship

Lewis, 33, is four months pregnant, with her due date Nov. 3. She’s expecting to play just a few more times before putting the clubs away to get ready for the birth. She said she’s likely to make the Marathon Classic in mid-July her last start of the season before returning next year.

Of course, Lewis would relish winning with child.

“I don’t care what limitations I have or what is going on with my body, I want to give myself a chance to win,” she told at the Kingsmill Championship last week.

Lewis claimed an emotional victory with her last title, taking the Cambia Portland Classic late last summer after announcing earlier in the week that she would donate her entire winnings to the Hurricane Harvey relief efforts in her Houston hometown.

A victory Sunday would also come with a lot of emotion.

It’s been an interesting year for Lewis.

There’s been the joy of learning she’s ready to begin the family she has been yearning for, and the struggle to play well after bouncing back from injury.

Lewis missed three cuts in a row before making it into the weekend at the Kingsmill Championship last week. That’s one more cut than she missed cumulatively in the previous six years. In six starts this year, Lewis hasn’t finished among the top 50 yet, but she hasn’t felt right, either.

The former world No. 1 didn’t make her second start of 2018 until April, at the year’s first major, the ANA Inspiration. She withdrew from the HSBC Women’s World Championship in late February with a strained right oblique muscle and didn’t play again for a month.

Still, Lewis is finding plenty to get excited about with the baby on the way.

“I kind of had my first Mother’s Day,” Lewis told last week. “It puts golf into perspective. It makes those bad days not seem so bad. It helps me sleep better at night. We are just really excited.”

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Rose hasn't visited restroom at Colonial - here's why

By Nick MentaMay 27, 2018, 12:20 am

In case you're unaware, it's pretty hot in Texas.

Temperatures at Colonial Country Club have approached 100 degrees this week, leaving players to battle both the golf course and potential dehydration.

With the help of his caddie Mark Fulcher, Fort Worth Invitational leader Justin Rose has been plenty hot himself, staking himself to a four-shot lead.

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

"Yeah, Fulch has done a great job of just literally handing me water bottle after water bottle. It seems relentless, to be honest with you," Rose said Saturday.

So just how much are players sweating the heat at Colonial? Well, it doesn't sound like all that water is making it all the way through Rose.

"I haven't even seen the inside of a restroom yet, so you can't even drink quick enough out there," he shared.

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Up four, Rose knows a lead can slip away

By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 11:21 pm

Up four shots heading into Sunday at the Fort Worth Invitational, Justin Rose has tied the largest 54-hole lead of his PGA Tour career.

On the previous two occasions he took a 54-hole Tour lead into the final round, he closed.

And yet, Rose knows just how quickly a lead can slip away. After all, it was Rose who erased a six-shot deficit earlier this season to overtake Dustin Johnson and win the WGC-HSBC Championship. 

"I think I was in the lead going into the final round in Turkey when I won, and I had a four-shot lead going into the final round in Indonesia in December and managed to put that one away," Rose said Saturday, thinking back to his two other victories late last year.

"I was five, six back maybe of DJ, so I've got experience the other way. ... So you can see how things can go both ways real quick. That's why there is no point in getting too far ahead of myself."

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Up one to start the third round Saturday, Rose extended his lead to as much as five when he birdied four of his first six holes.

He leads the field in strokes gained: tee-to-green (+12.853) and strokes gained: approach-the-green (+7.931).

Rose has won five times worldwide, including at the 2016 Rio Olympics, since his last victory in the United States, at the 2015 Zurich Classic.

With a win Sunday, he'd tie Nick Faldo for the most PGA Tour wins by an Englishman post-World War II, with nine.

But he isn't celebrating just yet.

"It is a big lead, but it's not big enough to be counting the holes away. You've got to go out and play good, you've got to go out positive, you've got to continue to make birdies and keep going forward.

"So my mindset is to not really focus on the lead, it's to focus on my game tomorrow and my performance. You know, just keep executing the way I have been. That's going to be my challenge tomorrow. Going to look forward to that mindset."

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Grillo still hunting follow-up to debut win

By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 10:53 pm

Following a round of 1-under 69 Saturday, Emiliano Grillo will enter Sunday's final round at Colonial four shots behind leader Justin Rose.

Grillo is hunting his first win since he took the 2015 Safeway Open in his rookie debut as a PGA Tour member. 

The young Argentinian finished 11th in the FedExCup points race that season, contending in big events and finishing runner-up at the 2016 Barclays.

In the process, Grillo had to learn to pace himself and that it can be fruitless to chase after success week to week.

"That was a hot run in there," Grillo said Saturday, referring to his rookie year. "I played, in 2016, I played the majors very well. I played the big tournaments very well. I was in contention after two, three days in most of the big events.

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

"I think, you know, I wanted to do better. I pushed for it. Some of the tournaments I ended up being 50th or 60th just because I wanted to play. I wanted to play well so badly. That played against me, so I learned from that. In that rookie year, I learned that."

Grillo was still plenty successful in his sophomore season, advancing to the BMW Championship last fall.

But now he's beginning to regain some of that form that made him such an immediate success on Tour. Grillo has recorded four top-10 finishes year - a T-9 at Mayakoba, a T-8 at Honda, a T-3 at Houston, and a T-9 at Wells Fargo - and will now look to outduel U.S. Open champs in Rose and Brooks Koepka on Sunday at Colonial.

"Well, he's top 10 in the world, so everything he does he does it pretty well," Grillo said of Rose. "You know, he does his own thing. Like I say, he's top 10 in the world. Nothing wrong with his game. ...

"He's in the lead on a Sunday. Doesn't matter where you're playing, he's got to go out and shoot under par. He's got 50 guys behind him trying to reach him, and I'm one of those. I've just got to go out and do what he did today on those first five or six holes and try to get him in the early holes."