The Nationwide Tour will compete for a record $18.95 million in prize money. For the first time in the Tours 19-year history, players will compete for $1 million tournament purses in two events that were recently announced, the Nationwide Tour Players Cup in West Virginia and the Nationwide Tour Championship at TPC Craig Ranch in McKinney, TX outside Dallas. The average purse grows to a record $631,000, an increase of 12%. Every tournament purse will be a minimum of $500,000 for the first time.
Sixteen tournaments will air on Golf Channel, the exclusive television home of the Nationwide Tour.
Four of the Tours original events ' the Knoxville (TN) Open, Price Cutter Charity Championship (Springfield, MO), the Preferred Health Systems Wichita (KS) Open and the Albertsons Boise (ID) Open ' will return for the 19th consecutive year.
New tournaments will be played in Mexico and Canada ' the Mexico Open presented by Corona in January and Ford Wayne Gretzky Classic in June, respectively. These events will complement the Tours January return to Panama for the fifth year in a row and to Australia and New Zealand in February for the seventh straight year.
The 19th season will once again kick off at the Panama Movistar Championship Jan. 21-27 and conclude Nov. 3-9 at the pressure-packed Nationwide Tour Championship at TPC Craig Ranch where The 25 PGA TOUR cards for 2009 will be awarded.
The Tours Chicago-based event, formerly the LaSalle Bank Open, has been renamed the Bank of America Open.
The significant increase in prize money means there will be 18 purses of $600,000 or more vs. 14 in 2007. The third largest purse is a unique one ' the $800,099 offered by the new Ford Wayne Gretzky Classic in tribute to its host who wore No. 99 throughout his storied NHL career.
The Nationwide Tour is coming off a great year in 2007, but this 2008 schedule is our strongest ever in terms of prize money, sponsorship and venues, said Nationwide Tour President Bill Calfee. A year from now we are confident we will be talking about having made even greater strides in the competition, in our reach and the impact we have on the PGA TOUR. With the solid foundation we have in place and the strong partnership that exists with our umbrella sponsor, Nationwide, we believe the Nationwide Tour has significant momentum.
In 2008 Nationwide Insurance, based in Columbus, OH, begins the first year of a new five-year agreement that extends through 2012. The deal makes Nationwide the longest-running umbrella sponsor in Nationwide Tour history.
Were excited for another year of outstanding golf on the Nationwide Tour, said Jim Lyski, Chief Marketing Officer for Nationwide. As we begin our second five-year commitment as umbrella sponsor, were pleased to see purses and fan interest growing. With the recent success of Nationwide Tour graduates on the PGA TOUR, its not surprising to see golf fans taking greater interest in our Tour.
The focus of the Nationwide Tour membership will once again be to secure one of the 25 PGA TOUR cards for 2009 that will be awarded at the end of the 2008 season based on the final money list. Nationwide Tour alums have now won 217 PGA TOUR titles, including 21 this year. Richard Johnson of Wales finished the 2007 season as the Tours leading money winner, while Nick Flanagan of Australia earned a three-win promotion to the PGA TOUR in August and was named Player of the Year in a vote of his peers.