Former Nationwide Host Ready for Generation Next
Myrtle Beach, S.C. – May 22, 2012 – The NGA Pro Golf Tour prides itself in providing an environment that mirrors the Nationwide and PGA Tours by conducting week-long, walking-only events that consist of a local qualifier tournament, complimentary practice rounds and range use, a free junior clinic hosted by the NGA Pro Golf Tour professionals, Sponsor Pro-Ams and a four-day, 72-hole professional tournament.
The blueprint has helped 100s – if not 1,000s – of aspiring golfers reach the highest levels of the game over the last 20 years and earned the NGA Pro Golf Tour the No. 3 rating among U.S. professional golf tours, trailing only the Nationwide and PGA Tours. However, none of it would be possible without a capable group of Championship-caliber golf courses that offer all the amenities to host top-flight events.
Three Ridges Golf Course in Knoxville, Tenn., certainly has the credentials – and it will be put to the test this week when the NGA Tour rolls into town for the Three Ridges Knoxville Classic. The former Nationwide Tour host will be the 11th stop on the 2012 NGA Tour schedule.
“We are excited to have a professional event here again,” said Mark Brown, Director of Golf at Three Ridges. “We hosted the [Nationwide] Tour for four years and we can’t wait to host another top-notch event. Our course has matured and is going to play very well. Knoxville is a great city and we are looking forward to rolling out our east Tennessee hospitality to the NGA Tour. My staff is excited and superintendent Kevin Lewis has worked hard to make changes and improvements to the course.”
Three Ridges played host to the Nationwide Tour’s Knoxville Open for many years and was voted “Best Public Course in East Tennessee.”
While it will be the inaugural event at Three Ridges for the NGA Tour, it will be a homecoming for many of the Tour’s players. Former University of Tennessee team captain David Holmes and UT alum David Skinns are part of the 156-player field. And if history is any indication, the duo should play a part in the finish as well.
Last season, Skinns, the 2008 NGA Player of the Year, outlasted PGA and Nationwide Tour regular Chris Wilson to win the Tour’s Kodak, Tenn., event.
Murfreesboro’s Philip Pettitt Jr., a former UT team captain as well, finished tied for fifth in last year’s NGA event in Tennessee and ended 2011 with two NGA wins. After his stellar season, Pettitt went on to earn his Nationwide Tour card through PGA Tour Q-School, following the path taken by 2009 NGA Tour member and Tennessee Tech star Scott Stallings. The former Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Year spent three seasons on the NGA Pro Golf Tour before moving to the Nationwide Tour in 2010 and becoming a PGA Tour winner in 2011.
Pettitt wasn’t the lone player from last year’s field to receive an off-season promotion. All told, five players that finished in the top 10 in last season’s event earned Nationwide Tour status for the 2012 season.
While half of the top 10 from a year ago are plying their trade on the Nationwide Tour this year, there will still be plenty of top talent on hand – and plenty of players with ties to Tennessee in the field.
Eric Axley (Knoxville), Paul Apyan (Chattanooga), Josh Bevell (Nashville), Andrew Black (Chattanooga), Brandon Bunn (Knoxville), Chase Carroll (Knoxville), Chris Erwin (Brentwood), Hunter Green (Dayton), Jonathan Hodge (Strawberry Plains), Braxton Hunter (Rockford), Cameron Lawrence (Knoxville), Bryce Ledford (Ooltewah), Jason Millard (Murfreesboro), Chas Narramore (Kingston), Zac Radford (Brentwood), Derek Rende (Soddy-Daisy), Eric Rose (Knoxville), Jesse Speirs (Memphis) and Scott Tashie (Memphis) are some of the native sons playing in the tournament.
Even with the gaggle of local stars in the field, picking a favorite this week will be no easy task. The Knoxville Classic will feature nine of the top 10 money earners on the NGA Tour as well as over 20 NGA Tour winners, several former PGA and Nationwide Tour members and a horde of former collegiate All-Americans.
2012 NGA Tour winners David Skinns, Brandon Brown, Rick Cochran III, Chas Narramore, Mark Silvers, Ken Looper, Hudson Johnson and Tyson Alexander will be looking to become the first two-time winner this season on the NGA Tour.
Johnson, a former Vanderbilt star from Longview, Texas, won the season-opening Members Only Shootout; Silvers, a former University of South Carolina golfer, earned his first career victory in the Avoca Classic; Alexander, a former University of Florida linkster from Gainesville, Fla., won the 2012 Killearn Country Club Classic; Looper, a former LSU star from Mandeville, La., won the 2012 Golden Hills Golf and Turf Classic; Narramore, a former Middle Tennessee State star from Kingston, Tenn., won the Savannah Lakes Village Classic; Brown, a six-time NGA winner from Shelbyville, Ky., won the Mountain Lakes Classic; Skinns, from Lincoln, England, won the Cutter Creek Classic; and Cochran III, the nephew of PGA winner Russ Cochran from Paducah, Ky., won last week’s Cherry Blossom Classic.
2011 NGA winners Erik Barnes, Ryan Spears, the 2011 NGA Rookie of the Year, Nick Rousey and Garrett Osborn are also scheduled to play in the event as well as 2011 Nationwide Tour members Travis Bertoni, Todd Bailey and Major Manning.
Other notables include: Andrew Loupe, a two-time All-American at LSU: Erick Justesen, who played in the 2012 PGA Tour’s Northern Trust Open; T.J. Bordeaux, a 2011-12 BWS winner and four-time Big West All-Conference selection at the University of Pacific; Patrick Wilkes-Krier, the NGA’s 2011 Most Improved Player; and Manuel Villegas, the younger brother of PGA star Camilo Villegas and NGA Tour winner.
In addition to competing for a $150,000 purse, NGA members will also be jockeying for position in “Race for the PHS Wichita Open” Nationwide Tour exemption, which will be awarded to the NGA member that accumulates the most winnings during the Cherry Blossom Classic, Knoxville Classic and Comsouth Classic.
The first round of the 2012 Three Ridges Knoxville Classic will begin at 7:30 a.m. on Thursday. As always, admission is free to the public.
The NGA Pro Golf Tour is the No. 3 Men’s Professional Golf Tour in the United States after the PGA and Nationwide Tours and is the No. 1 recommended developmental tour by more PGA and Nationwide Tour Professionals.
The NGA has helped hundreds of professionals acquire their PGA, Euro, Nationwide, and Champions Tour cards. In fact, NGA alumni have won an incredible Fifteen (15) “Major” Championships.
NGA Alumni include: 2012 Masters champion Bubba Watson; 2011 PGA Championship winner Keegan Bradley; 2010 PGA Tour Player of the Year and 2003 US Open Champion Jim Furyk; 2009 British Open Champion Stewart Cink; 2009 US Open Champion Lucas Glover; 2007 Masters Champion Zach Johnson; 2003 PGA Champion Shaun Micheel; 2003 British Open Champion Ben Curtis; two-time US Open Champion Lee Janzen; British Open and PGA Champion John Daly; British Open Champion Tom Lehman; PGA Champion David Toms; 2003 Tour Championship Winner Chad Campbell; 2010 NGA Player of the Year Michael Thompson; 2011 PGA winners Sean O’Hair, Scott Piercy, Scott Stallings, Mark Wilson, Gary Woodland and many, many more.
At this year’s PGA Tour Qualifying School, 52% of those earning full exempt status on the PGA Tour and 67% of those earning full exempt status on the Nationwide Tour were past NGA Professionals. Another 16 NGA Professionals advanced to the PGA Tour for 2012 by finishing inside the Top 25 on the Nationwide Tour money list, including 2011 NGA members Ted Potter Jr., Russell Knox and Billy Hurley III.
The NGA Pro Golf Tour, established in 1988, predates the Nationwide Tour as the longest running developmental tour in golf. For more information on the NGA or the NGA Pro Golf Tour, please visit our website at www.NGATOUR.com or contact our Tour Office at (800) 992-8748.