Expert Panel makes picks for NGA’s Milton Martin Honda Classic
Alexander, Bartlett, Feaster, Kizzire top picks to win
Myrtle Beach, SC March 20, 2013 – To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the NGA TOUR, we have assembled a Panel of Experts who specialize in the golf industry and have the experience of covering the NGA TOUR for multiple seasons. This panel of experts will make their top-five selections each week for the NGA TOUR 18 Pro Series events this season.
Former Florida Gator Tyson Alexander (Gainesville, Fla.) leads this week’s picks after being selected on three of our experts’ cards and being listed as the top pick on two of them. The 2013 Pro Series winner returns to the site where he shot an opening round 65 a year ago, good enough for second place until the event was eventually cancelled due to weather.
Matching Alexander’s three selections is 2012 NGA TOUR Player of the Year Brandon Brown (Shelbyville, Ken.). Brown is coming off his first missed cut in over a year and a half (and that includes the PGA TOUR’s 2013 Reno-Tahoe Open), but he returns to the site of his first 2011 win which kick started his two year run as the NGA TOUR’s leading money winner.
Five players make our experts’ lists twice: Jon Curran out of Hopkinton, Mass., Reid Edstrom out of Auburn, Ala., Brent Long out of Carthage, Tenn., and Riley Wheeldon out of Comox, B.C., Canada.
Curran recently finished tied for 24th at the PGA TOUR Puerto Rico Open. Edstrom spent 2012 on the Web.com Tour and will be making his first NGA start of the season at the site of his fourth place finish in 2011. Long has momentum on his side coming off a fourth-place finish last week at the Kandy Waters Memorial Classic, his first NGA event of the 2013 season. Wheeldon may be the hottest of them all as the former Louisville Cardinal is coming off his first professional win at last week’s Kandy Waters Memorial Classic.
Jonathan Bartlett (Vero Beach, Fla.), Scott Feaster (Columbia, S.C.), and Patton Kizzire (Saint Simons Island, Ga.) were selected to one expert’s list each. However, each pick comes with high expectations as they were their particular expert’s top pick to win this week.
Here are our experts’ picks for the upcoming 2013 Milton Martin Honda Classic in Gainesville, Ga., (March 18 – 25), the fourth event of the 2013 Pro Series season:
1. ANDY MARKS has been covering golf for the Ocala Star-Banner since joining the paper as sports editor 2004. He has covered youth tournaments, city amateur championships, mini-tour events, PGA Tour stops and everything in between. He can be reached at email@example.com.
JONATHAN BARTLETT (Vero Beach, Fla.; College: Mississippi) – Former Ole Miss All-American has been quietly playing well in his first year back as a touring pro after giving up the game in favor a real estate career for several years.
CLAYTON RASK (Otsego, Minn.; College: Minnesota) – Former Minnesota All-American finally showed he’s human with a missed cut last week. I’m expecting him to rebound and continue his campaign for this year’s money title.
BRENT LONG (Carthage, Tenn.; College: Western Kentucky) – This former Western Kentucky golfer is a familiar face to Web.com Tour fans who routinely see him join fields as a Monday qualifier. After his T4 showing at the Kandy Waters, expect Long to stay hot and contend once again.
MARK BLAKEFIELD (Lexington, Ky.; College: Kentucky) – Blakefield has yet to have a signature moment in the young 2013 season, but you can never count out this former Kentucky Wildcat who is a proven NGA TOUR winner.
JON CURRAN (Hopkinton, Mass.; College: Vanderbilt) – Showed in Puerto Rico that he’s comfortable carding low numbers even at the PGA level. Curran, out of Vanderbilt, already has a win under his belt this season and I expect him to be in the hunt for a few more.
2. BRIAN STEFAN (@GolfMonger) is host of the “Myrtle Beach Golf Guys” on Sports Radio 100.3 The Team in Myrtle Beach. Co-owner and editor of Sports Monger on the Green blog site. Your home for all things golf. “I am a golf nut and try very hard to play to my 8-handicap as often as possible.”
TYSON ALEXANDER (Gainesville, Fla.; College: Florida) – Tyson has played well at Chattahoochee in the past. This Florida Gator alum has the skill to really shine on the NGA Tour. He hasn’t played great yet this year but there is always a time to break out. I think that this week is the week. So I am taking a shot with Alexander this week.
TRAVIS BERTONI (Paso Robles, Calif.; College: Cal Poly) – I will take a past champ here…even if it was from 2010. Travis is another player that hasn’t shown much so far this season but has won before and I always like a player that has won on a course before. Has had some success on the Web.com Tour as well. Bertoni can play.
BRANDON BROWN (Shelbyville, Ky.; College: Eastern Kentucky) – Obviously, I will take the defending champ. He won 2011 event (2012 was rained out). This guy can flat out play. I will probably be picking him a lot this year. He has only played in one event so far and that was this past week at the Kandy Waters Memorial. He did not make the cut. I look for him to bounce back this week and have a great showing.
JAMES VARGAS (Miami, Fla.; College: Florida) – Vargas finished second here in 2011. Vargas also has two top-10 finishes already this year. He is playing some great golf coming into this week. He scores par or better on 89% of the holes he has played this season. You have to love that kind of consistency. That makes him my first choice to win this week.
RILEY WHEELDON (Comox, B.C., Canada; College: Louisville) – Wheeldon won last week at the Kandy Waters Memorial Classic, so I will ride the hot hand. This Canadian was striping it in N. Augusta and I expect more of the same this week in Gainesville, Ga.
3. JIM ELLIS (@mnrsportsguy) is the Sports Director for the Miami News-Record and was recently inducted into the Oklahoma Journalism Hall Of Fame. Jim has over 10 years of experience covering the NGA TOUR and NGA TOUR events.
PATTON KIZZIRE (Saint Simons Island, Ga.; College: Auburn) – Hopefully he will learn from the last 6 holes last week and get over the top.
BRANDON BROWN (Shelbyville, Ky.; College: Eastern Kentucky) – Can he make it an elongated double? Mother Nature didn’t help last year, but his past track record speaks for itself.
RILEY WHEELDON (Comox, B.C., Canada; College: Louisville) – Let’s go ahead and have the first two-time winner this season. Hopefully he can ride the momentum from the Waters Memorial.
BRENT LONG (Carthage, Tenn.; College: Western Kentucky) – Can he put together four solid rounds? He’s come close a number of times.
REID EDSTROM (Auburn, Ala.; College: Auburn) – He’s played well in the past. Hopefully this will be the first sip of his cup of coffee back and can use this as a springboard to return to the next level.
4. KEVIN FAIGLE (@kevinfaiglewrdw) has been the Sports Director for WRDW TV CBS in Augusta, Georgia for seven years having covered the Masters plus numerous NGA Tour events during this time.
SCOTT FEASTER (Columbia, S.C.; College: South Carolina) –Feaster finished fourth here last year and grinded out a top 30 this past week on a difficult trek. The South Carolina guy will head in with some momentum and is ready to step it up a notch. He’s been around for a while and is as hungry as anyone out there.
REID EDSTROM (Auburn, Ala.; College: Auburn) – Last year, he spent the year on the Web.com tour and this is his first event on the NGA Tour this year. Look for a big splash from a guy who was 4th here two years ago.
SHAWN JASPER (Foristell, Mo.; College: Missouri) – The former Mizzou All-American has improved each week from 66th to 14th and now ready for a top 10. He played on the Web.com Tour so knows what it takes to play on a high level.
TYSON ALEXANDER (Gainesville, Fla.; College: Florida) – Pretty simple, he was second here so he knows where to hit it and where to miss it. The former Gator has won out here before and has played in a U.S. Open. It all works for me.
DEREK RENDE (Sody-Daisy, Tenn.; College: Chattanooga) – He was 51st here before and is ready to step up his game in a big way. Grinded out a top 10 last week at the Kandy Waters Memorial in some tough windy conditions. Look for the former UT Chattanooga product to make a big jump again this week and keep up with U.S. Amateur champ Steven Fox.
5. GREG DEAL (@ShorelinesSC) is editor of Shorelines Magazine in Savannah Lakes Village, McCormick, S.C. He has been a journalism and marketing professional for 22 years, covering high school, college, professional and Olympic sporting events. He’s written articles on PGA tournaments and qualifiers, NGA events, and has covered the Masters twice (in 2000, with winner Vijay Singh; and in 2004, with winner Phil Mickelson) for daily newspapers.
XXXXXX (xxxxxx) – I all but promised I’d pick the winner of the Kandy Waters Memorial Classic. So much for bragging, eh? I bombed out again. Now I turn to a different strategy. No more deep research, looking at stats per player at tournaments at last year’s event/course. I’m going with the My Daughter Strategy. Yes, since it’s March Madness time, people are anxiously filling out their tournament brackets for the office pool, and a lot of dreams will be cracked on Day 1 with those unexpected upsets that kill your entire bracket. The My Daughter Strategy is simple: Years ago, my now 20-year-old daughter, Taylor, who is a sophomore in college and about to get married July 6, knew so very little about NCAA basketball; however, when it came to picking the teams to win in the tourney, she quickly filled out the bracket within five minutes, while I pored over the bracket, the matchups, the stats, and thoroughly looked at the upset trends and then picked the most likely 4 seed/13 seed upsets, a 3/4 upset, a couple of 9s over 8s, one 5/12, and one 7/10 upset. Guess who got the Final Four right? Guess whose bracket imploded on Day 1? Do I really need to answer that. So, I’m going with My Daughter Strategy this week. It’s all gut on these picks. Plus, with all the parity — four different winners this year — how can I go wrong?
TYSON ALEXANDER (Gainesville, Fla.; College: Florida) – He was on top of my list last week, and for a while the pick was looking great. Plus, I got to see this guy’s stroke on the driving range, and I like what I see. This is his week. If he doesn’t win, I feel a top five here. Plus, he was the first listed player on the spreadsheet entry list sent to me. Fate?
BRANDON BROWN (Shelbyville, Ky.; College: Eastern Kentucky) – Like my daughter would say, “Love the alliteration: Brandon Brown!” This guy has serious skill and talent, plus a winner’s portfolio. Well, and he also has my wife’s maiden name (she was Shea Brown when we got married in 1992). Finally, Brandon was born the year Michael Jordan and company won the national championship at North Carolina, and, of course, if anyone from the Tour saw me last weekend, you knew I had on my blue Tar Heels Polo and my Tar Heels hat. Fate?
JEFF CORR (Longwood, Fla.; College: Jacksonville State) – What can I say? Forty-three was NASCAR driver Richard “The King” Petty’s number. Hello? The King. Get it. Well, Corr was No. 43 on my entry list. That’s some serious research, eh? No. But I do know Corr can flat-out play, and I’m feeling a top 10 here. Not convinced? He was the 2011 NGA Player of the Year. Satisfies me for picking him.
JON CURRAN (Hopkinton, Mass.; College: Vanderbilt) – Kid you not, one of the superlatives listed in the courtesy cheat sheet copy — thanks to the NGA — says “Keegan Bradley roommate.” Just playing around here, but that would be like me saying I roomed with Michael Jordan in 1984 when he was in Asheville playing pickup ball at UNC Asheville with Brad Daugherty and “Big Game” James Worthy. That didn’t make me near the basketball player that Jordan was when he was at UNC and then in the NBA; but, thanks to the NGA, I am redoing my resume and adding “Roomed with MJ.” Just kidding. I was in the gym and shot a few with the guys simply because my cousin, Trish Wyatt, was the All-American point guard on the then-NAIA UNC Asheville women’s basketball team — and hit the game-winning shot against Portland in the 1985 national championship game. So, I’m playing Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon here. All kidding aside, I hate parity. It killed NASCAR between the Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson dominating years. People like to see someone on a big roll. Look at all the attention the Miami Heat has gotten for winning so many games in a row. Curran won the Members Only event at Killearn to open the season, so I’m saying he has a great chance to be the first two-timer this year — that’s two-time winner, just to be positively clear.
TRENT WHITEKILLER (Sallisaw, Okla.; College: Oklahoma State) – I’m not going to even lie about this: I’m going to copy and paste EXACTLY what the official NGA Tour press release says about Trent — because I think it’s perfect as it’s written. “Though he hasn’t won this season, Trent Whitekiller may be one of the hottest golfers on the NGA TOUR coming into the Milton Martin Honda Classic. After playing his first nine rounds on the NGA TOUR par or better, the Oklahoma State alumnus from Sallisaw, Okla., struggled – like everyone – in last week’s Kandy Waters Memorial Classic. Despite his T19 finish last week, Whitekiller is fifth on the NGA TOUR money list and has three top-10 finishes in his first four starts on the NGA TOUR.” (Credit, NGA Tour). See, I don’t plagiarize; I quote. I’m not being lazy on this one and mailing in my pick; I just truly believe Trent has a great shot for a top five or top 10.
|ANDY MARKS||BRIAN STEFAN||JIM ELLIS||KEVIN FAIGLE||GREG DEAL|
|Jonathan Bartlett||Tyson Alexander||Patton Kizzire||Scott Feaster||Tyson Alexander|
|Clayton Rask||Travis Bertoni||Brandon Brown||Reid Edstrom||Brandon Brown|
|Brent Long||Brandon Brown||Riley Wheeldon||Shawn Jasper||Jeff Corr|
|Mark Blakefield||James Vargas||Brent Long||Tyson Alexander||Jon Curran|
|Jon Curran||Riley Wheeldon||Reid Edstrom||Derek Rende||Trent Whitekiller|