On Grand Strand Golf: Daniel Island Club not optimistic about hosting Web.com Tour finals

ablondin@thesunnews.comSeptember 24, 2012 

When the Web.com Tour Championship left Daniel Island Club last October after a three-year run, representatives of both the tour and club said it could return as early as 2013.

The primary reason the $1 million season-ending event moved to the TPC Craig Ranch in McKinney, Texas, this year is because the Charleston area hosted the PGA Championship in August and it was going to be too much to ask of the community to support a second event through sponsorships, volunteers and attendees.

An announcement by the PGA Tour, which oversees its feeder Web.com Tour, regarding the tournament site in 2013 is expected within a couple weeks, according to Web.com Tour president Bill Calfee and PGA Tour Executive Vice President of Communications & International Affairs Ty Votaw.

Calfee said last week that Daniel Island Club is among the finalists to host the event again next year, but it doesn’t appear the club’s Ralston Creek Course will be awarded that honor.

Daniel Island Company President Matt Sloan said he has been led to believe the tournament will be held in Jacksonville, Fla.

“We were talking with the tour and making some progress on it,” Sloan said. “But in the back of our minds we thought the Web.com Tour would want to have their final event in Jacksonville, where Web.com is based, and it looks like that’s what happened.

“… We remain a ready, willing and able host for the tour. If they change their mind, who knows? Maybe [discussions] will start up again.”

The PGA Tour is also based in the Jacksonville area in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., and the most lucrative event on the PGA Tour – the tour-operated $9.5 million Players Championship – is already held in the area in May.

“We’ll have an announcement in the coming weeks as to what the fourth event is, and anything prior to that is going to be speculation,” Votaw said. “Until we make the announcement we can’t say one way or the other.”

The 2013 Web.com Tour Championship will be the culmination of the season and the new four-event “Web.com Tour Finals” – a playoff to determine 50 PGA Tour memberships for 2014. Calfee said last week the final site hadn’t been selected.

“We’re still looking [at Daniel Island],” Calfee said. “There are probably three markets we are looking at right now. We have a little more work to do so we’ll see. … Part of what we’re working through now is identifying the major sponsor of that event and we have several prospects.”

The tour championship will be played Sept. 26-29 following an off week on the Web.com Tour and during an open week on the PGA Tour following the end to its season.

The first three events in the playoffs are the Aug. 29-Sept. 1 Hotel Fitness Championship at Sycamore Hills Golf Club in Fort Wayne, Ind.; Sept. 5-8 Chiquita Classic at The Club at Longview outside Charlotte, N.C.; and Sept. 12-15 Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship at Ohio State University’s Scarlet Course in Columbus, Ohio.

All four rounds of each event will be televised on Golf Channel, and all four events will have a $1 million purse. The only Web.com event with a $1 million purse this year is the tour championship.

The three events leading to the tour championship all have three-year agreements, and Calfee said the length of the tour championship contract is still being discussed.

“There’s a school of thought that says rotate the final, and in theory that sounds good but when you’re rotating it around you tend to not build some momentum,” Calfee said. “So we’re still trying to see if we just want to keep it in one place or rotate it. My sense is we’ll probably keep it in one market for at least three years.”

The Web.com Tour Finals was conceived as a three-event series. But Calfee said it expanded to four when interest from sites and sponsors proved greater than expected. “What we found out when we got into the marketplace was there was so much interest in these finals, in fact we had more interest than four, and we had four we knew we could underpin and commit to,” Calfee said. “We can sell them, which is important; if you can add another event it’s a better test of who the best players are; it’s consistent with what we’re doing with the FedEx Cup, so for those reasons we sort of grew into four.”

Players who are eligible for the four-event finals are the top 75 money winners on the Web.com Tour regular season money list, and players who finish from 126-200 on the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup points list at the end of the regular season.

All players start the four-event Web.com Tour finals with $0. The top 25 on the Web.com regular season money list are guaranteed 2014 PGA Tour membership and another 25 players will earn it.

Only the leading money winner in the Web.com Tour’s regular season and leading money winner of the four-event finals are guaranteed full 2014 exempt status and spots in The Players Championship. The exempt ranking of the other 48 who earn PGA Tour status will be determined by their finals finish, and they will all fall below the top 125 in FedEx Cup points in exempt priority.

DJ Foundation benefits

Dustin Johnson will be getting richer in golf experience this week when he competes in the 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club in Chicago.

His charitable foundation is also richer for the Coastal Carolina alum’s participation in the biennial event featuring the top U.S. and European players.

Each of the 12 members of the Ryder Cup as well as captain Davis Love III will have $200,000 donated to charities and growth of the game initiatives in their name as a means of outreach to communities nationwide.

Half is donated to charities of their choice, and Johnson naturally chose his own foundation based in Myrtle Beach to receive his grant.

The other $100,000 from each player will be directed to help support PGA of America junior golf programs designed to introduce the game, provide unique approaches to play, and deliver world class coaching and mentoring to juniors who may not otherwise have the financial means to enjoy the game.

The Ryder Cup Outreach program impacts PGA Junior League Golf, a new team concept for young players throughout the country that incorporates the “Little League” approach to golf for players ages 7-13.

The Outreach Program will also help continue the Ryder Cup Junior Academy that began in 2010 in response to recommendations from past U.S. Ryder Cup Team Captains. The Academy is designed to provide aspiring young players, who may otherwise not have the means to attend, the opportunity to experience a week-long player-development academy taught by award-winning PGA professionals. Grand Strand juniors Samantha Schoener and Blake Childers took part in the 2012 academy July 1-8 in Florida.

It also supports The PGA’s partnership with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America as their official youth development partner.

Johnson’s foundation has supported the S.C. Junior Golf Foundation and its tournaments and programs including the Golf in Schools program and Players Assistance Reserve Fund, which helps junior golfers and their families pay for SCJGA offering; at least two junior tournaments in the state; the collegiate Hackler Championship hosted by Coastal Carolina – played last year at DeBordieu Club; and Blessings in a Backpack, which provides nutritional food to children in need.

NGA rewards players

The Grand Strand-based National Golf Association Tour (formerly Hooters Tour) has rewarded the top 20 players on its 2012 money list with reimbursements for PGA Tour Qualifying School entry fees of $4,500 apiece.

The NGA Tour has doled out 74 Q-School reimbursements over the last three years for the top players on the developmental tour.

In 2011, NGA Tour member Will Claxton secured a PGA Tour card at Q-School, and members Scott Parel, Stuart Anderson, Philip Pettitt Jr., Mike Lavery, Steve LeBrun, Chris Wilson, Reid Edstrom, Shawn Stefani, Lee Williams and Ben Briscoe earned Web.com Tour cards. Anderson, Pettitt, Lavery, Wilson and Williams all finished in the top 20 in earnings on the 2011 NGA Tour.

In addition, 2011 NGA members Ted Potter Jr., Russell Knox and Billy Hurley III earned 2012 PGA Tour status by finishing in the top 25 on the Web.com money list after getting into Web.com events through Monday qualifying.

The NGA Tour will also distribute three more Q-School reimbursements during the three-tournament Q-School Prep Series, which begins Tuesday at Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Ga.

Brandon Brown of Shelbyville, Ky., tops the 2012 NGA Tour money list with $115,085. Others in the top 20, representing 12 states, are David Skinns, Mark Silvers, Chas Narramore, Rick Cochran III, Jonathan Randolph, Tyson Alexander, Randall Hutchison, Ken Looper, Nick Rousey, Hudson Johnson, Jay Woodson, Ryan Spears, Patrick Wilkes-Krier, Chase Carroll, Justin B. Smith, Travis Woolf, Patton Kizzire, Andrew Ruthkoski and Todd Bailey.

Contact ALAN BLONDIN at 626-0284. Read Blondin’s blog, Green Reading, and Twitter page at myrtlebeachonline.com

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