Posted: Tuesday, March 19th 2013 at 3:52pm
Strong field set to test Chattahoochee in Milton Martin Classic
The National Golf Association will continue its relationship with Gainesville's Chattahoochee Golf Club this week.
Through the first four events of the NGA TOUR’s Pro Series, parity has been the prevailing theme. Four different winners have been crowned thus far in 2013.
Jon Curran, a former Vanderbilt standout of Tequesta, Fla., outlasted Chris Ross in a two-hole playoff to claim the season-opening Members Only Shootout at Killearn Country Club; Clayton Rask, a former University of Minnesota golfer from Otsego, Minn., earned a two-stroke win in the Killearn Country Club Classic; Justin Lower, a former Malone University stalwart from Canal Fulton, Ohio, won the Spring Hill Classic; and Riley Wheedlon, a University of Louisville alumnus from Comox, Canada, took last week’s Kandy Waters Memorial Classic by one shot over Brian Richey and Patton Kizzire.
While the NGA TOUR has a storied history for attracting the deepest fields this side of the PGA and Web.com Tours, the fact that the aforementioned golfers were also first-time winners on the top-rated developmental tour only adds to the lore.
This week’s Milton Martin Honda Classic will be no different as over 175 of the best up-and-coming golfers descended on the Chattahoochee Golf Club in Gainesville for the $200,000 event.
With a field filled with NGA winners, former PGA and Web.com Tour players and highly-decorated rookies, there will be no clear-cut favorite this week. However, based on their strong starts, Lower, Wheeldon, Rask and Curran could break the first-timer streak this week.
After four events, Lower leads the 2013 NGA TOUR money standings, Wheeldon is second, Rask is third and Curran is fourth. While they would love to claim the victory, a solid finish is a must for the foursome, considering the NGA money leader at the season’s midpoint will receive an event exemption into the PGA TOUR’s Reno-Tahoe Open.
In addition to earning the lion’s share of the $200,000 purse and moving into prime position in the Reno-Tahoe Open exemption race, this week’s winner will also be in contention to earn an event exemption into the Web.com Tour’s BMW Charity Pro-Am, which will be awarded to the highest earner after the next four events. With his win last week, Wheeldon current leads the standings.
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.
Perennial NGA TOUR favorite Brandon Brown and 2011 Web.com Tour member Travis Bertoni will be looking to become the first two-time winners in the history of the Milton Martin Honda Classic this week.
In 2011, Brown, a former Western Kentucky golfer, edged Zach Sucher and James Vargas in the rain-shortened event to claim his first victory since 2007 on the NGA Tour, and the Shelbyville, Ky., golfer hasn’t slowed down since. Brown has earned four more NGA TOUR wins and the 2012
NGA Player of the Year award since his 2011 victory.
After winning a tour-high three times in 2012, David Skinns of Lincoln, England, started out the 2013 season with a T12 finish and will be one of the favorites this week. The former University of Tennessee All-American has finished inside the top 15 in 10 of his last 13 starts on the NGA TOUR Pro Series. Skinns, a former NGA TOUR Player of the Year and Suwanee resident, held a share of the lead during the first round of the PGA TOUR’s Tampa Bay Championship a week ago.
Jeff Corr, a 2012 Web.com Tour member, is another veteran player that is expected to contend for the win this week. The Jacksonville State alum is a four-time NGA TOUR Pro Series winner and two-time victor on the Bridgestone Winter Series this season. Corr of Longwood, Fla., has finished inside the top 15 in 10 of his last 14 starts on the NGA TOUR.
Highly-touted rookie Hunter Hamrick, a former University of Alabama All-American, lived up to his billing in the season-opener at Killearn, finishing T9, and will be looking to continue his stellar play this week. Hamrick, who helped the Crimson Tide to a No. 1 ranking in 2012, competed in five PGA TOUR events last season, including the U.S. Open where he finished T46. Hamrick also posted a T10 finish in the True South Classic on his way to earning over $115,000 on the PGA TOUR in 2012.
This week’s field will also include 2012 NGA Pro Series winners Rick Cochran, the nephew of PGA winner Russ Cochran and a Middle Tennessee State alumnus; Jonathan Randolph, a 2010 All-Nicklaus team member and All-American selection from Ole Miss; Ken Looper, a former LSU standout; Chas Narramore, a former Middle Tennessee State stalwart; Tyson Alexander, a former University of Florida All-American: and Jay Woodson, a former James Madison University linkster.
Others notable participants include: Stuart Anderson, a 2012 Web.com Tour member; T.J. Bordeaux, a BWS winner and four-time Big West All-Conference selection at the University of Pacific; Major Manning, a former Web.com Tour member; Jack Newman, the 2008 U.S. Public Links champion; and multi-time NGA TOUR winners James Vargas and Mark Blakefield.
There will also be a large contingent of Georgia golfers hoping to keep the winner’s check in state. Chattahoochee director of golf Rodger Hogan is part of the field along with other locals, including Jim Foote (Gainesville), Ryan Chitwood (Lula) and Blake Palmer (Dawsonville).
The first round of the Milton Martin Honda Classic is scheduled to start on Thursday, March 21 at 7:30 a.m. 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 Web.com Tours and is the No. 1 recommended developmental tour by more PGA and Web.com Tour Professionals.
The NGA has helped hundreds of professionals acquire their PGA TOUR, Euro, Web.com, and Champions Tour cards. In fact, NGA alumni have won 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 U.S. Open Champion Lucas Glover; 2007 Masters Champion Zach Johnson; 2003 PGA Champion Shaun Micheel; 2003 British Open Champion Ben Curtis; two-time U.S. 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; 2012 PGA TOUR winners Mark Wilson, George McNeill, Ted Potter Jr., Scott Stallings and Scott Piercy.
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