The 2014 Web.com Tour begins in South America in February, and will make just one stop in Georgia for the first time since 2006.
From 2007-13, the tour schedule included events in Valdosta and Athens, but the University of Georgia elected not to continue its tournament, which was played for four years at Jennings Mill just outside Athens before moving to the University course in 2011.
The event had become one of the favorite stops on the tour, but dropped off the 2014 schedule when UGA was unable to find a sponsor willing to pay the increased costs of having the tournament televised.
That leaves the South Georgia Classic at Valdosta’s Kinderlou Forest as the state’s lone Web.com Tour stop. The South Georgia Classic has been part of the tour since 2006, the year before the Athens tournament was played for the first time.
The South Georgia Classic has taken the date of the Stadion Classic at UGA, and will be played May 1-4.
The Web.com Tour also lost tournaments in Omaha, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., with new events added in Cleveland, Portland and Canada. The tour begins with four events in South and Central America before the first U.S. stop in Louisiana in late March.
A tournament is scheduled in Mexico the same week as the Masters, with the tour making its annual stop in Midland, Tex., the week before it visits Valdosta. The BMW Pro-Am will be played in Greenville, S.C. May 15-18 and will be the first tour event televised on the Golf Channel, with the four remaining events from the original Ben Hogan Tour in 1990 all back for a 25th year.
Wichita, Boise, Springfield (Mo.) and Knoxville have been parts of the tour through five title sponsors (Ben Hogan Company, Nike, Buy.com, Nationwide and Web.com). The tournaments in Louisiana, Texas and Wichita were added to the schedule in 1992.
The top 25 finishers on the money list are guaranteed spots on the 2015 PGA Tour. Those 25 players will compete in a four-tournament series at the end of the season with the next 50 finishers on the Web.com Tour and those finishing between 126 and 200 in the FedExCup standings.
The Web.com Tour’s Top 25 will join the 25 leading money winners from the Finals Series events on the 2015 PGA Tour, with the 50 players ranked on their finish from that money list.
Georgia will again be well represented on the tour, with around 20 players from the state – mostly veterans – Web.com Tour members for 2014.
The list of veterans includes former PGA Tour players Vaughn Taylor, Justin Bolli, Scott Dunlap, Paul Claxton and Aron Price, with Luke List and Henrik Norlander dropping down to golf’s version of Class AAA in baseball after playing in the majors last year.
Web.com Tour veteran Scott Parel, a long-time Augusta resident, scored his first Web.com Tour win last year in Wichita at the age of 48, but was unable to maintain his status in the top 25 on the money list, failing to record a top 30 finish in his other 21 starts.
Dunlap, who has played the tour every year since 2003, will likely compete infrequently, if at all, as he qualified for the Champions Tour after turning 50 last August. The Duluth resident has two career wins on the tour and spent seven years on the PGA Tour, most recently in 2012. He placed 55th on the Web.com money list last year,
Price, a former Georgia Southern golfer, has played on both the PGA and Web.com Tours in recent years, narrowly qualifying for the Finals Series last year by finishing among the top 75 on the money list.
After finishing 150th in the FedExCup standings last year, Bolli has very limited PGA Tour status, and returns to the Web.com Tour. The former Georgia Bulldog has won four times in his six seasons on the tour, earning promotions to the PGA Tour after each of his victories. He had a pair of 4th place finishes on the PGA Tour last year, but made just four cuts in his other 24 starts, including three straight missed cuts in the Finals.
Taylor, an Augusta native who played his college golf at Augusta State, has two wins and a Ryder Cup appearance in his 10 seasons on the PGA Tour. But after finishing 155th on the FedExCup points list last year, he will be playing most of his golf in 2014 on the Web.com Tour.
List, who grew up in the Atlanta area and the north Georgia community of Ringgold, struggled in his rookie season on the PGA Tour and is back on the Web.com, where he placed 4th on the 2012 money list with a win in Valdosta and three runner-up finishes, one in Athens.
Norlander, a member of Augusta State’s 2010 and ’11 NCAA Championship teams, was 163 in the FedExCup standings as a rookie, and will be playing on the Web.com Tour for the first time in 2014.
The lone Georgians to earn exempt status on the Web.com Tour through qualifying school were Covington’s Jonathan Fricke and Albany’s Josh Broadaway. Fricke played the tour in 2008 and ’09, while Broadaway while be a tour member for the 10th season, the last nine in a row.
Claxton, 46, is entering his 20th season as a Web.com/PGA Tour member, with 2014 his 16th year in golf’s Class AAA. He ranks second all-time in Web.com Tour earnings and has two career victories, but did not enjoy a successful season in 2013, failing to qualify for the Finals. Claxton is a Vidalia native who played his college golf at UGA and is a long time St. Simons Island resident.
Savannah’s Tim O’Neal is back on the tour for the first time since 2008 after enjoying an outstanding season in 2013 on the LatinoAmerica Series, where he won twice and finished 4th in earnings. This will be O’Neal’s sixth season on the Web.com Tour.
Recent Georgia Tech golfer Paul Haley went straight from college to the Web.com Tour in 2012 and was a winner as a rookie, qualifying for the 2013 PGA Tour. He made just three cuts on the PGA Tour last year and is back on the Web.com Tour this season.
A number of Georgians earned non-exempt status on the Web.com Tour this year by reaching the finals of Q-school. Duluth’s Brent Witcher, who made a handful of starts on the tour the last two years, narrowly missed earning exempt status, and should get into some early season tournaments.
Others with non-exempt status are recent Auburn golfer Michael Hebert of Cumming; Atlanta native and former UGA golfer Adam Mitchell; Savannah’s Mark Silvers, a former Golf Channel Big Break winner who has limited Web.com experience; Suwanee’s David Skinns, one of the top players on the NGA (formerly Hooters) Tour; Mitch Krywulycz, a teammate of Norlander and Patrick Reed on Augusta State’s two championship teams; Dalton’s Matt Hughes and recent Kennesaw State standout Matt Nagy.