The last chance to earn a PGA Tour card for the 2019-20 season begins this week with the first of three events comprising the finals of what was formerly known as the Web.com Tour.
A field of 138 from the PGA and KF (formerly Web.com) Tours along with a handful of international players will compete for 25 spots on the 2019-20 PGA Tour, which begins Sept. 12 at the Greenbrier. Among the 138 in this week’s field in Columbus, Ohio, are 15 golfers with Georgia ties, two of whom have already earned their PGA Tour cards for the upcoming season.
Henrik Norlander, who teamed up with Patrick Reed to lead Augusta State to back-to-back NCAA Championships in 2010 and ’11, will get a third shot at the PGA Tour after placing 11thon the KF Tour points list this season. Norlander, who played the PGA Tour in 2013 and ’16 and has also competed on the former Web.com Tour for five seasons, collected his second title this year in Wichita to go along with consecutive top-4 finishes a little over a month earlier.
Norlander, who has settled in Augusta, finished 159 and 164 on the FedExCup points list in his first two PGA Tour seasons and lost a playoff in the RSM Classic at Sea Island GC in 2016 while a Web.com member.
Joining him on the PGA Tour for the upcoming season is recent Georgia Tech golfer Vince Whaley,who got the last PGA Tour card by placing 25thon the KF points list. Whaley, a tour rookie in 2019, was in the top 25 the entire season after placing second in the Bahamas in the second event of the year and locked up his card with a tie for third in Illinois. He did not place higher than 44thin any of his next seven starts, but managed to narrowly retain his position in the top 25. Like Norlander, Whaley has settled in the city in which he attended college.
Both Norlander and Whaley will be competing the next three weeks against the other 23 players who also qualified for the 2019-20 PGA Tour for positioning on the priority list for the 50 players from the KF Tour regular season and finals series.
Five other golfers with Georgia ties placed between 26 and 75 on the KF points list to earn spots in the finals series, and will be exempt for the 2020 KF tour if they don’t earn PGA Tour cards.
The five are Atlanta residents Drew Weaver (36 in points this past season) and Jamie Arnold (38), former UGA golfer Erik Compton (39), Alpharetta’s Billy Kennerly (50) and Fayetteville resident Wade Binfield (55), who played his college golf at Clayton State.
Weaver was in the top 25 for most of the year largely due to a runner-up finish in Bogota, but fell back the last two months of the season, his third on the tour and the first time he has finished in the top 100.
Arnold, a native of Australia, recorded four top-10 finishes, including a 4thand a 6thin July to highlight his third season on the tour.
Compton, who played the PGA Tour from 2012-16 and has played the KF Tour off and on since 2002, tied for second in Wichita behind Norlander, one of his five top-15 finishes.
Kennerly, who played his college golf at Clemson, enjoyed his third straight solid season on the tour, twice tying for sixth to finish in the top 75 for the third year in a row.
Binfield, playing his first full season on the tour, notched a pair of top 10s and four other top 20s to give himself a chance to qualify for the PGA Tour for the first time at the age of 32.
Joining them in the field this week in Columbus are eight Georgians who competed on the PGA Tour this season but did not finish in the top 125 on the FedExCup points list.
Among the eight is former Georgia Tech golfer Richy Werenski, who ended the season 126 in the standings, two points behind the player in the 125 spot. After finishing around 110 on the points list his first two seasons on the PGA Tour, Werenski did not have a top-30 finish in a non-opposite field event in 2019 after a strong Fall showing that had him 21stin the standings after the RSM Classic, the final 2018 event of the 2018-19 season.
Regardless of his play in the KF Finals, Werenski will at least have conditional status on the PGA Tour next season along with south Georgia native Harris English, a former Georgia Bulldog and St. Simons Island resident. English barely finished inside the top 150 at 149, as he continued the slide that began in 2017. After four straight outstanding seasons from 2013-16 that included two wins and a spot in the Tour Championship in 2015, English has been outside the top 100 the last three years. A tie for 12thin the Honda Classic was his only top-20 showing this season, and he needed a final round 64 in Greensboro to move into the top 150.
Fellow St. Simons resident Jonathan Byrd finished just outside the top 150 at 151 and has not been among the top 125 since undergoing wrist surgery in 2013. Prior to that, Byrd enjoyed a decade of success on the PGA Tour with five wins, but has been playing out of the past champions category in recent years. He had a number of solid showings this season, but several of them came in opposite field events that do not offer full FedExCup points.
Recent UGA golfer Joey Garber, also a St. Simons resident, was 170 in his rookie season, with almost half his points coming from a tie for seventh in the inaugural stop in Minnesota. Garber was a winner in his lone season on the Web.com Tour in 2018.
Woodstock’s Anders Albertson, a former member of the Georgia Tech golf team, was 172 as a rookie after a promising start last Fall. He was fifth in the tournament in Mississippi and was 50thon the points at the beginning of 2019, but a tie for 18thin the opposite field event in Kentucky was his only finish better than 60ththis year. Albertson had a win and a runner-up finish and placed third on the final Web.com money list in 2018.
After an excellent rookie season in 2017, recent Georgia Tech standout Ollie Schniederjans from Powder Springs had a respectable sophomore showing, but struggled for the entirety of his third year on tour and ended up a head-scratching 180thon the points list. Schniederjans had a win and a runner-up finish in his lone Web.com season in 2016, and will need to reclaim his past success if he hopes to avoid a return to that tour in 2020.
Since scoring the first of his two wins on the former Web.com Tour in 2008, former UGA golfer Brendon Todd has had a rollercoaster career that reached its crest in 2014 (a win in the Byron Nelson Classic and a Tour Championship appearance) but has also included some steep dips. Playing out of the past champions category this season, Todd showed some signs of a resurgence with a pair of top 20s, but was able to make only 11 starts.
Seth Reeves was one of four young ex-Georgia Tech golfers to finish outside the top 125, following a similar path to former teammate Albertson. He made all five cuts in the Fall including a top 10 in Mississippi, but 2019 was a succession of missed cuts and low finishes when he made it to the weekend. The Duluth native finished 188 on the points list after a successful Web.com season in 2018.
Not in this week’s field is Alpharetta’s Roberto Castro, who played at Georgia Tech before the five other Yellow Jackets who are competing in Columbus. Castro made a lot of cuts on the PGA Tour this season, but did not have enough high finishes, and ended up 142 on the points list. Castro, who has two Tour Championship appearances in his seven PGA Tour seasons, will have some status next year, and can play in the next two finals events in Boise and Evansville. He skipped all four last year after reclaiming his PGA Tour card during the Web.com regular season. He earned a return to the PGA Tour in 2016 with the aid of a tie for second in the Columbus tournament that was also part of the finals at the time.
A sizeable number of Georgians finished outside the top 75 on the KF points list, and will need to return to Q-school this fall.
Former Georgia Tech golfer Paul Haley just missed at 76, with fellow ex-Yellow Jacket Nicholas Thompson 93rd.
Finishing outside the top 100 were former Clayton State golfer Willy Wilcox (111), who did not play after early May; former Georgia Tech golfer J.T. Griffin (115); Atlanta area resident Michael Hebert (124); Suwanee resident David Skinns (150); former UGA golfer Lee McCoy (151); former Kennesaw State golfer Jimmy Beck of Columbus (174); recent Georgia Tech golfer Chris Petefish (190); Cordele native and former Georgia Southern golfer Spence Fulford (199) and Augusta’s Emmanuel Kountakis, who played in college at Augusta and Mercer (201).