The 2012 Nationwide Tour tees off this month in South America with a mostly veteran contingent among the 20 Georgians competing on the tour this year.
Six Georgians graduated from the 2011 Nationwide Tour to the 2012 PGA Tour, while seven players with ties to the state earned Nationwide Tour status in the finals of Q-school.
Leading the way among the newcomers is Macon’s Russell Henley, who won last year’s Stadion Classic at UGA as a member of the Bulldogs’ golf team. Henley graduated shortly after his victory and remained an amateur for the remainder of the summer to compete on the U.S. Walker Cup team.
Henley was able to make only two starts on the tour after turning pro, but his win in Athens has earned him exempt status on the Nationwide Tour this year even though he failed to advance to the finals of Q-school.
The veteran among the newcomers is Augusta’s Scott Parel, who turns 47 this spring and played six years on the tour between 2003 and ’09. Parel missed earning his PGA Tour card by one shot in the finals of Q-school.
Reid Edstrom, who grew up in Norcross and has settled in Auburn, Ala., after playing his college golf there, will be playing his second season on the tour. Edstrom, 37, has spent most of his career on regional mini-tours, with his lone Nationwide season coming in 2008. A 78 in the fourth round in the finals of Q-school seemingly knocked Edstrom out of contention, but he came back the next day with a 63 to jump from 78th to 24th. Needing to shoot a 71 the final day to qualify for the PGA Tour, Edstrom closed with a 74.
Hudson Swafford and Paul Haley both qualified for the Nationwide Tour straight out college. Swafford, who played on Georgia’s 2011 NCAA runner-up team, fired a 65 in the fifth round of the qualifying finals to begin the final day tied for 24th, but shot 74 to miss the PGA Tour by two strokes. Haley, a 2011 Georgia Tech grad, was tied for ninth after three rounds, but shot back-to-back 74s the next two days and missed by four strokes.
Six Georgians placed in the top 60 on the 2011 money list to retain exempt status this year.
Albany’s Josh Broadaway was among the top 25 for much of the season, but struggled over the final two months and finished 28th. Broadaway, 33, has played on the Nationwide Tour the last six years, with 2011 the best season of his career.
Ringgold’s Luke List also spent much of 2011 inside the top 25, but wound up 38th. He made a run at a top 25 finish at Q-school, but came up two shots short, largely due to a 77 in the second round. This will be List’s third full season on the Nationwide Tour after a heralded amateur career that included appearances in the Masters and U.S. Open after a runner-up finish in the 2005 U.S. Amateur.
Paul Claxton is back on the Nationwide Tour for a 14th season after another solid showing in 2011. Claxton was 40th in earnings to boost his career totals to more than $1.5 million, second on the all-time money list. Claxton, 44, has also played four seasons on the PGA Tour, and is a Vidalia native who has settled on St. Simons Island. He won the
1992 Georgia Amateur shortly after completing his college career at Georgia.
Former Roswell resident and ex-UGA golfer Justin Bolli was 57th on last year’s money list, his poorest showing in five Nationwide Tour seasons. Bolli, 36, has earned promotions to the PGA Tour three times since 2004 by finishing 11th or better on the Nationwide Tour. Bolli, the 2003 Georgia Open champion, is 14th on the career money
list with $1.13 million.
LaFayette’s John Kimbell was 59th in earnings in his fifth season on the tour, making it into the top 60 the final week of the season. Kimbell, 43, won in Valdosta as a rookie in 2007, and has contended a handful of times since, including a tie for fourth last year in Louisiana, when he shot a 61 in the final round.
Former Clayton State golfer Will Wilcox was 36th in his rookie season, recording two top-3 finishes in his first five starts, including his first event of the year in Athens. Wilcox missed his PGA Tour card by four shots in the finals of qualifying.
After finishing 61st on the money list, former Georgia Tech golfer Nicholas Thompson regained his exempt status in Q-school. Thompson was 6th in his first season on the Nationwide Tour in 2007 and spent four years on the PGA Tour, placing as high as 41st in 2008.
Several other Georgians have non-exempt status on the tour. Among them are: Former Alpharetta resident Brent Delahoussaye, was 86th on the money list last year, his fifth season on the Nationwide Tour. Delahoussaye, who graduated from Clemson and now lives in Greenville, S.C., played on the PGA Tour in 2010.
Georgia Tech grad Matt Weibring is back on the Nationwide Tour full time after playing primarily on the PGA Tour in 2009 and ’10. Weibring was 87th last year, his sixth on the Nationwide Tour. He was 24th on the Nationwide Tour in ’08 to earn his first shot at the PGA Tour.
Clayton Rask, who has moved to Locust Grove from his native Minnesota, was 92nd on the money list as a Nationwide Tour rookie. Rask, who made his tour debut in the Stadion Classic at UGA in 2010, made it to the finals of Q-school for the second straight year. He was 33rd at the midway point with scores of 67 and 68, but shot 82-78 the next two rounds to fall out of contention.
Former Georgia Southern standout Aron Price is back on the Nationwide Tour after three seasons as a PGA Tour member. Price played well in his three years on the Nationwide Tour from 2006-08, but was unable to achieve fully exempt status during his PGA Tour stay.
Duluth’s Brent Witcher and former UGA golfer Richard Scott both reached the finals of Q-school, but finished well back after 108 holes and will have limited status on tour.
After three tournaments in South and Central America, the Nationwide Tour plays its first U.S. tournament in Louisiana in late March, and makes a swing through Georgia, playing April 26-29 in Valdosta and May 3-6 in Athens.
The tour also visits upstate South Carolina, Raleigh, N.C. and Knoxville, but its annual stop in Chattanooga has dropped off the schedule. The Nationwide Tour will again play a late-season event in Jacksonville, with the Tour Championship moving to Dallas this year from Charleston, S.C.