Five golfers with ties to Georgia were among 49 players who earned full Web.com Tour status for the outset of the 2019 season with top-40 finishes in the tour’s qualifying tournament, which ended Sunday in Arizona.
The Georgia qualifiers were former Georgia Tech golfers Paul Haley and Vince Whaley, recent UGA standout Lee McCoy, Atlanta resident Drew Weaver and St. Simons Island resident Rick Lamb.
Each of the five will be exempt into the first eight tournaments on the 2018 Web.com Tour schedule, which includes two opening events in the Bahamas, tournaments in Colombia, Panama and Mexico and American stops in Florida, Louisiana and Georgia. The latter will be played at the Landings in Savannah March 28-31, and is the last of the eight events for which they are guaranteed spots in the field.
After that, the priority for access to the tour will be re-shuffled, with the players highest on the money list earning spots in the remaining 16 tournaments on the regular season schedule.
Players finishing outside the top 40 in the qualifying finals have limited access to the tour for the 2019 season. Among those finishing outside the top 40 in the finals were Jimmy Beck of Columbus (T64), Emmanuel Kountakis of Augusta (T64) and Atlanta area residents J.T. Griffin and Michael Hebert (both T74).
Haley was the top finisher among the Georgia contingent, tying for 16th with a 72-hole total of 21-under 267. The tournament was played on the Cattail and Devil’s Claw courses at Whirlwind GC in Chandler, with 27-under 261 the winning score and 18-under 270 required to place in the top 40. Haley was outside the top 50 after 54 holes, but shot 64 the final day to move up 37 spots in the standings.
After graduating from Georgia Tech in 2011, Haley qualified for the Web.com Tour in his first attempt and enjoyed an outstanding rookie season in 2012, winning in his third start on the tour in Chile and adding a pair of runner-up finishes. He finished 12th on the money list to earn a spot on the on the PGA Tour in 2013, but made only three of 18 cuts and was back on the Web.com in 2014. His struggles continued for the next two seasons, and he will playing on the Web.com Tour for the first time since 2015.
Whaley graduated from Georgia Tech in 2017 and will be a Web.com rookie. Whaley, who is living in Fayetteville, will be making his first ever Web.com Tour start early in 2018. He played steady golf throughout the qualifying finals, with three scores of 67 and a final round 68 to tie for 25th at 269.
Weaver, an Atlanta resident, also tied for 25th at 269 with scores of 67-66-68-68. Weaver won the British Amateur in 2007 while he was a member of the Virginia Tech golf team, but has been unable to make it to the PGA Tour after graduating in 2009. He was 12th on the Canadian Tour money list in 2015 with a victory, and placed 97th and 124th on the Web.com Tour the next two seasons. He did not make a start on the tour in 2018.
Lamb, who has played on the PGA and Web.com Tours in recent seasons, also tied for 25th at 269. His best season came on the Web.com in 2016, when he won a tournament and placed 24th on the money list. He was 119th in earnings last year and also played on the PGA Tour for a second straight season.
McCoy was tied for 74th after 54 holes, but shot a final round 64 to move up 40 spots and qualify on the number, tying for 34th at 270. McCoy, a 2016 UGA grad, won the Web.com qualifying tournament last year. He was 83rd on the money list as a rookie in 2018, tying for third late in the season in Springfield, Mo. During his senior season at Georgia in 2016, he placed fourth in the PGA Tour stop in Tampa on the course he grew up playing on, and had a successful rookie season on the Canadian Tour in ‘17, winning a tournament and placing sixth in earnings.
Beck, who played his college golf at Kennesaw State, shot 66-65 the last two rounds, but finished at 272, two shots outside the top 40 in a tie for 64th. He also got to the 2017 Web.com qualifying finals, but made only one start on the tour last year. He had runner-up finishes in both 2016 and ’17 on the LatinoAmerica Tour and has enjoyed success in the top events in his home state. He won the 2013 Georgia Amateur at Pinetree, the home course of the Kennesaw State team, and has twice been a runner-up in the Georgia Open, the first time as an amateur in 2014 in Pinetree and also in 2017 at Savannah’s Ford Plantation.
Kountakis played in college at Mercer and Augusta State, graduating from Augusta State in 2017. He shot 64-68-69 the last three rounds in the finals, but finished three shots outside the top 40 at 273, tying for 67th.
Griffin, who played his college golf at Georgia Tech, was one shot outside the top 40 after 54 holes at 203, but shot 71 the final day and missed by four at 274, tying for 74th. Griffin, a 2011 Georgia Tech graduate, made nine starts on the Web.com Tour last year and made six cuts, with his best finish a tie for 14th.
Hebert also missed by four shots at 274. He has played on the Web.com Tour the last four seasons and placed in the top 100 all four years, but has never cracked the top 75, the finish needed to be fully exempt for the following season. He barely missed this past season, placing 77th, and will have higher status for 2019 than the other played who finished outside the top 40 in the finals of qualifying. Hebert played in college at Auburn.
Also making it to finals were Cordele native and former Georgia Southern golfer Spence Fulford; fellow ex-Georgia Southern golfer Scott Wolfes of St. Simons; Duluth’s Mookie DeMoss, a former UGA golfer; Fayetteville’s Wade Binfield, who played at Clayton State; and Dawsonville’s Blake Palmer.
Fulford was tied for 23rd after 54 holes at 210, but shot 74 in the final round and plummeted to a tie for 85th at 275. Wolfes closed with a 65, but shot himself out of contention with a second round 76 and finished just outside the top 100 at 278. DeMoss had a pair of 67s, but was 1-over his other two rounds, finishing with a 279 total. Binfield opened with a 66, but was only 1-under the next three days and was 7-under for the tournament. Palmer closed with a 68 after posting scores of 73 the first three rounds, and finished ahead of just a handful of players at 287.
Five other Georgians are exempt for the 2019 Web.com season off their play on the tour this year. Included in that group are former Augusta State golfer Henrik Norlander; Will Wilcox, like Binfield an ex-Clayton State golfer; Suwanee’s David Skinns; Alpharetta’s Billy Kennerly; and former Georgia Bulldog Erik Compton, a veteran of both the PGA and Web.com Tours.
Champions Tour qualifying: A bad stretch on the last five holes of his opening round cost Paul Claxton a chance to qualify for the 2019 Champions Tour.
Claxton, the Georgia PGA Player of Year in 2018, tied for 18th at 3-over 287 recently at TPC Tampa Bay. Only the top five players earned spots on the 2019 Champions Tour, with four golfers playing off for the final two spots at 2-under 282.
After 13 holes in his opening round, Claxton was even par, but suffered a triple bogey 8 on the par-5 14th, and following two more bogeys, ended up at 5-over 76. After shooting 72 the next two rounds, Claxton closed with a 67 to move into the top 20, ending up five strokes out of a possible top-5 finish.
Just as he did during the 2018 season, Claxton will compete in Monday qualifiers prior to next season’s Champions Tour events. He qualified for three Champions Tour events this past season and also played in the Senior PGA Championship. He has already qualified for the 2019 Senior PGA off his play in the 2018 PGA senior club professional championship.
Claxton, a native of Vidalia who played his college golf at Georgia before a career as a tour pro that included 16 seasons on the Web.com Tour and four on the PGA Tour, is a part-time teaching pro at Brunswick CC when he isn’t competing.