The 2019 Web.com Tour begins this weekend in the Bahamas with 14 players with ties to Georgia competing in the first of two Sunday-to-Wednesday events in the Bahamas that are part of the 27-tournament schedule.
The tour has new events in Florida, Texas and Colorado, replacing tournaments played last year in Mississippi, Cleveland and Jacksonville. He latter two were part of the Web.com Finals series that sent 25 players to the PGA Tour, along with the top 25 form the regular season money list.
The Finals has been reduced from four tournaments to three, with a regular season tour stop in Evansville replacing Jacksonville as the site of the Tour Championship. Tournaments in Columbus, Ohio and Boise remain as part of the Finals.
The tour will again make one stop in Georgia, with the second Savannah Classic scheduled for March 28-31 at the Landings Club in Savannah. The Web.com Tour will also visit Nashville, Knoxville, Raleigh and Greenville, S.C., during its annual Southern swing in May and June.
Five Georgians who played the Web.com Tour in 2018 are PGA Tour members for the 2018-19 season. Woodstock’s Anders Albertson and Alpharetta’s Roberto Castro, who both played their college golf at Georgia Tech, placed in the top 25 on the regular season money list last year, along with former Georgia Bulldog Joey Garber, a St. Simons Island resident.
UGA golfer Sepp Straka, an Austrian native who attended high school in Valdosta and has settled in Athens, finished in the top 25 in the Finals series to join former teammate Garber on the PGA Tour, along with Georgia Tech’s Seth Reeves, a Gwinnett County native. All but Castro are PGA Tour rookies this season.
Albertson, Garber and Straka were Web.com winners in 2018 along with Suwanee resident David Skinns, who is back on the tour this year after finishing outside the top 25 in the regular season and Finals. Skinns was 41st in earnings in the regular season, with his victory in Omaha his lone top-20 finish.
This will be Skinns’ third full season on the tour. He retained his status for 2018 with a tie for second in the final regular season event of 2017 in Portland, and was contending midway through the Finals event in Boise, but had to withdraw when he wife went into labor with the couple’s second child. Skinns, a native of England who played his college golf at Tennessee before enjoying considerable success on the defunct Hooters Tour, is not playing in the season opener in the Bahamas.
Among those in the field are four golfers with Georgia ties who finished in the top 75 on the money list last year, and six others who placed in the top 40 in the finals of qualifying in December.
Henrik Norlander was 32nd on the regular season money list and 30th in the Finals, just missing his PGA Tour card for 2018-19. Norlander, who helped lead Augusta State to back-to-back NCAA Championships in 2010 and ’11, will be playing the tour for the fifth time in the last six years. His best season came in 2015, when he won a tournament in Indiana and was fifth in earnings. He enjoyed a solid season last year, placing second in Springfield, Mo., and making 19 of 24 cuts with three top 25 showings in the Finals.
Norlander, a native of Sweden who has settled in Augusta, also played the PGA Tour in 2013 and ’16, and almost won the RSM Classic early in the 2016-17 season playing on a sponsor exemption, making it into a 5-man playoff for the title.
Former Clayton State golfer Will Wilcox, was 37th on the money list last year with three finishes of fourth or better. He made the cut in all four tournaments in the Finals, but fell short of a top-25 overall finish. Wilcox played on the Web.com Tour from 2011-13, winning in Valdosta in ’13 to finish seventh in earnings and move up to the PGA Tour, where he played from 2014-17. Wilcox was 75th in the FedExCup standings in 2015 with a runner-up finish in the event formerly played at the Robert Trent Jones Trail Grand National course in Opelika, Al., before returning to the Web.com Tour last year.
Alpharetta’s Billy Kennerly, who played his college golf at Clemson, was 58th on the money list last year, recording nine top-25 finishes, with his best showing a T6 in Kansas City. Kennerly played his way onto the Web.com Tour midway through the 2017 season after tying for eighth in his first start in Chicago. Thanks to a tie for second in Kansas City, he ended the regular season 45th in earnings to earn a second season on the tour in 2018.
Veteran Erik Compton, who played at UGA in the early 2000s, placed third in the 2018 regular season finale in Portland to crack the top 75 and retain his exempt status for this season. Compton, who finished 59th in earnings, had two solid showings in the Finals, but finished outside the top 25. Compton has played seven full seasons on the Web.com Tour and five on the PGA Tour from 2012-16. A Web.com win in Mexico in 2011 led to a spot on the PGA Tour the next season, and he placed as high as 65th in the FedExCup standings in 2014 before returning to the Web.com in ’17. Compton has made 150 career starts on the Web.com and 161 on the PGA Tour.
Among the six players who finished among the top 40 in the finals of Q-school last year was recent UGA standout Lee McCoy, the qualifying medalist in 2017. McCoy, who won as a pro rookie on the Canadian Tour in 2017,struggled for most of his first season on the Web.com last year before tying for third in Springfield, Mo. He ended the year 83rd on the money list, but regained his status thanks to a final round 64 in the qualifying finals, tying for 34th to finish on the number for a top-40 finish. As a senior at Georgia, McCoy finished fourth in the PGA Tour event at Innisbrook in Tampa, the course he played as a youngster before moving to Clarkesville with his family when he enrolled in Athens. He also was a member of the 2015 Walker Cup team.
Former Georgia Tech golfer Paul Haley had the best finish among the Georgia contingent in the Q-school finals, tying for 16th by matching McCoy’s closing 64. Haley qualified for the Web.com Tour in his first attempt, and had an outstanding rookie season, placing 12th in earnings with a win in Chile followed by a pair of runner-up finishes. But he had a rough time as a PGA Tour rookie in 2013, and his struggles continued on the Web.com Tour in 2014 and ’15, as he made only four of 20 cuts. Haley has not played on either the Web.com or PGA Tour since 2015.
Vincent Whaley, who completed his career at Georgia Tech in 2017, will be playing his first season on the Web.com Tour after tying for 25th in the finals of qualifying. Whaley, who is living in Fayetteville, will be making his Web.com debut in the Bahamas.
Drew Weaver is back on the Web.com Tour after playing respectably in limited seasons in 2016 and ’17. Weaver, an Atlanta resident, won the British Amateur in 2007 and made the Walker Cup team in 2009 while he was a member of the golf team at Virginia Tech. Weaver won on the Canadian Tour in 2015 and finished eighth on the money list, and posted a pair of third place finishes on the tour last year. He tied for 25th in the Q-school finals.
St. Simons Island resident Rick Lamb also tied for 25th in the qualifying finals after splitting time between the Web.com and PGA Tours. After playing a limited Web.com schedule in 2015, Lamb won in 2016 in an event in the Lake Erie area and earned his PGA Tour card by placing 24th on the money list. He finished 150th in the FedExCup standings as a rookie in 2017 to barely retain playing privileges for last season, but made only one cut in 10 starts. A tie for fifth in Springfield, Ill., was the best Web.com showing in 2018 for the former Tennessee Vol.
Australian native and Atlanta resident Jamie Arnold slipped to 81st on the money list after finishing 52nd in his first full Web.com season in 2017, but regained his status by tying for 25th in the finals of Q-school. His second round 61 was the second lowest score of the tournament, which was played in Chandler, Ariz. The 35-year-old Arnold made a total of nine starts on the tour between 2009 and ’15 before earning status for the first time in 2017.
Jonathan Byrd has five win in his PGA Tour career, which began in 2002, but the St. Simons resident hasn’t finished inside the top 125 since 2012, and spent most of the 2016 and ’17 seasons playing primarily on the Web.com Tour. Byrd won the 2017 Web.com Tour Championship to regain his status on the PGA Tour last year, but finished well outside the top 150 on the FedExCup points list, and failed to finish among the top 25 in the Web.com Finals.
Byrd made three Fall starts on the 2018-19 PGA Tour schedule, recording a top-25 finish in the RSM Classic, but will likely play most of his golf on the Web.com in 2019. In his first season as a pro, the former Clemson golfer finished eighth on the Web.com with a win in the upstate South Carolina event near his hometown of Anderson, and did not play another event on that tour until 2013, following wrist surgery that has hampered his game ever since. Prior to the injury, Byrd won the 2011 Tournament of Champions and qualified for the Tour Championship, and was 47th on the 2012 regular season points list.
Former Georgia Tech golfer Nicholas Thompson also has extensive experience on both tours, playing seven seasons on the PGA Tour between 2006 and ’15 and five seasons on the Web.com. He made only nine starts last year and is playing on a medical extension in 2019. He won in New Zealand as a Web.com rookie in 2007, and was 22nd in ’12 to return to the PGA Tour, where he stayed for three seasons. His best showing on the PGA Tour came in 2008, when he finished in the top 50 in the FedExCup standings.
Atlanta resident Michael Hebert has played the last four seasons on the Web.com Tour, finishing 84, 90, 100 and a career-best 77 last year to narrowly miss exempt status for the outset of the 2019 season. He had a chance at a top-75 finish, but missed n his last five cuts after making 14 of his first 17 with four top-25 finishes. Hebert, who played at Auburn, will need to play well early this season to play a full schedule.
A number of other Georgians advanced to the finals of qualifying in December, but did not finish in the top 40 and will have very limited status this season, Jimmy Beck, Emmanuel Kountakis, J.T. Griffin and Spence Fulford all finished between 64 and 85 at Finals, with Scott Wolfes, Mookie DeMoss, Wade Binfield and Blake Palmer ending up outside the top 100.
Griffin and Binfield both played limited schedules last year, with former Clayton State golfer Binfield recording a pair of top-15 finishes. Binfield, a Fayetteville resident, will play in the season-opening event in the Bahamas on a sponsor exemption.