After five straight weeks in the south, the Nationwide Tour goes north this week into Mitchellville, Md. for the Melwood Prince George's County Open. Maryland native Fred Funk is the event's honorary chairman for the second year in a row. "Golf fans in the region should come out and see this Nationwide Tour event because they're going to see some great players who will compete on the PGA TOUR in the very near future," said the former University of Maryland golf coach.
Last year, Georgian Paul Claxton won the inaugural event at The Country Club at Woodmore and became the first player in Nationwide Tour history to reach $1 million in Nationwide Tour career earnings. Claxton went on to earn his 2008 PGA TOUR card via THE 25, finishing 10th on the money list. Seven other players who finished in the top 10 at Melwood went on to join Claxton on the PGA TOUR.
With this week's PGA TOUR event in Ft. Worth, Texas being an invitational, Claxton returns to defend his title at Woodmore in an attempt to become the first to successfully do so on the Nationwide Tour. Joining Claxton this week are 23 of the current top-25 money leaders, including nine of the year's eleven tournament winners. No. 1 Darron Stiles is taking the week off after playing five tournaments in a row while No. 8 Colt Knost got a sponsor's exemption to play in the Crown Plaza Invitational at Colonial in his home state.
Also playing in the second Melwood Prince George's County Open is six-time PGA TOUR winner Steve Pate. Pate played last year and finished T36. "I love the golf course," Pate added. "It has a great variety of holes. There aren't very many straight holes, so you better play a practice round here because you have to use different clubs on different lines off the tee to try to get around. It reminds me of courses like Westchester (Country Club in New York)."
Last week's BMW Charity Pro-Am created plenty of movement among THE 25. David Mathis won his first Nationwide Tour event and picked up a check for $121,500 and the keys to a BMX X5. The win moved him from No. 44 to No. 4 on the money list. Roger Tambellini (now 10th), Bill Lunde (21st), Matt Weibring (22nd), Peter Tomasulo (24th) and Ricky Barnes (25th) all moved inside THE 25 while Bryce Molder, J.J. Killeen, Rick Price, Joe Daley, Brendon De Jonge and Kris Blanks, ranked between 20 and 25th last week, dropped outside THE 25.
The Melwood Prince George's County Open gets underway on Thursday.
Next week the Nationwide Tour is in suburban Chicago at The Glen Club Glenview, Ill. for the Bank of America Open. The event will be televised on GOLF CHANNEL.