As the Nationwide Tour heads to Raleigh, N.C., for The Rex Hospital Open this week, there are several key players and storylines to watch.
• Last year, South Carolinian Kyle Thompson finally prevailed on the Nationwide Tour, with a two-stroke win over Bob Burns at The Rex Hospital Open. The $81,000 Thompson pocketed helped propel the former University of South Carolina Gamecock to No. 14 on the final money list for his initial trip to the PGA TOUR. Thompson had been on the Nationwide Tour since 2003. The Rex Hospital Open victory was his second Tour title.
• A unique twist to this week's Rex Hospital Open is its Pro-Junior Invitational, which awards a playing spot in the 72-hole competition to the medalist. Wake Forest Rolesville High School graduate Jordan Walor bested a field that included 18 high school girls and 54 high school boys based on their performance in events over the last year. Walor, who will play for the University of North Carolina-Pembroke in the fall, shot 69 to win by a shot.
• Four past Rex Hospital Open champions are playing this week at TPC Wakefield Plantation, including the event's first winner in 1994 -- Skip Kendall (1994). Others include Vance Veazey (1999), David Morland IV (2003) and Chris Anderson (2004).
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• Nationwide Tour leading money-winner David Mathis will headline a strong contingent of golfers in the field this week with ties to the state of North Carolina. Mathis, who won the BMW Charity Pro-Am earlier this year, hails from Winston Salem, N.C. Mathis will have an extra advantage this week as TPC Wakefield Plantation serves as his home course. Some of the other players with ties to the Tar Heel State include Brendon de Jonge (Charlotte resident), Brad Fritsch (Campbell University, Holly Springs resident), Darron Stiles (Pinehurst resident), Gary Hallberg (Wake Forest), Ian Leggatt (Chapel Hill resident), Garth Mulroy (North Carolina State), Rick Price (Methodist College), Kyle Reifers (Charlotte resident and Wake Forest graduate) and Garrett Willis (Charlotte native).
• Close finishes are the norm at The Rex Hospital Open. In its history, no player has ever won this tournament by more than two strokes. Kyle Thompson, in 2007, posted one of five two-stroke wins in the 14-year history of the event. The tournament has been won by one stroke six times and has ended in a playoff three times. Those playoffs were as follows: Glen Hnatiuk defeated Craig Perks in 1996; Mark Hensby topped Manny Zerman in 2000; and Chris Anderson beat Jason Buha, Paul Gow and Brendan Jones in 2004.
• Since The Rex Hospital Open moved to TPC Wakefield Plantation in 2001, the tournament's 54-hole leader has gone on to win five of seven times. The only misses came in 2002 and 2004, with Zoran Zorkic and Chris Anderson's come-from-behind wins, respectively.
• Mark Hensby and Eric Axley are the only winners of The Rex Hospital Open who have also won on the PGA TOUR, with Hensby claiming the 2004 John Deere Classic and Axley prevailing at the 2006 Valero Texas Open. Runner-up finishers in Raleigh have had more success winning on TOUR, with 2001 runner-up Ryuji Imada the latest to celebrate a victory with his win at last month's AT&T Classic. Other Rex Hospital Open second-place finishers who have won on the PGA TOUR include Steve Flesch (twice), Vaughn Taylor (twice), Craig Perks, Bob Burns, Dennis Paulson and Troy Matteson.
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• The Rex Hospital Open kicks off its tournament week unlike any other Nationwide Tour event, with its annual Grand Champions Pro-Am presented by Professional Medical Insurance Services, Inc. The Monday, June 2 event at TPC Wakefield Plantation features 14 of golf's living legends paired with four amateurs in a Texas Scramble best-ball tournament. This year's tournament features Billy Casper, Lee Elder, Jim Ferree, Dow Finsterwald, Jack Fleck, Doug Ford, Bob Goalby, Fred Hawkins, Don January, Howie Johnson, Gene Littler, Billy Maxwell, Doug Sanders and Charlie Sifford.