Players and caddies at the BMW Charity Pro-Am will be wearing "Leuk the Duck" pins this week as a show of support for their friend Jarrod Lyle, who is fighting leukemia.
The disease first struck Lyle as a teenager but he fought it and became a member of the PGA TOUR and Nationwide Tour. It returned in March. The Shepparton, Victoria, Australia native is currently undergoing chemotherapy in his homeland.
"Leuk the Duck" is the mascot of Challenge Leuk, an Australia-based not-for-profit that has been supporting children and families facing cancer for over 28 years. Fellow Aussie and four-time PGA TOUR winner Robert Allenby is the International Patron of Challenge and a great friend to the popular Lyle. The two met when Jarrod was first diagnosed with leukemia as a 17-year-old.
2006 ALUM MATT KUCHAR CORRALS PLAYERS: The career of newly-crowned PLAYERS champion Matt Kuchar has consisted of two very different tours of duty on the PGA TOUR, with a key year on the Nationwide Tour sandwiched in between. The 2000 graduate of Georgia Tech enjoyed quick success the first time he got on the PGA TOUR full time in 2002, winning the Honda Classic and finishing 49th on the money list. His rookie success did not carry forward as he could do no better than 139th on the money list in the next three seasons. Playing full time (21 starts) on the Nationwide Tour in 2006, he regained his form and confidence, winning the Henrico County (Va.) Open and placing second in two other events. His 10th-place finish on the money list allowed him to return to the PGA TOUR and he hasn't looked back since. Between 2007 and 2012, the 1997 U.S. Amateur champion has four wins, five runners-up and eight thirds, with earnings approaching $17 million. With eight top-25 finishes in 10 starts this year, a combined 39 in 2010 and '11, and a TOUR best streak of 17 consecutive cuts made, Kuchar is arguably the most consistent player on TOUR. He has often credited his 2006 season on the Nationwide Tour with helping resurrect his career.
CIRCLE OF CHAMPIONS: Matt Kuchar joins David Duval (1999), Craig Perks (2002), Stephen Ames (2006) and Tim Clark (2010) as the fifth Nationwide Tour alumnus to capture THE PLAYERS and earn a spot in the "Circle of Champions" at TPC Sawgrass. Kuchar's win upped the alumni win count on the PGA TOUR to 330.
NATIONWIDE TOUR RETURNS TO UPSTATE S.C. FOR 21st YEAR: One of the Nationwide Tour's unique events, the BMW Charity Pro-Am presented by SYNNEX Corporation, returns for its 21st playing in the Upstate area of South Carolina. The tournament has been known for its celebrity component since 2001 and strong charitable results. Since 2001, the BMW Charity Pro-Am presented by SYNNEX Corporation has raised $8.6 million for more than 150 charities.
CELEBRITY LINEUP: Twenty-five celebrities are scheduled to tee off on Thursday. They include Anthony Anderson, Steve Azar, Mark Bryan, Andy Buckley, Jay DeMarcus, Jeffrey Donovan, David James Elliott, Dean Felber, Oliver Hudson, Josh Kelley, Cheech Marin, Danny Masterson, Rob Morrow, Terry O'Quinn, Chris Rich, Joe Don Rooney, Wyatt Russell, Richard Schiff, Grant Show, Reggie Smith, Holly Sonders, Kevin Sorbo, Paula Trickey, Gary Valentine and Patrick Warburton. Celebrities and amateurs will rotate among the three courses Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The low 14 pro-celebrity/pro-am teams will advance to play Sunday's finale at Thornblade Club.
GREENVILLE CC's CHANTICLEER COURSE JOINS BMW ROTATION: The Chanticleer Course at Greenville (S.C.) Country Club joins the three-course BMW Charity Pro-Am presented by SYNNEX Corporation rotation, along with Thornblade Club in Greenville and Carolina Country Club in Spartanburg. The Robert Trent Jones, Sr.-designed Chanticleer layout is recognized as one of the top courses in South Carolina. It opened for play in 1970. Greenville CC replaces Bright's Creek GC in Mill Spring, N.C., which had been in the rotation since 2008.
YOUNGER GENERATION: The younger set has made a pretty strong statement on the Nationwide Tour since March. Tournament winners have been age 24 (Paul Haley II, Hudson Swafford), 27 (Casey Wittenberg, Luke List), 28 (Andres Gonzales) and the elder statesman 33 (Alex Aragon). Both Haley and Swafford had not made a single Nationwide Tour start prior to the 2012 season. The current money list features 1-List, 2-Gonzales and 3-Haley. The Tour's youngest player, impressive 21-year-old Bio Kim, who was also the PGA TOUR's youngest player last year, is lurking at No. 25.
PALMETTO STATE TIES: Several Nationwide Tour members who reside in South Carolina are in the BMW field including Justin Bolli (Simpsonville), Brent Delahoussaye (Greenville), Brian Duncan (Mt. Pleasant), Matt Hendrix (Greenville), Ben Martin (Greenwood) and Charles Warren (Greenville). The tournament also has several with Clemson University ties -- Delahoussaye, Duncan, Hendrix, Martin, Warren, Sam Saunders and Kevin Johnson.
PGA TOUR / HP INVITES: 2012 Nationwide Tour winners Andres Gonzales (Soboba Classic) and Paul Haley II (Chile Classic) will be in Dallas this week playing in the PGA TOUR's HP Byron Nelson Classic, as will another Tour member, Travis Wadkins. Gonzales, who is No. 2 on the Tour's money list, will celebrate his 29th birthday on Wednesday (16th). No. 3 Haley and Wadkins were born and still reside in Dallas. The trio received sponsor exemptions.
TAKING A LIKING TO TPC SAWGRASS: Two years ago David Mathis won the inaugural Winn-Dixie Jacksonville Open presented by Planters on his first tournament trip to TPC Sawgrass. Dye's Valley Course was that year's toughest layout on the Nationwide Tour. Last week in his first tournament on THE PLAYERS Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, Mathis posted a 5-under-par 283 total (T15) to become low finisher among 17 first-timers at THE PLAYERS. BMW
CELEBRITY CORRECTION: Former Major League Baseball star Reggie Smith is among the 25 celebrities set to compete in the BMW Charity Pro-Am presented by SYNNEX Corporation. It was incorrectly released that Reggie Smith of the NFL's Carolina Panthers would be playing.
DID YOU KNOW?: PLAYERS Championship contender Kevin Na has played in just two Nationwide Tour events and won one of them. As an 18--year-old, Na missed the cut at the 2001 Inland Empire Open played in his then hometown of Rancho Cucamonga, California. Five years later, he won the very same event.
NEXT WEEK: The Nationwide Tour is off May 21-27 before traveling to Raleigh in North Carolina May 28 -- June 3 for The Rex Hospital Open at TPC Wakefield Plantation.
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