Nationwide Tour set for first stateside tournament of 2008March 26, 2008
PGA TOUR staff
BROUSSARD, La. -- The Nationwide Tour resumes play on U.S. soil this week at the Chitimacha Louisiana Open presented by Dynamic Industries after starting the season with a four-event international swing. The golf spotlight will be on the Bayou state with the PGA TOUR hosting the Zurich Classic of New Orleans 130 miles away.
The venue for the Chitimacha Louisiana Open is Le Triomphe Country Club near Lafayette. The par-71, 7,006 yard layout has hosted the event every year since its inception in 1992.
Through the first four events of the Nationwide Tour's 30-tournament schedule, two Australians and a pair Americans claimed the four titles and currently hold down the top four spots on the money list. Aussies Jarrod Lyle (No. 1 on the money list) and Ewan Porter (No. 2) won the Mexico Open presented by Corona and the Moonah Classic, respectively, while Scott Dunlap (No. 4) and Darron Stiles (No. 3) captured the Panama Movistar Championship and the HSBC New Zealand PGA Championship. All but Lyle will be in the Louisiana field.
With 26 tournaments remaining, the quest for "THE 25" and a PGA TOUR card for 2009 have only just begun.
In the Nationwide Tour's last event in February, Porter, then a non-member, won the Moonah Classic by seven strokes over D.J. Brigman and Tee McCabe. The victory earned him fully-exempt status on the Nationwide Tour through the end of 2009.
Arjun Atwal, a native of India, won the European Tour's Malaysian Open when the Nationwide Tour was idle earlier this month. He will be in Lafayette this week to play his second Nationwide Tour event of the year. In January, Atwal finished T2 in Panama. Despite his European Tour win, he has opted to pursue his return to the PGA TOUR in 2009 via the Nationwide Tour and a spot among the final 25 money winners who will earn TOUR privileges. Currently residing at Isleworth in Orlando, Atwal recently cited practice sessions and conversations with Tiger Woods at the club that have helped his game.
Defending champion, Skip Kendall, is in the field this week as he seeks to be the first player in Nationwide Tour history to successfully defend a Tour title. The Wisconsin native outlasted Paul Claxton in a playoff last March.
Chris Couch, winner of the 2006 Zurich Classic of New Orleans, will be making his first start of the year on any tour. The five-time Nationwide Tour winner has been out of action due to a shoulder injury.
Playing in the event for the first time is Casey Wittenberg, who has strong family golf ties to Louisiana. Wittenberg's grandfather and father, Jimmy Wittenberg Sr. and Jr., both starred for the LSU golf team and earned All-America honors.
Next week the Nationwide Tour travels to the West Coast for the Livermore Valley Wine Country Championship at Wente Vineyards east of Oakland, Calif.