Storylines: Chitimacha Louisiana OpenMarch 20, 2012
PGA TOUR staff
Le Triomphe Country Club, Broussard (Lafayette), La. Purse: $500,000 First Prize: $90,000 2011 Champion: Brett Wetterich 144 players th of 27 events (1st domestic event of 2012)
PGA TOUR POLICY BOARD APPROVES NEW QUALIFYING STRUCTURE: Commissioner Tim Finchem has announced that the TOUR Policy Board has approved a change to the structure by which players earn their PGA TOUR cards. Beginning with the 2013 season, all 50 PGA TOUR membership cards will be awarded through the Nationwide Tour.
The three final tournaments of the year on the Nationwide Tour will combine players from the PGA TOUR (players ranked 126-200 on the FedExCup points list) and the Nationwide Tour (top 75 off the money list) to determine who earns the 50 cards for 2014. Certain details, such as seeding for the final three events, are subject to further conversation. The annual Qualifying School will award access exclusively to the Nationwide Tour.
The TOUR also announced that the PGA TOUR season will begin in October and conclude in late September at the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola.
NATIONWIDE TOUR LAUNCHES DOMESTIC SCHEDULE WITH 21st TRIP TO LAFAYETTE: The Nationwide Tour launches its 2012 domestic season this week at the Chitimacha Louisiana Open near Lafayette.
Lafayette joined the schedule in 1992, the same year Midland, Texas and Greenville, S.C. came on board. Only Boise, Idaho, Knoxville, Tenn., Springfield, Mo. and Wichita, Kan. have been on the Tour schedule longer, all since the Tour's inception in 1990. Held at Le Triomphe Country Club every year, only the host venues in Boise and Springfield have hosted events longer.
OFFICIALS ANNOUNCE FOUR-YEAR EXTENSION IN LAFAYETTE: On Monday, tournament officials and the PGA TOUR announced a four-year extension of the Chitimacha Louisiana Open. The new agreement will run through 2016, which will mark the 25th anniversary of the tournament. The Open has raised nearly $4 million for Lafayette and south Louisiana charities since its first playing in 1992.
FAMILIAR "25" FACES FROM 2011 IN CHITIMACHA FIELD: A number of "25" Nationwide Tour graduates from last year who do not have a spot in this week's opposite event on the PGA TOUR, the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard, will be in the Chitimacha field: Gavin Coles, Mathew Goggin, Russell Knox, Kyle Thompson, Steve Wheatcroft and Jonas Blixt. The 120-player Invitational is a smaller than usual PGA TOUR field, steering former Tour members to return to compete. Wheatcroft had the best finish among the group last year at Le Triomphe, T7.
TIM PETROVIC RETURNS TO LOUISIANA: 2005 Zurich Classic of New Orleans champion and 2001 Nationwide Tour graduate Tim Petrovic is entered in the Chitimacha Louisiana Open. It will only be his second Nationwide Tour start (2011 Albertsons Boise Open / T33) since he earned his PGA TOUR card via the Nationwide Tour in 2001 (7th on the money list). He finished T2 that year at Le Triomphe.
SOUTH AMERICANS TAKING ADVANTAGE OF EXEMPTIONS: Chileans Benjamin Alvarado (T9) and Mark Tullo (T12) will take advantage of their top-25 finishes in Chile and travel to the States to play in the Chitimacha Louisiana Open. Last year, then University of Florida senior Andres Echavarria finished runner-up to Brett Wetterich in Lafayette. Echavarria, a native of Colombia, was in the field as a result of his top-25 finish the week before in Bogotá. All three players were sponsor exemptions in the event that led to their top-25 finish.
GROWING RYDER CUP REPRESENTATION: Ten of the first 12 spots and 20 of the top 25 on this week's U.S. Ryder Cup points list are occupied by former Nationwide Tour members. The top pointer earner is Keegan Bradley, who won last August's PGA Championship. The Ryder Cup will be played Sept. 28-30 at Medinah Country Club in surburban Chicago. Tour alumni accounted for seven players in the last Ryder Cup and five in 2008.
BIRTHDAY BOYS: Celebrating birthdays this week in Louisiana are Marc Turnesa (19th/turns 34) and Brian Anderson (21st/30).
NEXT WEEK: Tour is off next week before heading west for back-to-back tournaments in California: the Soboba Golf Classic in San Jacinto (April 5-8) and TPC Stonebrae Championship in the San Francisco Bay area suburb of Hayward (April 12-15).