30-HOUR MARATHON -- On Sunday afternoon James Hahn collected his first Nationwide Tour title at The Rex Hospital Open in Raleigh, N.C. Less than 12 hours later after a cross-country night flight, the longtime northern California native who was born in Seoul, South Korea was on the tee at 7 a.m. competing for a U.S. Open spot at Lake Merced Golf Club and TPC Harding Park, near host Olympic Club in the San Francisco area. Remarkably, Hahn had enough gas left in the tank to capture co-medalist honors (66-70). Only seven spots were available for the 130 contestants. "I've dreamt my whole life of playing in a U.S. Open," Hahn said on Sunday. "I can't tell you what it would mean to play at Olympic. I grew up on that course." He will now get his chance to find out.
PLENTY OF POSSIBILITIES -- Hahn was the one holding the trophy on Sunday in Raleigh but it easily could have been any one of a number of his fellow competitors. The scenarios included: 1) the champion started the day five shots off the pace. After firing a 67, "They told me I was at 13 under and I should stick around"....2) Runner-up Scott Parel (68) missed a 12-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole to win the title outright....3) Third-round leader B.J. Staten (72) lipped out a birdie at the last hole to miss the playoff by one....4) Jim Renner (71) finished with three straight pars to also miss by one....5) Jin Park (67) waited things out in the clubhouse only to come up one shy as well. Sounds like the fans got their money's worth at The Rex Hospital Open. The champion summed things up by saying, "This is probably one of the best weeks I've ever had in my life. It's been a long time since I won a golf tournament. To be out here and considered a Nationwide Tour champion, it definitely has a good ring to it."
FANTASTIC FINISHES AT EL BOSQUE -- If the last three Mexico Opens are any indication, this year's event will feature a fantastic finish. The 2009 (Troy Merritt) and '10 tournaments (Jamie Lovemark) were decided on the first hole of sudden death. Last year, Erik Compton fired a final-round 65 to win by two shots in what was perhaps the year's most memorable Sunday.
LATIN AMERICAN CONTINGENT -- Given the joint sanctioning of the Nationwide Tour and the Mexican Golf Federation, this week's 144-player Mexico Open features 22 golfers as determined by the Federation, plus the four leading money winners from the Tour de Las Americas Order of Merit. Returning to represent the Federation are Mexicans Jose de Jesus Rodriguez (T11) and Jose Octavio Gonzalez (T15), the top two finishers among the group last year. Former Oklahoma State University All-American and New Jersey native Morgan Hoffmann also received a Federation spot. Hoffman qualified on Monday for last week's Rex Hospital Open and finished T56. On Monday of this week he nabbed a U.S. Open qualifying spot in Ohio.
FOOTPRINT IN LATIN AMERICA -- The Mexico Open will be the fourth and last Latin American stop on the Nationwide Tour this year. The Mexico Open has a history that few events in Latin America can top. It was first played in 1944 and has been won by 11 World Golf Hall of Fame members. El Bosque is located about 250 miles northwest of Mexico City. With events in Mexico, Colombia, Chile and Panama, plus PGA TOUR Latinoamérica and the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics on the horizon, the PGA TOUR's footprint in Latin America is clearly expanding and having impact.
BIRTHDAY WISHES TO A DAUGHTER -- First-year Nationwide Tour member Oscar Serna lives in Leon, Mexico, site of this week's Mexico Open, and will be playing his home course, El Bosque Country Club. Last week in Raleigh, Serna fired a back nine 29 (-6), tying the lowest nine-hole score on Tour this year. He finished with a 66, which came on his daughter Natalie's 12th birthday.
ALL-AMERICANS INVITED -- College golf's Ping first-team All-Americans were announced last week by the Golf Coaches Association of America at the NCAA Championship held at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif. The 11-member squad will be invited to compete in next month's Nationwide Children's Hospital Invitational at Ohio State University's Scarlet Course (July 26-29) in Nationwide's hometown of Columbus, Ohio. The team includes:
The tradition of inviting college golf's best has been in place all six years the Nationwide Children's Hospital Invitational has been played. Collegians have won the tournament twice -- Daniel Summerhays/Brigham Young U. in 2007 and Harris English/U. of Georgia last year. In 2009, Rickie Fowler/Oklahoma State finished a shot back as did John Peterson/Louisiana State U. last year. Invitees will remain eligible even if they turn professional in the meantime.
SPEAKING OF NCAA CHAMPS -- 2010 NCAA individual champion Scott Langley Monday qualified last week in Raleigh and finished T24, which secured the lefty a spot in this week's Mexico Open field.
ROUGH PATCH -- Despite missing cuts in his last two starts (Greenville, Raleigh), Luke List maintains the top spot on the Nationwide Tour money list. List has $223,848 in earnings. Andres Gonzales is still No. 2 with $197,845. Rex Hospital Open winner James Hahn jumped from 26th to No. 5.
U.S. OPEN QUALIFYING -- Ten current members of the Nationwide Tour successfully qualified on Monday for next week's 112th U.S. Open at The Olympic Club in San Francisco -- James Hahn, Brice Garnett, Darron Stiles, Jeff Curl, Nicholas Thompson, Paul Claxton, Casey Wittenberg, Alistair Presnell, Steve LeBrun and Jim Herman. Also earning a spot was Edward Loar, a PGA TOUR member who won this year's Nationwide Tour event in Panama in March.
COMEBACK TRAIL -- Hank Kuehne made his first Nationwide Tour start in Raleigh since the 2007 Athens (Ga.) Regional Foundation Classic. He missed the cut. The 1998 U.S. Amateur champion missed the better part of five years due to recurring back pain but is healthy again and playing on the PGA TOUR on a Major Medical Exemption.
DID YOU KNOW 1?? -- The first playoff of 2012 came in the ninth event of the year, the recent BMW Charity Pro-Am presented by SYNNEX Corporation. It was followed by extra holes again on Sunday at The Rex Hospital Open. You have to go back to 2001 to find a season when it took more tournaments (14) to have the first playoff. Only one season (1997/18th event) took longer. In 2000, the first playoff also came in the ninth event.
DID YOU KNOW 2?? -- Damon Green is best known as the caddie for 2007 Masters champion and 2003 Nationwide Tour Player of the Year Zach Johnson. What golf fans may not know is that in 1995 and 1996 Green played full time on the Nationwide Tour competing in 51 events, recording three top 10s and eight top 25s. With Zach idle last week, Green played the Champions Tour event in Iowa, finishing 73rd (73-80-70).
BIRTHDAY BOYS -- For the first time in a long time there are no Nationwide Tour players celebrating birthdays this week.
NEXT WEEK -- The Nationwide Tour does not play next week, then heads to Kansas for the Preferred Health Systems Wichita Open (June 21-24).