Nationwide Tour joins 50th Mexico Open celebration

Ben Crenshaw
January 29, 2008

The Nationwide Tour and the Mexico Golf Federation have joined forces to add one of golf's oldest events to the Tour's schedule. The 2008 Mexico Open presented by Corona celebrates its 50th year this week at the Jack Nicklaus-designed Tres Marias Golf Club. The Open was first played in 1944 and did not take place in 1948, 1967-69, 1972, 1978-79, 1982, 1985-1989, 2001 and 2007. Its past champions include World Golf Hall of Fame members Roberto De Vicenzo (1951, '53, '55), Billy Casper (1977), Lee Trevino (1973, '75) and Ben Crenshaw (1981).

Native son returns Another past champion of the Mexico Open (2000), Esteban Toledo, returns to his home country to play this week. The youngest of 11 children who grew up in a home with dirt floors in Mexicali, Esteban has earned $4.2 million in a professional career that began in 1986. He has made 530 starts, split pretty evenly between the PGA TOUR (281) and the Nationwide Tour (249). Toledo has a strong giving-back spirit as demonstrated by his support of the "To Get A Grip Foundation" and the Esteban Toledo PGA TOUR Pro-Am, which benefits the foundation. Currently residing in Castle Rock, Col., his dream is to build a church for impoverished children in the La Posalera section of Mexicali.

PGA champion in the field 1996 PGA Championship winner Mark Brooks will be in Mexico this week making his first Nationwide Tour start of the year and only the third of a PGA TOUR career that dates back to 1983. The Ft. Worth, Texas, native and former University of Texas All-American played in two Nationwide Tour events last spring, missing one cut and finishing tied for 37th in the other.

Unique approach to the season Sunday's Panama Movistar Championship winner Scott Dunlap took a unique approach to getting ready for the 2008 Nationwide Tour season opener -- no practice rounds. "It's the first tournament of the year, and you almost don't have any expectations," the University of Florida grad said. "I hadn't played a round of golf since Christmas. You come out here, and you hope to play well, but you never know until the first tee. I mean, I was hitting it good on the range, but you never know if that will transfer to the golf course." The Panama win was Dunlap's second Nationwide Tour title (2004 Mark Christopher Charity Classic). In a TOUR career that began in 1990, Dunlap has earned more than $3 million on both the PGA TOUR and Nationwide Tour.

From Latin America, it's on to New Zealand and Australia Following events in Panama and Mexico, the Nationwide Tour travels across the Pacific Ocean to New Zealand and Australia for the HSBC New Zealand PGA Championship (Feb. 14-17) and Moonah Classic (Feb. 21-24), respectively. On the strength of their 2000 victories, Americans Nicholas Thompson (New Zealand winner) of Coral Springs, Fla., and Scott Sterling (Australia winner) of Baton Rouge, La., went on to finish among "THE 25" and earn their PGA TOUR cards for this year. The two events have been co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour of Australasia and the Nationwide Tour since 2002. In March (27-30), the Nationwide Tour kicks off the first of 25 events in the United States, plus one in Canada, at the Chitimacha Louisiana Open in Lafayette.

Australian Matt Jones posts third-straight top-30 finish on PGA TOUR Aussie Matt Jones has been the steadiest performer among "THE 25" Nationwide Tour members who earned their 2008 PGA TOUR cards last fall. The affable 27-year-old has top-30 finishes in his first three starts (tie for 17th at the Sony Open, tie for 29th at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic and tie for 23rd at the Buick Invitational). In 13 rounds, the former Arizona State All-American has recorded scores of 70 or better in all but two. He is 39th in FedExCup points, having earned $156,908.