Nationwide Tour Storylines: Melwood Price George's County Open

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Ricky Barnes
May 20, 2008
PGA TOUR staff

MELWOOD PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY OPEN May 19-25 The Country Club at Woodmore, Mitchellville, MD Purse: $650,000 First Prize: $117,000 12th of 30 events 2007 Winner: Paul Claxton

INJURED FRED FUNK IS HONORARY CHAIRMAN AT MELWOOD -- For the second year in a row Maryland native Fred Funk is the honorary chairman of the Melwood Prince George's County Open. "Golf fans in the region should come out and see this Nationwide Tour event because they're going to see some great players who will compete on the PGA TOUR in the very near future," said the University of Maryland grad and former golf coach. Funk made news last week when he announced he underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee on May 15th. He is expected to be out for five weeks, possibly as long as three months.

RYUJI IMADA RINGS UP WIN NO. 227 -- AT&T Classic victor Ryuji Imada wracked up the 227th PGA TOUR win by a former Nationwide Tour player on Sunday. Imada played the Nationwide Tour full time in 2000 through 2004. Imada graduated to the PGA TOUR after the 2004 season when he finished third on the Nationwide Tour money list. The Japan native's first PGA TOUR title in Atlanta came the same week as the Nationwide Tour's BMW Charity Pro-Am in South Carolina, site of his last Nationwide Tour victory. Thirty-four of the top-43 finishers (79%) in the AT&T once played the Nationwide Tour.

23 OF TOP 25 HEADED TO MELWOOD -- A strong field will be in Maryland this week. Only leading money winner Darron Stiles and recent Fort Ft. Smith Classic champion Colt Knost are not entered. Stiles is off this week after competing in the last five events. Knost returns to his native Texas to play on a sponsor's exemption in the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial in Ft. Worth.

THE BMW / A GOOD ONE TO WIN -- David Mathis' first Nationwide Tour win Sunday at the BMW Charity Pro-Am not only earned him the top prize of $121,500 but the keys to a new BMW X5. The BMW event is the only tournament on the Nationwide Tour to feature a bonus prize of a brand new automobile. Mathis, a native of Winston-Salem, NC and resident of Raleigh, NC, had a premonition earlier in the week. "I just felt like I was going to win. I've gone into weeks where I was playing well enough to win, but this week felt different." Of his win he said, "It's everything I imagined."

MATT WEIBRING ON THE MOVE; ALREADY INSIDE "THE 25" -- Georgia Tech grad Matt Weibring has made the most of his first four starts on the Nationwide Tour this year. The 28-year-old son of five-time PGA TOUR winner and current Champions Tour member D.A. Weibring finished 85th on last year's Nationwide Tour money list making it difficult for him to secure spots in the early-season events. He made his first start in late April in the Henrico County (Va.) Open, finishing T48, and the next week in the South Georgia Classic he was T13. Weibring's good play continued in the Fort Smith Classic and BMW Charity Pro-Am the last two weeks. Both Sundays the Dallas resident was paired in the last group, finishing T5 and third, respectively. In his four starts he has earned $79,783, putting him inside THE 25 at No. 22. Since finishing up at Georgia Tech in 2002, Webring has played 102 Nationwide Tour events, including 77 between 2005 and 2007. He came closest to earning a PGA TOUR card in 2005 when he was 42nd on the final money list.

"GREAT ONE" WINS BMW CHARITY PRO-AM WITH RANGER FAN AND PARTNER CHRIS NALLEN -- Wayne Gretzky and his Nationwide Tour partner Chris Nallen captured a wire-to-wire win in the celebrity/amateur portion of last week's BMW Charity Pro-Am played in Greenville and Spartanburg, SC and Mill Spring, NC. The pair shot 59-59-60-62 for a 46-under-par 240 total. Nallen, who grew up in the New York area and now lives in Tucson, AZ where he attended the University of Arizona, remains a devoted New York Rangers fan. Gretzky collected a new BMW Z4 and $10,000 for the charity of his choice. Wife Janet-Jones Gretzky won the event twice in the previous three years. Son Ty, 17, completed the family trio of participants. The BMW Charity Pro-Am had a huge influence on Gretzky's decision to pursue the new Ford Wayne Gretzky Classic presented by Samsung that will be played June 23-29 near Georgian Bay in Ontario. It will benefit the Wayne Gretzky Foundation.

RICKY BARNES / BACK-TO-BACK TOP 10s -- Former University of Arizona All-American Ricky Barnes shot 66 on Sunday at the BMW Charity Pro-Am to jump from T37 to a T5 finish. With a T-10 the week before at the Ft. Smith Classic presented by Stephens, Inc., it marked the first time in his professional career he had back-to-back top 10s. It was Barnes' fourth top-25 finish in nine starts this year. The BMW was his 87th Nationwide Tour start dating back to his first one in 2003. Now 25th on the Nationwide Tour money list, the Stockton, CA native and resident of Scottsdale, AZ entered THE 25 picture in earnest this week. Two years ago, he came the closest he ever has to earning his PGA TOUR card, only to miss by one spot.

WITTENBERG CONTINUES HIS STEADY FORM -- Casey Wittenberg continues his solid play in this his rookie year on the Nationwide Tour. The 2003 U.S. Amateur runner-up (to Nick Flanagan) from Memphis finished T14 in the BMW Charity Pro-Am, his seventh top-25 finish of 2008. In 11 starts, he has only missed one cut. He is currently 18th on the money list.

PLENTY OF "25" MOVEMENT IN SOUTH CAROLINA -- Last week was a busy one for movement in and out of "THE 25". David Mathis (now 4th), Roger Tambellini (10th), Bill Lunde (21st), Matt Weibring (22nd), Peter Tomasulo (24th) and Ricky Barnes (25th) were 34th or higher entering the BMW Charity Pro-Am. Bryce Molder, J.J. Killeen, Rick Price, Joe Daley, Brendon De Jonge and Kris Blanks, ranked between 20th and 25th entering the event, all dropped outside THE 25. At season's end the top-25 money winners will earn PGA TOUR cards for 2009.

BOBBY CLAMPETT IN MELWOOD FIELD -- Broadcaster Bobby Clampett is in this week's field playing on a sponsor's exemption. Clampett played one event last year on the Nationwide Tour and two in 2006 but did not make the cut in any of the events. In the 90s, he played in four Tour events and made all four cuts.

MEDIA OFFICIAL MOVES -- Longtime Nationwide Tour media official John Bush will be moving to the PGA TOUR in a similar capacity, effective in late June. Joining the Nationwide Tour as a media official will be Mark Williams. Mark is a native of New Zealand and is married to LPGA member Nancy Scranton. He has a unique background having served as a Rules Official, Tournament Operations Manager and Communications Director for the PGA Tour of Australasia in the 1990s. More recently he has traveled with his wife and their three-year old twins on the LPGA, occasionally caddieing for Nancy and others and contributing to New Zealand Golf Magazine. After a transition period, Mark will share media official duties with Nationwide Tour veteran Joe Chemycz.

THIS WEEK IN NATIONWIDE TOUR HISTORY -- On May 21st, 1993 hail fell during the first round of the Miami Valley Open near Dayton, Ohio. It remains the only time in Nationwide Tour history that hail has fallen during a tournament round.

NEXT WEEK -- The Nationwide Tour will be in the Chicago area next week for the Bank of America Open (formerly the LaSalle Bank Open). The Glen Club in suburban Glenview hosts the Nationwide Tour for the sixth time. John Riegger won the event last year.