Each week, 100s of golfers tee it up on the NGA TOUR, awaiting their chance to play at the next level. For one lucky – and talented – golfer, that chance will come this week.
In addition to a $22,000 payday being on the line in this week’s Three Ridges Classic, one NGA TOUR member will receive an event exemption into the Web.com Tour’s Air Capital Classic, formerly known as the Wichita Open, at the Crestview Country Club on Thursday, June 13 through Sunday, June 16. The leading NGA member money earner from the Cherry Blossom Classic and Three Ridges Classic events combined will earn the exemption.
After his victory in last week’s Cherry Blossom Classic, former Eastern Kentucky standout Brandon Brown has the inside track to securing the exemption this week. Brown leads Cherry Blossom runner-up finisher Peter Malnati by over $10,000 in the exemption race coming into the Three Ridges Classic.
“I can’t thank the NGA TOUR enough for having these exemptions for us to win,” said Brown, who finished second at Three Ridges last season.
“We all want to move up and the NGA TOUR has done a great job over the years of giving us that chance.”
Last year, Brown, a seven-time NGA TOUR winner from Shelbyville, Ky., earned the NGA TOUR’s event exemption into the PGA TOUR’s Reno-Tahoe Open and posted the second-best score during the second round en route to making the cut in his PGA TOUR debut.
While Brown is definitely considered a favorite to claim the exemption this week and contend for his second win of the season this week, there will be no shortage of top-caliber players trying to upstage the 2012 NGA Player of the Year.
The 2013 Three Ridges field features five of the top 10 on the NGA TOUR money list and over 20 NGA TOUR winners, including defending Three Ridges Classic champion and University of Tennessee alumnus David Skinns.
Last season, Skinns, the 2005 SEC Individual champion from Lincoln, England, shot a 5-under 66 in the final round of the inaugural Three Ridges Classic to earn a three-shot win over Brown. Though Skinns has yet to break into the win column this year, the former Volunteer has four top-25 finishes in 2013.
Justin Lower, the leading NGA TOUR money winner, will be looking to become the first three-time winner of the season on the NGA TOUR this week. The former Malone University golfer from Canal Fulton, Ohio, won the Spring Hill Classic in March and the Mountain Lakes Classic in April. The former Pioneer has earned nearly $70,000 this season on the NGA TOUR and leads the exemption race for the PGA TOUR’s Reno-Tahoe Open,” which will be awarded to the leading money winner after the Magnolia Bluffs Casino Classic in mid-July.
This year’s field will also contain Clayton Rask and Trent Whitekiller, who are both top-five on the NGA TOUR money list entering the Three Ridges Classic. Rask, a former University of Minnesota All-American from Otsego, Minn., sits third on the money list after picking up a win and six top-10 finishes in 10 starts, while Whitekiller, a former Oklahoma State standout from Sallisaw, Okla., has seven top-20 finishes this season and holds down the fourth spot on the money list.
Although he fell in a playoff last week at Cherry Blossom, Malnati should definitely be in the mix again this week. The former University of Missouri golfer from Dandridge has three second-place finishes this season and is eighth on the money list.
If he continues his solid play, former U.S. Public Links champion Jack Newman has to be considered a threat to claim his first NGA TOUR victory this week. The former Michigan State All-American from Des Moines, Iowa, carded 25 birdies and just two bogeys over four rounds last week.
In addition to Malnati, over 20 more players with ties to the Volunteer State will be competing at Three Ridges this week. Ryan Allison (Cookville), Michael Alread (Johnson City), Paul Apyan (Hixson), Andrew Black (Chattanooga), Michael Brice (Nashville), Trey Bridwell (Knoxville), Chase Carroll (Knoxville), Joshua Collins (Plainview), Chris Erwin (Brentwood), Jason Gandy (Knoxville), Hunter Green (Evensville), Brad Helton (Mount Juliet), Andrew Jacobson (Nashville), Zach Johnson (Murfreesboro), Greg Kitts (Caryville), Brent Long (Carthage), Jonathan Martin (Franklin), Chas Narramore (Kingston), Tyler Neff (Knoxville), Zac Radford (Brentwood), Brandon Saunders (Harriman), Thomas Smith (Chattanooga), Dustin Thomas (Mount Juliet), Sam Wampler (Johnson City) and former University of Tennessee team captain David Holmes (Knoxville).
Former Middle Tennessee State alums Rick Cochran III, Kent Bulle and Brad Simons are also in the field for the Three Ridges Classic, which will start at 7:30 a.m. on Thursday. As always, admission is free to the public.
The NGA Pro Golf Tour is the No. 3 Men’s Professional Golf Tour in the United States after the PGA TOUR and Web.com Tour and is the No. 1 recommended developmental tour by more PGA TOUR and Web.com Tour Professionals.
The NGA has helped hundreds of professionals acquire their PGA TOUR, Euro, Web.com, and Champions Tour cards. In fact, NGA alumni have won an incredible fifteen (15) “Major” Championships. On average over 60% of every Web.com Tour field and over 40% of every PGA TOUR field have spent time on the NGA TOUR.
NGA alumni include: 2012 Masters champion Bubba Watson; 2011 PGA Championship winner Keegan Bradley; 2010 PGA TOUR Player of the Year and
2003 U.S. Open champion Jim Furyk; 2009 British Open champion Stewart Cink; 2009 U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover; 2007 Masters champion Zach Johnson; 2003 PGA Champion Shaun Micheel; 2003 British Open champion Ben Curtis; two-time U.S. Open champion Lee Janzen; British Open and PGA champion John Daly; British Open champion Tom Lehman; PGA champion David Toms; 2003 Tour Championship winner Chad Campbell; 2010 NGA Player of the Year and 2013 Honda Classic champion Michael Thompson; and recent PGA TOUR winners Russell Henley, Kevin Streelman, Scott Brown, Brian Gay, Mark Wilson, George McNeill, Ted Potter Jr., Scott Stallings, Scott Piercy, Gary Woodland, and many, many more.
The NGA Pro Golf Tour, established in 1988, predates the Web.com Tour as the longest-running developmental tour in golf. Since 2010, the NGA TOUR has received twenty Web.com Tour and two PGA TOUR event exemptions, the most in developmental golf, and in 2012 became the “Official Partner of the Reno-Tahoe Open,” one of just 45 PGA TOUR events worldwide, and now the only event on the PGA TOUR calendar with a Modified Stableford scoring format..