Panama gets Nationwide Tour underway
BY Bruce Young | Web.com Tour | 2009 Panama Digicel Championship | Preview | 03 Feb 2009
The 2009 Nationwide Tour plays the first event of its 29 tournament schedule when the Panama Digicel Championship gets underway on Thursday at the Panama Golf Club in Panama City in Panama.
The Tour will not only play in Panama in 2009, but will travel to Australia, New Zealand, Mexico and Canada in addition to the events in the US before culminating in the season ending Tour Championship in Charelston in South Carolina in late October.
Following this week’s event the Nationwide Tour will take a two week break then move to the Mornington Peninsula in Melbourne for the Moonah Classic followed by the New Zealand Open and the New Zealand PGA Championship.
The Panama Golf Club was built in 1976 and designed by Jay Revere and has proved more than a handful for many who have taken the time so early in the season to travel to Panama. The layout is collectively one of the more demanding amongst the Nationwide Tour’s schedule, the grainy greens major factor in that degree of difficulty.
Last year’s winner Scott Dunlap is back to defend the title he won by a shot over Arjun Atwal and Jeff Klauk. Despite that victory, Dunlap was unable to secure his PGA Tour later in the season and the 45 year old looks to get his season off to the same brilliant start in 2009.
Several Australians are in the field. Andrew Buckle who has lost his status on the PGA Tour looks to resurrect a career which two years ago looked so promising when he finished 4th at the Buick Invitational after leading through 12 holes of the final round. Injury and a subsequent form loss have him playing the Nationwide Tour in 2009 but the talented Queenslander is sure to be back contending in events before long.
Gavin Coles played well on occasions on the PGA Tour last year and won an event on the Nationwide Tour but neither was enough to guarantee him a return to full status on the PGA Tour. The tenacious New South Welshman starts his quest for PGA Tour rights once again this week.
Paul Gow has only limited status on the Nationwide Tour, most of that due to his win the Athens event three years ago. He will play this event and hope that he has sufficient status for starts in the events in Australia and New Zealand.
After his brilliant Nationwide Tour season in 2007 where he won three times, Nick Flanagan begins his quest to rejoin the PGA Tour in 2010.
Scott Gardiner has shown enough on occasions to suggest the PGA Tour is not beyond him but he has not yet been able to break through into the top 25 at season’s end. Maybe 2009 could be the 32 year old’s year.
Won Joon Lee had a solid debut season on the Nationwide Tour in 2008, especially late in the season, and the long hitting and talented Sydneysider will look to improve on his 50th place finish on the 2008 Money List. Most predict a big future for the 23 year old.
Michael Sim was unable to take advantage of the limited PGA Tour medical exemption he had in 2008 and is back on the Nationwide Tour in an endeavour to replicate what was a great year in 2006 when he graduated to the PGA Tour. The leading amateur in the world prior to turning professional has the game to succeed at the highest level when he gets there again.
New Zealand veterans Phil Taturangi and Grant Waite again look to re-establish their careers via the Nationwide Tour in 2009 with both having been PGA Tour event winners in the past.