NGA Players Making Jump to PGA TOUR Faster Than Ever
Myrtle Beach, SC Jan. 10, 2012 – Today kicks off the first full-field event of the 2013 PGA TOUR season. With almost half of this first field being made up of past NGA players, it’s easy to see why so many NGA TOUR alumni go on to have success on the PGA TOUR.
Players like Zach Johnson, Bubba Watson, Stewart Cink and Jim Furyk learned how to win on the NGA TOUR before climbing the PGA TOUR Mountain to become Major champions. However, recent NGA TOUR grads are trying to make that climb even faster.
Gary Woodland, a 2008 NGA TOUR grad is already a PGA TOUR champion, and
2009 NGA TOUR grads Scott Stallings and Keegan Bradley are at the top of their games, winning multiple times on the PGA TOUR less than three years removed from the No. 3 Tour in the country. Bradley grabbed the 14th Major championship won by NGA alums at the 2011 PGA Championship less than two years removed the NGA TOUR.
After moving to the PGA TOUR straight from Q-School in 2010, Michael Thompson, the 2010 NGA TOUR Player of the Year, finished T2 at the 2012 U.S. Open. Ted Potter Jr., a two-time NGA TOUR Player of the Year, closed the gap even tighter by starting the 2011 season on the NGA TOUR only to become a PGA TOUR Champion at the 2012 Greenbrier Classic.
With the influx of talent the NGA TOUR has sent to the PGA TOUR in recent years, there are sure to be a number of players to make their own impact on the major leagues of professional golf and follow in the footsteps on the NGA TOUR alumni before them. To that effect, we have chosen 10 recent alums that played on the NGA TOUR in 2011, 2012 and even 2013 as they’ve prepared to succeed at golf’s highest level.
Because of the shortened 2013 PGA TOUR season, it will be more important than even this year for new members to get off to a fast start. The following are 10 players we suggest you keep your eye on during the 2013 PGA TOUR season.
1) Ted Potter Jr. (Ocala, Fla.) – With Potter winning 2012 Greenbrier Classic in his rookie PGA TOUR season, how could he not top our list? The two-time NGA TOUR Player of the Year started the 2011 season by winning back-to-back events on the NGA TOUR Pro Series. He would then go on to win the Web.com Tour’s Valdosta event, where he needed to Monday qualify to even get in. He would go on to earn his 2012 PGA TOUR card by finishing second on the 2011 Web.com Tour money list. Just surviving on the PGA TOUR as a rookie is a daunting task, but Potter proved he could not only survive, he could thrive. Potter finished 63rd on the season ending money list. We look for more of the same from Potter as he becomes more comfortable out on tour during his sophomore season.
2) Casey Wittenberg (College: Oklahoma State; Memphis, Tenn.) – The 2007 NGA TOUR Player of the Year started his 2011 season on the NGA TOUR as well before moving up to the Web.com Tour in-season like Potter. Casey played the Web.com Tour full time in 2012 where he’d pick up two wins, be the tour’s leading money winner, and pick up Player of the Year honors. But perhaps his most telling event of 2012 came at the U.S. Open, where Casey finished T10th, announcing to the world and the rest of the PGA TOUR he was back.
3) Will Claxton (College: Auburn; Auburn, Ala.) – Claxton made the jump to the Web.com Tour with Potter and Wittenberg in season after starting 2011 on the NGA TOUR. A long time member of the NGA TOUR, something clicked in Claxton during the 2011 season. Maybe it was being paired with Potter final day at the NGA TOUR Ocala event? Whatever it was, Claxton would go on to make the cut in his first PGA TOUR event, The Transitions, and earn his 2012 PGA TOUR card through Q School. Like Potter, Claxton thrived on the PGA TOUR as a rookie in 2012, making 21 of 28 cuts with 7 top 25 finishes and finishing 89th in FedEx Cup standings. Look for Claxton to build on his success during his second full PGA TOUR season.
4) Russell Knox (College: Jacksonville; Jacksonville Beach, Fla.) – Another 2011 NGA TOUR member who jumped to the Web.com Tour in season (catching a theme here?), Russell was actually the first to do so. The 2008 NGA TOUR Rookie of the Year and two-time NGA TOUR winner finished T2 at the 2011 Web.com Tour Stonebrae Championship after Monday-ing into the event. He would go on to win on the Web.com Tour in 2012 and finished 12th on the season ending money list to earn his 2012 PGA TOUR card. While 2012 didn’t go exactly as he hoped, Knox still found success on tour. He made 12 of 23 cuts and had two top-10 finishes. He played some of his best golf during the Fall Series, finishing just outside the top 125. With partial status to start, it would not surprise at all to see Knox start strong and stay strong the entire year.
5) Lee Williams (College: Auburn; Alexander City, Ala.), – Lee Williams, aka ‘The Machine,’ aka ‘THE Lee Williams,’ aka ‘The Practice Monster,’ is a perfectionist in his golf game. Williams joined the NGA TOUR after a stellar career at Auburn, where he was named to the World Am team and a two-time Walker Cup Team Member. Those that have followed Williams knew it would only be a matter of time, and that time appears to be now. Williams spent the entire 2011 season on the NGA TOUR before earning his Web.com Tour card through Q-School. He would go on to win on
the Web.com Tour in 2012 and earn his 2013 PGA TOUR card by way of his 16th-place finish on the season ending money list. While PGA TOUR life can be tough on rookies, Williams has the focus and the game to make some noise. Oh, and by the way, if you’re looking for him, he’s either on the range or the putting green.
6) Steve LeBrun (College: Florida Atlantic; West Palm Beach, Fla.) – LeBrun is another member of that unbelievable NGA TOUR Class of 2011. LeBrun only missed one cut in his eight combined starts on the NGA TOUR and Web.com Tour in 2011. He would go to on to earn full status on the Web.com Tour for 2012 through Q School. He would make 14 of 21 cuts with six top-25 and four top-10 finishes on the Web.com Tour in 2012. But he would not finish high enough on the money list to earn his PGA TOUR card, so what is a player to do? With this being the last year players could earn their PGA TOUR cards through Q-School, that’s exactly what LeBrun did, finishing T2 and putting his name near the top of rookies to watch out for on the PGA TOUR in 2013.
7) Robert Streb (College: Kansas State; Edmond, Okla.) – A lot of people would like to throw Streb into that class of 2011 as well. However, Robert started the 2012 as a member of both the Web.com Tour and NGA TOUR. He wouldn’t be on the NGA for long though as he made an appearance at the season-opening Members Only Shootout only to say adios as he’d head to the Web.com Tour Colombia event. He started a string of three straight top-25 finishes in Chile and continued to tear it up on the No. 2 tour. He went on to make 19 cuts with seven top 10s on the Web.com Tour, including a win at the Mylan Classic. Streb finished at seventh on the season ending money list to earn his PGA TOUR card for 2013. Streb has the length and all-around game to make an impact on tour this season.
8) Shawn Stefani (College: Lamar; Houston, Texas) – The Big Texan is another member of the vaunted 2011 NGA TOUR class. A veteran of six seasons on the NGA TOUR, Shawn would not miss a cut in 2011 while adding the Texas State Open Championship to his resume as well. The former NGA TOUR winner would also earn his Web.com Tour card through Q-School to join Williams and Streb as rookie winners on the No. 2 tour in 2012, only he decided to grab two, the Midwest Classic and the Miccosukee. But perhaps the tournament that kick started his great season was a T36 in his hometown PGA TOUR event, the Shell Houston Open, where friends and family were onsite to watch. Stefani earned his 2013 PGA TOUR card by finishing sixth on the season ending Web.com Tour money list, so his friends and family will have plenty of opportunities to watch him in 2013.
T9) Scott Langley (College: Illinois; Jupiter, Fla.) and Darron Stiles (College: Florida Southern; Pinehurst, N.C.) – A little something old with a little something new. Both players have played sporadically on the NGA TOUR over the 2011 and 2012 seasons, but both find themselves on the PGA TOUR in 2013.
Langley comes to the PGA TOUR after a stellar amateur career at Illinois, where he was the 2010 NCAA Championship Medalist and named Big Ten Freshman of the Year. He’s never finished worse than 16th in an NGA TOUR event and had four finishes inside the top 10. He has made 3 of 4 cuts on the PGA TOUR as a professional. Langley earned his 2013 PGA TOUR card by finishing T17 at this year’s Q-School, becoming one of the last players to be allowed to do so. This will be his rookie season on tour.
Those who know golf know the name Darron Stiles – and the NGA TOUR knows it well. Stiles has never missed a cut on the NGA TOUR, earned a win and seven finishes of T5 or better during his time on the NGA. Stiles is also the career earnings leader on the Web.com Tour with over $1.8 million made. Stiles returns to the PGA TOUR for the fourth time via his 17th place finish on the Web.com Tour season ending money list. Most of us feel this is the right time for Stiles to stay on top.
T10) Joe Affrunti (College: Illinois; Crystal Lake, Ill.) – Affrunti could be the feel good story of 2013, and why wouldn’t he be? A longtime member of the NGA TOUR, Affrunti finished the 2009 season on fire. He won the second-to-last Pro Series event of the season at Gordon Lakes in Augusta followed by Winter Series wins at Orange Tree and Southern Dunes. He would earn his 2010 Web.com Tour card though Q-School. He would go on to grab eight top-25 finishes with four top 10s, a third, and two seconds. He earned his 2011 PGA TOUR card by way of his top-25 finish on the season ending Web.com Tour money list. His rookie season on tour started out great, making the cut at the Sony Open. Affrunti proceeded to make one of his next five cuts on TOUR before left-shoulder surgery for a torn labrum ended his rookie season. Affrunti will be playing on a Medical Extension in 2013 and will have 13 events to earn $649,329 (coupled with his 2011 earnings of $18,837) to equal No. 125 from 2011. Joe joined the 2012-2013 NGA TOUR Winter Series this year as he tries to regain the promising career he was just starting. We at the NGA TOUR will be pulling for him all the way.
The NGA Pro Golf Tour is the No. 3 Men’s Professional Golf Tour in the United States and is the No. 1 recommended developmental tour by more PGA and Web.com Tour Professionals. In fact, NGA alumni have won an incredible Fifteen (15) “Major” Championships.
NGA alumni include: 2012 Masters champion Bubba Watson; 2011 PGA Championship winner Keegan Bradley; 2010 PGA TOUR Player of the Year and 2003 US 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; and 2012 PGA TOUR winners Mark Wilson, George McNeill, Ted Potter Jr., Scott Stallings and Scott Piercy.
The NGA Pro Golf Tour, established in 1988, predates the Web.com Tour as the longest running developmental tour in golf. In 2012, the NGA TOUR became the “Official Partner of the 2012 Reno-Tahoe Open”.
For more information on the NGA or the NGA Pro Golf Tour, please visit our website at www.NGATOUR.com or contact our Tour Office at (800) 992-8748.+