Myrtle Beach, SC – Feb. 14, 2013 – To Celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the NGA TOUR we have assembled a panel of experts who specialize in the golf industry and have the experience of covering the NGA TOUR for multiple seasons. This panel of experts will make their top five selections each week for the NGA TOUR’s 18 Pro Series events this season. We kick off with their picks for the upcoming Killearn Country Club Classic in Tallahassee, Fla., (February 18-24), the first event of the 2013 Pro Series season.
1. ALEX URBAN (@alexurban) is the editor-in-chief of The Daily Pulp (www.the-daily-pulp.com) and runs the golf blog, Just Tap It In. He has written stories and columns for multiple national and regional media outlets.
BRANDON BROWN (Shelbyville, Ky.; College: Eastern Kentucky) – This year we have already had Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson pick up victories on the PGA Tour. I see no reason why the trend of having the biggest stars walk away victorious will end this week in Tallahassee. Brown is a machine.
BLAYNE BARBER (Lake City, Fla.; College: Auburn) – No, I don’t have a thing for alliteration using the “B” consonant. The former Auburn All-American is on a torrid pace, notching multiple victories on the NGA Tour since turning pro. He is also riding the positive karma train after disqualifying himself at the second stage of PGA Tour Q-School.
TYSON ALEXANDER (Gainesville, Fla.; College: Florida) – I always like a defending champion, especially one that just finished outside the top 10 on the 2012 NGA Tour money list. A talented player with good vibes and confidence is a dangerous combination.
DAVID SKINNS (Lincoln, England; College: Tennessee) – If Brandon Brown is a machine, then David Skinns is the next level of consistency. He finished third at this event last season and was runner-up to Brown on the money list. Skinns also played several events on the Web.Com Tour, experience that is likely to help him this season on the NGA Tour.
KELLY KRAFT (Denton, Texas; College: Southern Methodist)- Make no mistake, winning a U.S. Amateur Championship is no easy task, especially when you have to defeat wunderkind Patrick Cantlay. Kraft turned professional last spring after making the cut at the Masters and finishing 62nd. Kraft will be able to play seven events on the PGA Tour this year via sponsor exemptions. Look for him to make serious noise on the NGA Tour.
2. ANDY MARKS has been covering golf for the Ocala Star-Banner since joining the paper as sports editor in 2004. He has covered youth tournaments, city amateur championships, mini-tour events, PGA Tour stops and everything in between. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
TYSON ALEXANDER (Gainesville, Fla.; College: Florida) – Athletic former Florida Gator with every shot in his bag looks ready to follow former teammate Billy Horschel up the ranks. What better way to start a breakout season than as defending champion?
JEFF CORR (Longwood, Fla.; College: Jacksonville State) – Can never be counted out in an NGA TOUR field. Can he graduate to the Web.com Tour for good this year?
BRANDON BROWN (Shelbyville, Ky.; College: Eastern Kentucky) – It would be harder to find a reason NOT to put him in your top 5.
KEN LOOPER (Mandeville, La.; College: LSU). Looper played well in this tournament a year ago, then won the following week in Ocala.
JESSE HUTCHINS (Kirkersville, Ohio; College: Wright State) – Always a threat, especially on Florida courses, and a reliable offseason player, too.
3. ASHLEY BROWN is the Sports Director at Beasley Broadcast Group in Augusta. He’s host of a nightly sports talk show, The Sportsline, on WGAC 95.1 FM & 580 AM. He’s also a sports columnist for the Columbia County News-Times.
DAVID SKINNS (Lincoln, England; College: Tennessee) – Coming off great year & has the perfect attitude for the grind of pro golf.
JONATHAN RANDOLPH (Brandon, Miss.; College: Mississippi) – Did not have a great finish here last year, but had a solid Rookie campaign.
MAJOR MANNING (Daytona Beach, Fla.; College: Augusta State) – Have to go with the long hitting ASU Alum.
TYSON ALEXANDER (Gainesville, Fla.; College: Florida) – Won here last year & had a great year in 2012.
BRANDON BROWN (Shelbyville, Ky.; College: Eastern Kentucky) – It would be silly not to include Brown in the Top 5.
4. BRIAN STEFAN (@GolfMonger) is host of the “Myrtle Beach Golf Guys” on Sports Radio 100.3 The Team in Myrtle Beach. Co-owner and editor of Sports Monger on the Green blog site, your home for all things golf.
BLAYNE BARBER (Lake City, Fla.; College: Auburn) – He should be on the PGA Tour this year if not for DQ-ing himself at Q-school. In fact he’ll be playing in this week’s Northern Trust after Monday Qualifying. No way can I not include him as a favorite to win. In fact, he is my favorite to win.
BRANDON BROWN (Shelbyville, Ky..; College; Eastern Kentucky) – It is hard to go wrong picking the two-time NGA Tour money winner and 2012 Player of the Year.
TYSON ALEXANDER (Gainesville, Fla.; College: Florida) – The defending champ is always a good pick. A Florida kid that can really hit the ball.
DREW ERNST (Seneca, S.C.; College: Coastal Carolina) – Being a homer here. Going with the Coastal Carolina kid. He’s been hot just qualifying for the Web.com Tour’s BMW event. CCU has had a good run lately and I expect some good things from this guy.
NICK ROUSEY (Pensacola, Fla.; College: Alabama) – Rousey was a two-time National Champion in college. Has conditional Web.com Tour status and, if he can get the starts, he can play.
5. KEVIN FAIGLE (@kevinfaiglewrdw) has been the Sports Director for WRDW-TV CBS in Augusta, Georgia for seven years having covered the Masters plus numerous NGA Tour events during this time.
KELLY KRAFT (Denton, Texas; College: Southern Methodist) – Played well at Pebble Beach so will have some momentum to start the year. Heralded rookie has a bright future ahead of him.
BRANDON BROWN (Shelbyville, Ky.; College: Eastern Kentucky) – he knows how to make money out here. Tour veteran that finished 12th last year here.
JEFF CORR (Longwood, Fla.; College: Jacksonville State) – A pair of wins in the winter series and has early confidence for the NGA Tour veteran.
KEN LOOPER (Mandeville, La.; College: LSU) – Co-rookie of the year a season ago and now has the confidence he can perform well.
JOSH BROADAWAY (Albany, Ga..; College: Troy State) – Has the game to play at the next level and will use this event as a spring board to his season.
6. JESSE SMITHEY (@prepextra) has been covering golf for the Knoxville News Sentinel since 2006. He has covered three Masters (2006-07, 2012), a PGA Championship (2011) and the Web.com’s News Sentinel Open eight times.
JONATHAN FLY (Memphis, Tenn.; College: Memphis) – Fly is destined for big things. He won the 2010 Tennessee State Am, the 2011 SunTrust State Open in Tennessee and shot a second-round, 6-under 64 at TPC-Southwind last season to make the cut at the PGA Tour’s St. Jude Classic.
BRANDON BROWN (Shelbyville, Ky.; College: Eastern Kentucky) – Easy pick here. How could you not choose the NGA Tour’s 2011 and 2012 leading-money winner?
CHAS NARRAMORE (Kingston, Tenn.; College: Middle Tennessee State) – After a breakthrough NGA Tour season in 2012, you could hear even more from the former Middle Tennessee State standout. He had a win, a second-place finish and two other top 10 finishes on the NGA Tour last season.
RICK COCHRAN III (Paducah, Ky.; College: Middle Tennessee State) – He’s got the bloodlines (nephew of Russ Cochran) and the talent (2012 Big Break Greenbrier Final Four).
JOSH BROADAWAY (Albany, Ga.; College: Troy State) – The cross-handed bandit has rededicated himself to the game, shedding pounds and giving a more focused effort since last season — without losing his personality. The dividends will come soon.
***Brandon Brown had to withdraw from the Killearn CC Classic due to injury.