Luke List lived with a Nationwide Tour player of the year. He’s good friends with the reigning PGA champion. His proximity to such success led him to believe that his first PGA Tour card wasn’t far away. He was right.
List has a win and two runners-up in eight Nationwide Tour starts this year. His $223,848 in earnings have him atop the Nationwide Tour money list by nearly $30,000. Only time stands between him and the Tour. Since the Nationwide Tour began handing out 25 PGA Tour cards, never has a player needed to exceed List’s current earnings to graduate. He also leads the Nationwide Tour in driving distance at 325.1 yards per tee shot, 7.5 yards longer than second-place Brian Anderson.
“I felt like I was one of the better players coming into this year out there, and I’m just trying to back it up,” List, 27, said. “My goal is to finish (No. 1). It’s a big difference between No. 1 and No. 25 on the money list. I’d love to get a few more wins to get that (three-win) promotion. … I don’t think I’d be doing myself justice this year to settle for what I’ve done.”
List finished first and second in the Nationwide Tour’s past two events, the South Georgia Classic and Stadion Classic at UGA, to take the money-list lead. He won the former by two shots, then finished a shot behind Georgia alum Hudson Swafford at Swafford’s former college course. List bogeyed the final hole and Swafford holed a bunker shot for birdie and the victory.
The Nationwide Tour’s leading money winner earns a spot in the following year’s Players Championship, and is given better status than his fellow Nationwide Tour graduates. Most importantly, the money leader isn’t subject to the PGA Tour’s periodic reshuffles that can hinder a player’s ability to get into events if he struggles at the start of the season.
List was roommates with Jamie Lovemark, the Nationwide Tour’s top player in 2010, until recently. Keegan Bradley is one of List’s close friends in Jupiter, Fla., where they play with the dozens of PGA Tour players who’ve migrated to the area.
“I’ve been saying it for a long time that he’s going to be a big-time player out here,” Bradley said. “I think he’s a little more comfortable out there, and I think he wants to get out of there, too, after seeing Jamie and I go off to Tour events. ”
List was a promising amateur, finishing runner-up as a 19-year-old to Ryan Moore at the 2004 U.S. Amateur and finishing 33rd at the following year’s Masters. List turned pro in 2007, playing his first full Nationwide Tour season in 2010. He had a chance to earn his PGA Tour card last year, ranking 27th on the money list in late September before slipping to 38th at season’s end. He earned just $10,970 over his final five starts last year.
“I’ve been on the Nationwide Tour for three years,” he said. “I’ve seen all of my friends move on. It’s great, I’m happy for them, but I feel like I’m just as good a player, if not better. For me, this year was like, alright, this is my time. I feel like I’ve paid my dues.”
List will have an opportunity to increase his money-list lead at this week’s BMW Charity Pro-Am. He’s playing the Nationwide Tour event while his closest pursuers, No. 2 Andres Gonzales ($195,810) and No. 3 Paul Haley ($162,334), play the PGA Tour’s Byron Nelson Championship on sponsor exemptions.
List says a switch to Callaway equipment and a new mindset have helped him to his best season since turning professional. “I’ve been nicer to myself on the bad shots and accepting everything, all that sports psychologist babble that you hear about,” List said. “It works sometimes.”
This year is proof.
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Two-time U.S. Open champion Lee Janzen is 27th on the Nationwide Tour money list after a runner-up finish in the tour’s last event, the Stadion Classic at UGA. Janzen birdied seven of his final eight holes to tie for second, a shot behind winner Hudson Swafford, who holed a bunker shot for birdie on the final hole.
Janzen missed the cut at the previous week’s South Georgia Classic. Those two Nationwide Tour starts were his first since the tour’s inaugural season in 1990. His next task? To try to qualify for the U.S. Open at Olympic Club, site of his 1998 U.S. Open victory. Janzen is scheduled to play sectional qualifying June 4 at Germantown Country Club in Memphis, Tenn.
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Bio Kim, No. 25 on the Nationwide Tour money list, won last week’s GS Caltex Maekyung Open Golf Championship on the OneAsia Tour. It was Kim’s second career OneAsia victory. The 21-year-old was the youngest player on last year’s PGA Tour after advancing through PGA Tour Q-School, but finished 162nd on the money list. He has two top-seven finishes in eight Nationwide Tour starts this year. Kim admit to being starstruck during his first PGA Tour season.
“”I was a little bit too eager,” he said. “I was playing with all the best players in the world and I was trying too hard to keep up.”
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Kevin Foley has put together consecutive seventh-place finishes on the Nationwide Tour after Monday qualifying into the South Georgia Classic. He’s now on the verge of Nationwide Tour membership for the first time in his career. He’s made $34,274 this year and can earn status by surpassing No. 100 on last year’s money list ($43,293). He ranks 43rd on this year’s money list, needing to to earn another $9,019 to earn status. He must finish in a two-way tie for 17th or better to earn status this week.
Foley, a Penn State alum, was having a successful season on the eGolf Professional Tour before qualifying for the Nationwide Tour events. He’s the eGolf tour’s leading money winner in 2012 with $43,066 in earnings. He had a win and three other top-10s in six starts.