OK State’s Hoffmann could face big decision

Morgan Hoffmann during the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.

Morgan Hoffmann during the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.

Oklahoma State junior Morgan Hoffmann is in contention again on the Nationwide Tour. His recent performances against the pros have been impressive, and could have a large impact on the upcoming college season.

Hoffmann finished ninth last week in the Nationwide Tour Children’s Hospital Invitational, one year after tying for eighth in the same event.

Hoffmann’s high finish last week earned him a spot in the Cox Classic in Omaha. Hoffmann shot 65 Thursday in the Cox’s first round, and was 3 under over his first five holes of the second round. At 9 under for the tournament, he was three off Kyle Thompson’s lead.

Hoffmann has said he’s planning on returning to Oklahoma State, but could be tempted to turn professional if he wins. A victory would earn Hoffmann an exemption on the Nationwide Tour through the end of the 2011 season. He’d also earn exemptions into the second stage of Q-School for the next three seasons.

To accept those exemptions, Hoffmann would have to turn pro and accept Nationwide Tour membership. He’d have 60 days after his victory to accept membership.

Only one amateur has won in Nationwide Tour history: Daniel Summerhays claimed the 2007 Nationwide Children’s Hospital Invitational. He turned pro after the victory.

Hoffmann’s gain would be Oklahoma State’s loss.

Hoffmann was a Walker Cup team member in 2009 and a second-team All-American last season. Oklahoma State’s top three players – Hoffmann, Kevin Tway and Peter Uihlein – are the best leading trio in college golf. The 2011 NCAA Championship is scheduled to be held at Oklahoma State’s home course, Karsten Creek in Stillwater, Okla.

Even if Hoffmann doesn’t win this week, he’ll have another shot at picking up a Nationwide Tour victory. A top-25 finish at the Cox would earn him a start at next week’s Preferred Health Systems Wichita Open.

This type of run would’ve been impossible last year. The top 25 finishers at each Nationwide Tour event are exempt into the following event, but until this year such an exemption was available only to professionals. The exemption was opened to amateurs before this season.

This is Hoffmann’s third career Nationwide Tour start. He also played this year’s U.S. Open, where he had a share of the lead late in the first round, but made quadruple bogey on his final hole for a 75, and eventually missed the cut.

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