NCAA champ Peterson to make pro debut

John Peterson

John Peterson

Objective systems seem to suit John Peterson. The reigning NCAA champion will make his pro debut at this week’s Children’s Hospital Classic after Monday qualifying for the Nationwide Tour stop in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Peterson, one of the top players in this year’s pro class, turned pro after the U.S. Amateur, but hasn’t been able to secure sponsor exemptions. He won this year’s Jones Cup and NCAA Championship and was runner-up as an amateur in this year’s Nationwide Children’s Hospital Invitational. Peterson received further attention when the U.S. Golf Association controversially omitted him from its team for last month’s Walker Cup.

"I'm excited to get my pro career underway," Peterson said. "I've been playing well this year, and look forward to playing for wins and paychecks."

It can be difficult for new pros to earn Nationwide Tour sponsor exemptions because tournament directors often invite players with name recognition, such as local pros or former PGA Tour players.

Peterson was one of several All-Americans from this past college season who qualified for the Children’s Hospital Classic; Russell Henley (Georgia), Andrew Loupe (LSU) and Vince India (Iowa) were the others. Harris English, a second-team All-American at Georgia, is also in the field by virtue of his victory at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Invitational.

Henley had to qualify despite winning a Nationwide Tour event earlier this year. Henley, who won the Stadion Classic in May, is not a tour member because he waited more than 60 days to turn pro and accept membership. He opted to remain amateur until after the Walker Cup.

Henley made his pro debut at the recent Soboba Classic, which he played on a sponsor exemption. He tied for 31st.

Loupe played with Peterson at LSU. Loupe also Monday qualified for this year’s Zurich Classic, beating Peterson in a playoff for the final spot. Loupe shot 82-77 and missed the cut.

English, because he turned pro within 60 days of his Nationwide Tour victory, was able to accept tour membership for this season (both Henley and English can become Nationwide Tour members in 2012). English made his pro debut at the Soboba Classic. He tied for 49th there, then lost a playoff to Danny Lee at last week’s WNB Golf Classic.

English, who attended Chattanooga’s Baylor School before the University of Georgia, is 79th on the Nationwide Tour money list. The top 60 earn spots in the Nationwide Tour Championship Oct. 27-30 in Charleston, S.C. English would rank 13th on the money list in just four starts if he’d been pro for his Nationwide Children’s Hospital Invitational victory. He also finished 18th as an amateur at the Stadion Classic.

• • •

Jamie Lovemark, the 2010 Nationwide Tour player of the year, will play in two upcoming Nationwide Tour events as he tries to return from a back injury that interrupted his rookie PGA Tour season.

Lovemark is scheduled to play the Miccosukee Championship Oct. 13-16 and Winn-Dixie Jacksonville Open Oct. 20-23. He hasn’t teed it up since withdrawing from the Shell Houston Open March 31 after a first-round 80. He made just two of nine cuts before being diagnosed with a herniated disk in his back. He had surgery in August.

• • •

Players are eyeing important benchmarks with just three full-field events remaining on the Nationwide Tour schedule. The top 100 on the money list earn conditional status for next season. The top 60 are exempt into the Nationwide Tour Championship and fully exempt for the following Nationwide Tour season. The Nationwide Tour’s top 40 money winners are exempt into Q-School’s final stage. The top 25 earn PGA Tour cards for 2012. ... Danny Lee, who moved to fourth on the Nationwide Tour money list after his victory at last week’s WNB Classic, is playing in the Korea Open this week. Lee, 21, will return to the States for the Winn-Dixie Jacksonville Open and Nationwide Tour Championship. He has seven top 10s in 16 starts this season. He also finished runner-up at this year’s Volvo China Open. ... Brian Vranesh has gone 335 holes without making a three-putt. His last one was in the final round of the Utah Championship in late July. He played the final 11 holes that day and all 18 rounds since three-putt-free, with his last round being last Friday in Midland.

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