Much at stake for N'wide leader Kokrak

Jason Kokrak during Round 2 of the Nationwide Tour Championship.

Jason Kokrak during Round 2 of the Nationwide Tour Championship.

CHARLESTON, S.C. – Jason Kokrak’s father, Kenny, offered his son $100 for the first time he was victorious on the golf course. Jason was 12 years old when he finally earned that Ben Franklin, beating his father, 75-77, at Avalon Lakes Golf Course in Warren, Ohio.

Jason Kokrak has the chance on Sunday to surpass another milestone with a financial reward at stake. He has the 54-hole lead at the Nationwide Tour Championship. A victory would be his third of the season and give him a good chance to earn the tour’s money title and player-of-the-year honor.

The season finale is Kokrak’s 16th start of the season. Only Michael Sim has won the tour’s money title in fewer events. Sim needed just 14 events in 2009, when he won three times and set the tour's earning record.

The money title is important, ensuring a player a start at The Players Championship and exempting him from the reshuffles that can make it difficult to get into events after a poor start to the season.

Kokrak is at 7-under 209 after shooting 75 on an extremely windy day at Daniel Island Club here. He’s one shot ahead of Scott Brown, whose 67 was one of just two sub-70 rounds on the day, and Ken Duke, who shot 70 Saturday.

Brown is 21st on the money list. Duke, the 2006 Nationwide Tour player of the year, is 36th.

The money list will be on the minds of most of the competitors in Sunday’s final round of the season. The top 25 on the money list at day’s end will earn PGA Tour cards. The top 40 are exempt into the final stage of Q-School. Billy Hurley III, who is tied for 19th in the tournament, is projected to finish 25th on the money list. Duke is projected to finish 19th on the money list but must maintain his high standing to earn his Tour card.

One thing is guaranteed: something strange will happen. It always does when Tour cards are on the line.

“Did you watch the baseball two nights ago?” asked Roberto Castro, referring to the St. Louis Cardinals’ improbable Game 6 win in the World Series. He started the week 22nd on the money list and is projected to remain in that position. He’s in 10th place in the tournament. “It always comes down to the last nine holes, no matter what happens.”

The Nationwide Tour finale gets complex because players move in and out of the cutoff for a Tour card almost with each swing. Consider Camilo Benedetti, who started the week at 49th on the money list but was projected to finish in the top 25 when he came to the 18th hole Saturday. A wedge shot into the bunker resulted in bogey and dropped him to 33rd in the standings. Benedetti has had close calls for a Tour card before. He bogeyed two of the final three holes at last year’s Q-School to miss his PGA Tour card by a shot.

“There’s a lot to play for, so there’s going to be a lot of pressure on a lot of people,” Benedetti said. “It’s a matter of playing and seeing what happens.”

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