The Nationwide Children’s Hospital Invitational is one of the highlights of the Web.com Tour schedule because of its unique format. The event invites collegiate All-Americans to Ohio State’s Scarlet Course, giving amateurs and newly-minted pros the chance to test themselves on the PGA Tour’s developmental circuit. It’s a tournament that seems to hold true to the tour’s original mission, to be a proving ground for up-and-coming talent.
Recall last year, when amateurs Harris English and John Peterson were atop the leaderboard for most of the week. English won, then earned his PGA Tour card at last year’s Q-School; he’s in the midst of a successful rookie season. Peterson finished fourth at this year’s U.S. Open. A third amateur, Peter Uihlein, also finished in the top 10 last year.
Two amateurs have won the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Invitational in the event’s five-year history: Daniel Summerhays (2007) and English. At least one amateur has finished in the top 10 each season.
Here’s a look at this year’s invitees (*-will compete as pro):
• Blayne Barber, Auburn*: Barber, a member of last year’s Walker Cup team, will be making his pro debut after finishing eighth in his final amateur start, the Players Amateur. Barber was known as one of the most consistent players in amateur golf. He closed his collegiate career with a seventh-place finish at the NCAA Championship. He missed the cut at last year’s Nationwide Children’s Hospital Invitational.
• Stephan Jaeger, Chattanooga*: Jaeger, a German, made his pro debut last week on the NGA Tour, earning $1,765 for his tie for 23rd in Georgia. He won three times this past season, at the Golfweek Conference Challenge, the Southern Conference Championship and NCAA Bowling Green Regional. Jaeger finished 12th in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings.
• Daniel Miernicki, Oregon*: Miernicki turned pro after the NCAA Championship. He has missed the cut in his first three starts as a pro, at the Travelers Championship, Irish Open and Greenbrier Classic. He was No. 10 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings this season. He won this year’s U.S. Intercollegiate and was runner-up at the Pac-12 Championship and NCAA Ann Arbor Regional.
• Patrick Rodgers, Stanford: Rodgers, No. 3 in the R&A World Amateur Ranking, had 10 top-10s, including two victories, in 12 starts as a freshman. He finished ninth at the NCAA Championship. He has missed the cut in two PGA Tour starts this summer, at the Travelers Championship and John Deere Classic. He’s coming off a third-place finish at last week’s Porter Cup, which he won in 2011. Rodgers was a member of last year’s Walker Cup squad.
• Jordan Spieth, Texas: Spieth, who recently completed his freshman season, is No. 1 in the R&A World Amateur Ranking. He was low amateur at the U.S. Open (T-21) and was 58th at the John Deere Classic. Spieth, a 2011 Walker Cup team member, has said he will attend Q-School this fall as an amateur.
• Justin Thomas, Alabama: Thomas was college golf’s consensus player of the year, winning the Jack Nicklaus and Haskins awards and finishing first in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings after his freshman season. Thomas finished 46th at the PGA Tour’s Greenbrier Classic, which he earned an exemption into by winning the Haskins Award. In 2012, he won the SEC title, NCAA Athens Regional and Jones Cup, one of the nation’s top amateur events.
• Chris Williams, Washington: Williams, a senior, is No. 2 in the R&A’s World Amateur Rankings. He was medalist at last year’s Western Amateur and won last year’s Sahalee Players Championship and Pacific Coast Amateur. He also won this year’s Washington Amateur by 10 shots and was runner-up in his title defense at Sahalee. He missed the cut by a shot at last year’s Nationwide Children’s Hospital Invitational. He was a member of last year’s Walker Cup team.
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• Luke Guthrie, Illinois*: Guthrie has been on quite a tear since turning pro after the NCAA Championship, finishing in the top 20 of all three of his PGA Tour starts, highlighted by a fifth-place finish at the John Deere Classic. He was 18th at last week’s True South Classic. His scoring average in those events is 68.3. Guthrie has won on Ohio State’s Scarlet Course, at the 2011 Robert Kepler Intercollegiate. He missed the cut by two shots at last year’s Nationwide Children’s Hospital Invitational. He won three times this college season, including the Big Ten Championship. He’s the first back-to-back Big Ten champion since Northwestern’s Luke Donald in 2000-01 and first Illini repeat champion since Steve Stricker in 1988-89.
• Ben Kohles, Virginia: Kohles, who recently completed his senior season, was No. 16 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings. He won this year’s Dogwood Invitational and was 18th at last week’s Porter Cup. He was a two-time ACC Player of the Year.
• Cory Whitsett, Alabama: Whitsett was No. 13 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings this past season. The former U.S. Junior champ won the Patriot All-American and Western Refining All-American Classic and was fourth at the NCAA Championship.
• Andrew Yun, Stanford: Yun, a senior, was this year’s Pac-12 champion. He also was the first alternate for last year’s Walker Cup team. Yun is coming off a ninth-place finish at the Porter Cup. He missed the cut by two shots at last year’s Nationwide Children’s Hospital Invitational.
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U.S. AMATEUR CHAMPION
• Kelly Kraft, SMU*: Kraft turned pro after making the cut at the Masters (T-62). He has made the cut in just one of seven PGA Tour starts as a pro, finishing 57th at Colonial. The 2011 Walker Cupper also won the 2011 Texas Amateur, Trans-Mississippi Amateur and South Beach International Amateur.