Tuesday, December 17, 2019
Blakefield, past winner at Golden Hills, ties for 7th . . .
The Korn Ferry Tour is the latest version of the No. 2 pro tour in the U. S., formerly called the Ben Hogan Tour, the Nike Tour, the Buy.com Tour and the Web.com Tour, among others. Its qualifying tournament no longer leads to exempt status on the PGA Tour, as it did for so many years in the past.
What the Korn Ferry qualifier gets for its participants is eligibility for the next season's Korn Ferry Tour only. The 72-hole qualifier was played at Orange County National in Winter Park from Dec. 12-15, the place where Ocala's Brendan Pappas finished second about two decades ago to gain his PGA Tour card. Brendan enjoyed much success on Tour and wound up earning more than $3 million, at the time the best haul ever for any Marion County resident, more than Mike Sullivan, Grant Waite or Doug Johnson. He has since been passed by Ted Potter, who has earned more than $5 million.
Curtis Thompson and Braden Thornberry tied for first at Orange County at 21 under par and both are fully exempt for 2020. The third through 10th finishers are guaranteed at least 12 starts on the Korn Ferry Tour. Thompson's younger sister is LPGA star Lexi Thompson and his older brother is Nicholas Thompson, who tied for 53rd in the event at 10 under.
Included in that three through 10 group is Mark Blakefield, who wound up tied for seventh at 18 under. About a decade ago, in a Hooters tournament played at Golden Hills, Blakefield began the final round at even par, shot a 6-under 66, and defeated Potter by one stroke. Ted came back the next year and won the event and a check for $28,000 from Hooters, plus a bonus of $5,000 from the local Harley Davidson dealer.
After No. 10, finishers 11 through 40 earned a guaranteed eight starts, and that group included 45-year-old Tag Ridings, who played in his first major in 2000. Tag won the 2017 Barbasol Championship; he shot 14 under this time and tied for 21st.
Tied for 27th was 25-year-old Jack Maguire, a former Seminole who lives in St. Pete. Jack tied for 42nd in the 2017 U. S. Open. He was 13 under this week.
Brooks Koepka's brother, Chase, a 25-year-old who went to the University of South Florida, tied for 69th at 8 under. He teamed with his Seminole brother to tie for fifth at the 2017 Zurich Classic of New Orleans.
Martin Piller, husband of LPGA pro Gerina, also tied for 69th at 8 under, and veteran Tommy (Two Gloves) Gainey, who was arrested in a prostitution sting two days before the tournament and was out on $500 bail, tied for 76th at 7 under.
Eric Cole, son of former pros Bobby Cole and Laura Baugh and a many-time high finisher in the Ocala Open at Candler Hills Golf Club, was also at 7 under. Former Florida player Andres Echavarria, 31, who played for the Gators in 2010-2011, wasn't sharp and finished at 2 over. Andres had won a PGA Latinoamerica event in April at 14 under.