November 4, 2008 (UPDATED 11/10/08) --There are several Las Vegas golfers in the field of 60 players teed it up in the 2008 Nationwide Tour Championship at TPC Craig Ranch in Texas (Skip to the UPDATE paragraph below for the final report). But Bill Lunde (pictured) and Scott Piercy are playing with house money because they sit at number three and four respectively on the money list and are assured of being among the Top 25 money leaders who will play the PGA Tour in 2009. But other Las Vegas golfers like Bob May, Michael Putnam, Skip Kendall, and Alex Prugh need a good finish this week to move up. Several of these players practice at Las Vegas golf course TPC Las Vegas. LIVE LEADERBOARD.
If Lunde or Piercy can finish as the number one player on the money list following this event, that golfer will earn unconditional exempt status for the PGA Tour 2009 and will be awarded with much better playing opportunities. Lunde is the former UNLV golfer who played on the 1998 national championship team, but who quit the game a couple years ago and spent about 12 months working a desk job and selling sponsorships to Las Vegas' PGA Tour event. He played in charity scrambles during that time, but when that job opportunity ended he dusted off his competitive clubs and went to work on the Butch Harmon Vegas Tour, where he continually won and became the champion of the 2007 season. He then earned status on the Nationwide Tour and won his first event earlier this year at the Nationwide Children's Hospitals Invitational. Lunde has earned $330,646 entering the Nationwide Tour Championship, trailing the top money earner, Brendon De Jonge by $85,189. The top prize this week is $180,000.
"Somehow playing in charity scrambles actually helped me to get here, kind of as crazy as it sounds," said Lunde following the win. "So I learned to laugh at bad shots and kind of move on. There was no expectations, and obviously when I was playing before, my expectations were too high. I was always trying to play perfect golf and golf isn't a perfect game. If you think everyone hits a perfect putt, perfect shots all the time, you're crazy. Even though the best players in the world don't hit great shots all the time."
Piercy is a former All-State performer at Bonanza High School here in Las Vegas, and has endured the mini-tours for several years with an occasional PGA Tour appearance thrown in for good measure. Piercy won the Ultimate Game at Wynn Las Vegas last summer--cashing a $2 million-dollar check in the process that he shared with sposnors--played in the US Open at Torrey Pines this year, but hit the true big time with two wins on the Nationwide Tour this season. He won Preferred Health Systems Wichita Open and the Northeast Pennsylvania Classic. Piercy has earned $313,987 entering the Nationwide Tour Championship, trailing the top spot by $101,848.
"(This win) could be worth more than that," Piercy said when asked to compare his first Nationwide Tour win to the Ultimate Game victotry. "Getting my TOUR card is worth a lot more than $2 million. Hopefully, I'm on my way." Piercy played collegiately at San Diego State University and can take it low at any give moment, evidenced by his 62 in round two at Wichita and his 64 in round one in Pennsylvania.
PGA Tour veteran and Las Vegas resident Bob May is at number 40 on the list with $157,113. The 25th spot is currently held by Chris Tidland who has $199,130. Former UNLV Rebel player Skip Kendall is at number 43 with $135,902 while Alex Prugh, who has been practicing quite a bit at TPC Las Vegas, is at number 45 with $129,790. And Michael Putnam is at number 49 with $127,790. Putnam lived for a time at Southern Highlands with his childhood friend and former UNLV golfer Ryan Moore. But a local pro who knows both players say that they have since moved back to the Spokane area.
UPDATE 11/10/08: Unfortunately, only Lunde and Piercy were the Las Vegas golfers who were among the Top 25 players who secured their PGA Tour privileges for 2009. But even so, neither golfer had a big week and visions of earning the top spot on the 2008 Nationwide Tour money list were dashed. Lunde finished in the fifth spot while Piercy ended the year in ninth."Coming back from the work-force to playing golf again and getting through this year was a great accomplishment," Lunde said. "I'm looking forward to the PGA TOUR and the opportunity to play out there against the best."
Lunde and Piercy tool part in the large Top 25 celebration that include PGA Tour representatives, sponsors, fans, family and players, and was held at the TPC Craig Ranch. Each player moves forward with exempt status for 2009, but the higher the finish, the better the exemption. The players will re-shuffle after a certain number of 2009 PGA Tour when their finishes in the early part of the PGA Tour season will be factored into their new positions. Lunde recorded 12 Top-25 finishes during the year.
"Congratulations to each and every one of this year’s class of 25 players who in January will be teeing off on the PGA TOUR," said Nationwide Tour President Bill Calfee. "This is the 19th year we have graduated a group of players to the PGA TOUR. We thank them for the many spectacular and exciting finishes they have given us on the Nationwide Tour. We look forward to watching them on TOUR next year as they add to the successes and contributions of former graduates Jim Furyk, David Toms, Zach Johnson, Camilo Villegas, Boo Weekley and others."
Bob May ended the year at number 39 on the money list while Alex Prugh was 46th and Skip Kendall was 49th. Michael Putnam was 52nd. Other golfers with Las Vegas ties who competed on the Nationwide Tour this year included Rich Barcelo (66th), Jeff Gallagher (96th), Chris Riley (130th), Jeremy Anderson (137th), and Andres Gonzales (290th). None of those mentioned in this paragraph qualified for the Nationwide Tour Championship but most will be competing the second stage of PGA Tour Qualifying School.