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5 Nationwide Tour graduates to keep an eye on next season

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While Sergio Garcia and Rory McIlroy were busy pocketing multi-million dollar checks at international events, a group of mini-tour guys were busy grinding it out on Sunday at the Nationwide Tour Championship.

The goal? To get inside the top 25 on the Nationwide Tour's Money List and grab a coveted ticket to the PGA Tour in 2012. You'll probably notice a couple of names on the final list, but here are five notable ones to keep an eye on next season.

Billy Hurley III (No. 25 on the Money List): Next to Erik Compton, he might be one of the best stories to come out of the Nationwide Tour. A former Naval officer who spent time on battle ships in the Persian Gulf, China and Korea, it only took him one full season on the developmental circuit to make it to the PGA Tour. You'd have to think those five years spent serving our country in hostile waters made the final round of the Tour Championship a breeze.

Erik Compton (No. 13): The two-time heart transplant recipient is finally headed to the PGA Tour after years of wondering if he'd ever play professional golf again. Compton captured the Mexico Open earlier this year to secure his card with ease. He posted a couple solid finishes on the PGA Tour this season -- including a T-25 at the Northern Trust Open -- so it should be fun to see what he does with a full season on golf's biggest stage.

Danny Lee (No. 6): It was only a matter of time before the 21-year-old Lee put it all together. After becoming the youngest U.S. Amateur winner at the age of 18, Lee struggled to find his footing in the professional game. But it all seemed to come together in 2011. With a win at the WNB Golf Classic, Lee nailed down his tour card in his first full season on the Nationwide Tour. He'll be the only full-time Kiwi on tour next season.

Ted Potter Jr. (No. 2): Hard as it is to believe, Potter wasn't even a full-time Nationwide Tour member at the beginning of the season. But after Monday qualifying for the South Georgia Classic and winning the tournament, he secured his status for the rest of the season. In just six months he managed to make enough to finish runner-up on the Nationwide Money List. Imagine what the guy could've done with a full season.

John Mallinger (No. 14): Mallinger, who had conditional status on the PGA Tour this season, needed only 9 Nationwide events to secure his tour card for 2012. After spending this year bouncing back and forth between both tours, you can bet he'll come back in 2012 with the goal of making sure he doesn't have to do the same thing again in the near future.

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