When you're on the Nationwide Tour, cranking through tournament after tournament in hopes of getting into the year-end top 25 and thus nabbing a coveted PGA Tour card, there are a few ways to go at it. You can play every event, slogging your way through hole after hole in a desperate attempt to pile up cash. Or you can bail on the second-to-last event of the season, then win the last one. Easy enough, right?
Brendan Steele pursued that unconventional strategy even though, as the weekend opened, he was ranked 26th on the money list. But he took the week off to go officiate at his best friend's wedding. Noble, but in a going-down-with-the-ship kind of way. (And what's up with that friend, nearly submarining his pal's PGA Tour hopes?)
Anyway, it all worked out just fine, as Steele bounced back and won this past weekend's Nationwide Tour Championship in Charleston, S.C. He took out Colt Knost on the fourth hole of a sudden-death playoff. His victory gave him a $180,000 paycheck and vaulted him to sixth on the money list. Knost also got his Tour card, finishing the season ranked 15th.
Steele also had one of the better postround quotes of the year. "I’d like to say it was a lot of fun, but it wasn’t," he said. "It was an absolute grind from the first tee shot all the way to the end." But hey, it all worked out just fine.
The news wasn't quite as good for the players ranked #22 through 25, all of whom fell out of the top 25. At the other end of the spectrum, Jamie Lovemark, the youngest player on the Nationwide Tour at 22, won the money title with combined earnings of $452,951. He edged out Stewart Cink as the youngest Tour money winner ever. (Cink, of course, did it a few years ago.)
Congrats to Steele, Knost, Lovemark and all the other newly-minted PGA Tour babies. It's all gravy from here, right?