Battle for spots gets tough as Tour Championship at Daniel Island nears
CHARLESTON - A year ago, Matt Bettencourt was struggling to simply earn a spot in the Nationwide Tour Championship where he might have an opportunity to earn his PGA Tour playing privileges for 2009. Bettencourt was 94th on the money list and was trying to figure out a way to make it to the top 60, the cutoff point for the season-ending event where the top 25 money winners earn PGA Tour exemptions for the following season.
In the final five events leading to the Tour Championship, the California native who now lives in Greenville, had a victory, lost in a playoff and a fifth-place finish to propel him into the event and also clinch his spot on the PGA Tour. Then Bettencourt capped his season with a win in the Tour Championship in Dallas to finish No. 1 on the money list and claim all the perks that go with that accomplishment.
Bettencourt said there will be plenty of grinding going on in the next five weeks as this year's Nationwide Tour makes its way to the Daniel Island Club for the $1 million, Oct. 22-25 season-ending event, where the top 25 earn their PGA Tour cards for 2010. Heading into this week's Nationwide event in Boise, Idaho, $200 separates the 25th and 26th spot, and $300 separates No. 60 from No. 61 on the money list.
"Anybody on the Nationwide Tour can win any week on the PGA Tour," Bettencourt said Monday at Daniel Island Club. "It's just a matter of believing in yourself and getting some bounces. I've played with the top guys on the PGA Tour, and other than a handful of guys there's no difference at all."
This is the first of a three-year stay at Daniel Island Club for the Nationwide Tour Championship, and tournament director Kevin Canning announced that five of the seven major sponsorship slots for the event had been sold.
Ticket sales also are picking up, tournament officials said. Tickets are $30 for the week, 100 percent of which can be designated to any of 40 local charities that are selling tickets for the event. Information is available online at www.nationwidetourchampionship.com.