Breaking down “The 25″ — 2012 Web.com Tour Grads
Sunday was one of the most dramatic days of the golfing year. It’s a day that often gets lost in the shuffle of NFL football and, this year, World Series baseball. But for the following 25 young (and not-so-young) men who claimed the top 25 spots on this year’s Web.com Tour money list, it’s a colossal achievement. Some have been where they’re going—the PGA Tour—before, some have had tastes of it here and there, and still others have no experience with what lies ahead. But for all their differences in age and professional golf pedigree, they’re all part of the fraternity of golf’s promoted minor leaguers. Who are they?
No. 1: Casey Wittenberg, 28
United States; Oklahoma State
Wittenberg, the runner-up in the 2003 U.S. Amateur, won twice this year on the Web.com Tour, coasting through much of the summer toward his Tour card. He qualified for and notched a top-10 in the 2012 U.S. Open, so he has the potential to be successful at the game’s highest level.
No. 2: Luke Guthrie, 22
United States; Univ. of Illinois
One of two Web.com Tour graduates born in the 1990s, Guthrie made the most of only 10 starts, which included two wins and 7 top-10 finishes. Coming from Illinois, the explosive Guthrie is a longtime Steve Stricker fan. He couldn’t have picked a better potential mentor. Look for big things from Luke.
No. 3: Russell Henley, 23
United States; Univ. of Georgia
Henley’s fellow Bulldog Harris English has found success early in his own PGA Tour career. Henley should as well, having become only the second amateur to win a Web.com Tour event in 2011 and adding two victories as a professional in 2012. The newest Sea Island Mafia member should be up to the task of winning on the PGA Tour.
No. 4: Luke List, 27
United States; Vanderbilt University
List took a little time ascending to the PGA Tour after a storied college career, but better late than never. He won once and finished second 3 times in 2012, so it looks like he’s putting everything together. He’s only made two cuts in 11 tries on the PGA Tour, but he’s well-primed to improve that batting average.
No. 5: James Hahn, 31
United States; Univ. of California-Berkeley
Hahn was born in South Korea but attended college in the United States and lives in the Bay Area. He won once and finished second twice this year, bringing home over $337,000 for his good work. He stands to earn a great deal more if he can continue his momentum into 2013.
No. 6: Shawn Stefani, 31
United States; Lamar University
Stefani had a mediocre first half of the year, with only one top-10 before mid-August. Then he took the trophy in two of his next six events, locking up his Tour card for 2013. That means he’s streaky, which also means he’ll need all the self-belief he can muster to weather cold spells on the PGA Tour.
No. 7: Robert Streb, 25
United States; Kansas State University
Streb will be a “true rookie” on the 2013 PGA Tour—one who has never before played in a PGA Tour event. His 2012 Web.com season was solid, but that highest level is a different animal. Nonetheless, he had considerable promise.
No. 8: Ben Kohles, 22
United States; University of Virginia
The second “90s kid” in this year’s edition of The 25, Kohles won his first two professional starts, which turned out to both be Web.com Tour events. He was able to coast the rest of the year. Kohles’ youth and streakiness can be as much a benefit as a hindrance; it will be interesting to track his progress in 2013.
No. 9: Justin Bolli, 36
United States; Univ. of Georgia
Bolli is one of eight Web.com Tour graduates who are 35 years of age or older. A career journeyman, Bolli stormed into the top 25 on the tour money list by winning the Web.com Tour Championship. He picked a great time to play some of the best golf of his life. Will it continue?
No. 10: David Lingmerth, 25
Sweden; University of Arkansas
Lingmerth is another “true rookie” and the lone European on this list. What he lacks in PGA Tour experience he recoups in talent and potential. He had a streaky 2012, but he has the ability to go low at any time, which can bear fruit at the game’s highest level.
No. 11: Justin Hicks, 38
United States; University of Michigan
Hicks celebrated his 38th birdie by notching a top-5 finish at the Web.com Tour Championship and locking up his 2013 PGA Tour card. Not a bad birthday.
No. 12: Paul Haley II, 24
United States; Georgia Tech
Though Haley made just over half his cuts in 2012, a win and two runner-up finishes along with three other top-25 finishes were enough to earn him his card. His only PGA Tour start, at the 2012 Byron Nelson Classic, resulted in a missed cut.
No. 13: Cameron Percy, 38
Percy missed nine of 24 cuts this year but three 2nd-place finishes were enough to give him his card. He finished third in Greens in Regulation on the Web.com Tour, which should serve him well at the next level.
No. 14: Andres Gonzales, 29
United States; Univ. of Nevada-Las Vegas
Gonzales is one of the more colorful characters in golf. A former college teammate of Ryan Moore’s has a lot of game, as well as the most impressive Fu Manchu mustache in golf. The Washingtonian made 14 of 23 cuts this year.
No. 15: Scott Gardiner, 36
With six top-10 finishes and eight missed cuts in 25 starts, Gardiner was one of the more consistent players on this list. A veteran of the mini-tours, Gardiner has yet to play in a PGA Tour event.
No. 16: Lee Williams, 31
United States; Auburn University
Williams only missed six cuts in 25 events in 2012, notching eight top-25 finishes. The only major statistic in which he wasn’t in the Web.com Tour’s top 60 was Driving distance, meaning Williams has a very complete golf game. Having won in 2012 in Mexico, he hopes to add a PGA Tour victory to his resume in 2013.
No. 17: Darron Stiles, 39
United States; Florida Southern College
Stiles, the oldest of “The 25,” will return to the 2013 PGA Tour as a fully exempt member for the first time since 2009. He carries the somewhat dubious distinction of being the all-time Web.com Tour money leader, with over $1.8 million in career earnings on the tour with five victories spanning three decades.
No. 18: Brad Fritsch, 35
Canada; Campbell University
Fritsch has played in 95 Web.com Tour events in his career. He hopes that the 2012 Web.com Tour Championship was his last—a tie for ninth place. He has made one cut in five-career PGA Tour starts, but has all of 2013 to make sure he never toils in golf’s minor leagues again.
No. 19: Morgan Hoffmann, 23
United States; Oklahoma State University
Hoffmann followed a successful junior golf career with an accomplished college career. His 2012 Web.com season was the most consistent of anyone on this list, as he made 12 cuts in only 13 events, with a second, a third and five other top-10s. Look for him to have a great PGA Tour rookie campaign in 2013.
No. 20: Brian Stuard, 30
United States; Oakland University
Stuard ranked fifth in the Web.com Tour’s All-Around ranking in 2012, meaning his game has few weaknesses. What he lacks in distance off the tee he recoups in literally every other category. Will he put it together at The Big Show in 2013?
No. 21: Andrew Svoboda, 33
United States; St. John’s University
Svoboda joins fellow St. John’s graduate Keegan Bradley on the PGA Tour in 2013. The New Yorker had two runner-up finishes early in 2012, giving him the ability to more or less coast into “The 25.” He’ll need to do more than coast, though, in 2013 to avoid a return trip to the Web.com Tour.
No. 22: Nicholas Thompson, 30
United States; Georgia Tech
Nick Thompson, the older brother of LPGA Tour standout Lexi Thompson, has bounced between the PGA and Web.com Tours the last few years. He’s on an upward trend once again after leading the Web.com Tour in Total Driving in 2013.
No. 23: Alistair Presnell, 33
Presnell had two thirds and a second place finish in 2012, but he also missed the majority of his cuts. The streaky Aussie will need to find some consistency in order to hack it on the PGA Tour in 2013. The good news: he has made the cut in both PGA Tour events he’s played, including a top-10.
No. 24: Doug LaBelle II, 37
United States; Univ. of New Mexico
LaBelle II had a solid final three weeks of the year—T26, T15, T13—to squeak into The 25. His year also included a win in Utah in July but a slew of missed cuts as well. He hit the third-highest percentage of fairways on the Web.com Tour in 2012, but ranked 111th in Driving Distance.
No. 25: Jim Herman, 35
United States; Univ. of Cincinnati
Herman was exempt on the PGA Tour in 2011 but made less than $200,000 to lose his card. He missed his last four of six cuts in 2012 on the Web.com Tour to barely hang on to the 25th spot and avoid Q School by less than $1,000. Will he make the most of his opportunity this time?
Chances are that at least one of these players will win, a few will turn in solid years to maintain their PGA Tour membership and a number of others will be back on the Web.com Tour in 2014. Such is the drama of golf. Who will never look back, and who will need to struggle some more before finding the security of a prosperous Tour career?