When it came time for Kyle Stanley to make a college decision, he took the opposite tact of the famous quote about "Go West, young man!" The teen prodigy from Gig Harbor, Wash., decided to go East, all the way across the country to Clemson. While that might seem an unusual choice given all the top-notch golf programs located between Washington and South Carolina, it seemed like the perfect decision for Stanley.
"We have some family connections at Hilton Head, kind of like a second mom and dad that live there. I played a lot of junior amateur golf in the Southeast and spent a lot of time on Hilton Head while I was growing up," explained Stanley, who had been aware of Clemson's national powerhouse golf program for many years.
Stanley was a star during his three years at Clemson, achieving All-America status all three years (first-team as a sophomore and a junior). He finished runner-up in the NCAA tournament in 2007 and 2009 NCAA tournament and was seventh in 2008. Stanley represented the U.S. as a member of the 2007 Walker Cup team. After finishing in a tie for 53rd in the 2009 U.S. Open, Stanley turned professional, saying that he felt his game "was ready for pro golf."
Stanley, who now makes his residence at Berkeley Hall in Bluffton, played in five PGA Tour events last season, making the cut in four. He won more than $132,000, but that wasn't enough to earn him exempt status on the PGA Tour this year.
Stanley is hoping to earn his way to the big show this year through the Nationwide Tour. That's a goal within range if he can play well in this week's Nationwide Tour Championship at Daniel Island Club's Ralston Creek Course. Stanley is currently No. 32 on the money list ($153,555 going into the final regular season tournament), and a good showing could vault him into the top 25, which would guarantee him a PGA Tour card for 2011.
"This year has been pretty sporadic," Stanley said in a recent telephone interview. "I don't feel like I've quite played to my potential, but I still have a chance to get a tour card. Probably my biggest mistake this year is like a lot of rookies, I've played too much golf. Playing six or seven weeks in a grow eventually catches up with you. I had a poor stretch in the middle of the season. Other than that, I've played OK."
Stanley has six top-10 finishes, including a fourth-place finish in Washington, D.C., in June and a fifth-place finish earlier this month in California.
"The thing about (the Nationwide Tour Championship) is that anybody in the field has an opportunity to get a tour card," Stanley said. "I understand that it's a big golf course, really long. I'll be able to use my driver a lot and use my length to my advantage. It will be nice for me. Living in Bluffton, it will be kind of a home game. I'm sure I'll get a lot of support out there, which will be nice."
Beaufort native Mark Anderson is also among the field of 60 golfers. Anderson is 59th on the Nationwide Tour money leaders list with $112,833.
Those who finish between 26th and 60th places are fully exempt on the Nationwide Tour in 2011, in the event they do on secure their PGA Tour cards through the qualifying tournament in December. Players who finish 26-40 are exempt into the finals of the qualifying tournament.
The Nationwide Tour Championship will air on the Golf Channel from 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Thursday through Sunday.
Nationwide Tour Championship
What: Top 60 money winners from 2010 Nationwide Tour competing for $1 million purse. The top 25 on the money list after this tournament earn 2011 PGA Tour cards
When: Monday-Sunday at Daniel Island Club's Ralston Creek Course.
Tickets: Weekly grounds pass $30 with 100 percent of proceeds benefitting local charities. Call (843) 849-3154.