Five former Tigers begin PGA card quest in Tour's kickoff event

Ben Martin, Phillip Mollica, Sam Saunders, Brian Duncan, Danny Ellis playing in Panama Claro Championship

Ben Martin (AP photo).

Ben Martin (AP photo).

For five former Clemson golfers, opportunity knocks, beginning tomorrow.

The Tour - the redesigned gateway to the PGA Tour - kicks off its season on Thursday with the Panama Claro Championship at Panama City, Panama.

In the field will be Brian Duncan, Phillip Mollica, Sam Saunders, Ben Martin and Danny Ellis. Waiting in the wings is Matt Hendrix, an alternate for this week's tournament, but with a spot secure in the next two stops on the tour's early-season swing to Central and South America.

The Tour is a step up for Duncan and Mollica, who played their way onto the tour via Q School in the December. Both have played primarily on the eGolf Professional Tour since leaving Clemson.

Saunders, meanwhile, will enjoy the first fully-exempt season of his career. He had conditional status last year and ended up 50th on the Tour money list. He has had increasing success over the past three seasons, playing a combination of events on the PGA Tour and Tour.

For Martin and Ellis, the season will offer a chance to get back to the PGA Tour.

Martin qualified for the PGA Tour his first season out of Clemson by finishing second at the final stage of Q School. He placed 164th on the money list as a rookie, which dropped to the Tour last season.

After an up-and-down season, Martin finished strong and regained his exempt status for this year's Tour in dramatic fashion. He finished third in the final full-field event of the season, and claimed the final (60th) spot in the Tour Championship. He went on to finish 13th, which boosted him to fully exempt status for 2013.

Ellis will be back playing a full schedule for the first time in several years, after overcoming back problems that sidetracked his PGA Tour career.

Hendrix, who has played his way from the eGolf Professional Tour to the Tour, has conditional status this season. He opened 2013 with a runaway, five-shot victory last week at the eGolf Tour's Palmetto Championship at Hilton Head Island, S.C.

Hendrix is entered into the next two Tour events - the Colombia Championship, Feb. 28-March 3, and the Chile Classic, March 7-10.

The Tour will make its first U.S. stop March 21-24 at the Chitimacha Louisiana Open.

The tour schedule includes two more international events - the Brasil Championship, April 4-7, and the Mexico Championship, May 23-26.

The tour will make several stops in the Southeast, including the BMW Charity Pro-Am at Thornblade Club in Greer, S.C., May 16-19; the Stadion Classic at UGA, May 2-5 at Athens, Ga.; the Rex Hospital Open, June 20-23 at Raleigh, N.C.; the News-Sentinel Open, April 15-18 at Knoxville, Tenn.; and the Chiquita Classic, Sept. 5-8 at Davidson, N.C.

© 2013 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Comments » 0

Be the first to post a comment!

Share your thoughts

Comments are the sole responsibility of the person posting them. You agree not to post comments that are off topic, defamatory, obscene, abusive, threatening or an invasion of privacy. Violators may be banned. Click here for our full user agreement.

Comments can be shared on Facebook and Yahoo!. Add both options by connecting your profiles.