Columbus, OH — Thursday the Korn Ferry Tour Finals begin with the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship which tees off at the Ohio State University Golf Club’s Scarlet Course.
The tournament enters its 13th year and features the top-75 on the Korn Ferry points list, PGA TOUR players who finished 126-200 in the FedExCup standings, non-members who earned enough FedExCup points to rank 126-200 and players competing on PGA TOUR medical extensions.
“It’s a very different atmosphere,” tournament director Kip McBride said. “If you have never been to a golf tournament before, this is a good one to come to because there’s so much else going on. Even if you don’t know the game that well, we have our 13th hole where you can sit under cover and it is our sports bar atmosphere and anytime a player makes a birdie, we have drink specials for 13 minutes. People that don’t even know golf will boo the player that misses a short birdie putt out there for sure.”
The event sees a mixture of winners as often those who come from the PGA TOUR have to keep up with the birdie barrages the Korn Ferry Tour players can go on.
“Over 70% of the PGA TOUR players have come through this tour, so those guys are used to playing on this side of the tour,” said McBride. “It’s a very different atmosphere when those players go to the PGA TOUR. They fought it out down and now some of them are back down fighting again. It is a different culture out here and I’ve gotten to know some of the guys out here over the years and they hold onto that when they go to the PGA TOUR. They get used to the travel but on this tour they get to know all of us, so they know what we’re doing and they take that when they go onto the PGA TOUR.”
The real x-factor may be the Scarlet Course which Golfweek ranked among its top-10 campus golf courses and is consistently one of the toughest tests on the schedule.
“It is a grueling challenge for these players,” Mike Boyd President of the Champions of the Community said. “People that come out to watch this will see the future faces of the PGA and they’re going to see an incredible competition, a number of golfers fighting for their Tour cards and this is the beginning of the playoffs. It is a very critical part of the tour.”
Nationwide serves as the event sponsor and in 12 years, the tournament has raised $11.5 million, $2.1 million came in last year’s event.
“We want to shine a spotlight on the Nationwide Children’s Hospital, the second thing is to raise much needed funding for the hospital so all of the proceeds go to them in support of pediatric care and the third thing that we love is that is an opportunity for mid-Ohio to be out together celebrating an incredible event, the community and all of the great work that is happening,” said Boyd.
The tournament begins each year with the First Shot to Fight Cancer, which is hit by the event’s patient champion, which last year was Zander Craig. After the tournament ends, there is the Putt to Fight Cancer which awards $25,000 if a 50-foot putt can be made.
As McBride mentioned, there are several hooks the event will offer in an effort to draw in fans.
Admission to the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship is free, though upon arrival, fans will see a list of 40-plus charities and a $10 donation will be made to the charity of choice.
There also will be the beer specials as previously mentioned which occur for 13 minutes after any birdie recorded on the 13th hole, something which can cause a raucous atmosphere.
In addition, Rockhouse will perform a concert on the driving range and food trucks will be made available all tournament long.
For those wondering, Korn Ferry replaced Web.com as the Tour sponsor earlier in the season and the partnership is a new one for both sides.
“Obviously Web.com they knew they were on their way out and we were going through that period,” McBride said. “Korn Ferry stepped up probably prematurely from Web.com leaving. I am sure we will get to know them over the next couple of years, but they’re going to be a great partner as the umbrella sponsor moving forward.”
The Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship is the first of three Korn Ferry Tour Finals events with the Albertsons Boise Open and Tour Championship both following the 72 holes in Columbus.
Six to Watch
Viktor Hovland– Hovland was the low amateur at both the Masters and PGA Championship and finished his PGA TOUR season strongly. His game has people buzzing and he will undoubtedly have a nice gallery following.
Kevin Chappell- Chappel is set to make first TOUR-sanctioned start since Mayakoba Golf Classic last fall, as he had a microdisectomy. It will be interesting to see what the one-time PGA TOUR winner can do in his return.
Beau Hossler– Hossler lost his PGA TOUR card but is familiar with the Korn Ferry atmosphere. His highest finish on TOUR was a playoff setback to Ian Poulter at the 2018 Houston Open. He took losing his card in stride, understanding the setback but believing in himself and future success.
Bo Hoag– Last week’s WinCo Foods Portland Open winner is an Ohio native who also was a Buckeye. Even before he won, McBride mentioned he had committed to this event and he certainly will have a large gallery following his every move. Hoag is guaranteed PGA TOUR status as he was one of 25 golfers to secure his card.
Peter Uihlein– Uihlein is the 2017 champion of this event, a victory which was part of his most successful campaign as a professional. Uihlein ranked 133rd in the FedExCup point standings and recorded two top-10 finishes on the season while also holding the lead after three rounds at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.
Scott Harrington– Harrington’s story is a very moving on as his wife Jenn twice successfully battled Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Though Harrington did not convert his third-round lead to a win, the emotional American birdied the last hole and successfully earned his PGA TOUR card.
Robert Streb– Last year’s champion in this event placed 128th in the FedExCup standings. Streb also won the 2012 Mylan Classic on the Korn Ferry Tour, meaning both of his victories on tour came from the east coast. Though he missed the cut last week, Streb tied for third place at the Barracuda Championship.