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East County Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019 9 months ago

Ten players to watch at the LECOM Suncoast Classic

From two-time major winners to Lakewood Ranch High grads, there are interesting stories throughout the field
by: Ryan Kohn Sports Reporter

When the LECOM Suncoast Classic tees off Feb. 14, the field will be filled with names both familiar and unfamiliar to local golf fans. For those who will attending the event at Lakewood National Golf Course, here is a list of 10 golfers to watch at the event. Some have achieved PGA Tour fame, some are destined to in the future, but all have the talent to win the tournament and deserve attention. 

1 — Angel Cabrera

1. Angel Cabrera is a two-time PGA Tour major winner. Photo courtesy PGA Tour Media.

The most decorated golfer in the field, the man affectionately known as “El Pato” (“The Duck”) by fans is a two-time major champion, winning the 2007 U.S. Open (five over par) at Oakmont Country Club in Oakmont, Pa., by one stroke over Tiger Woods and Jim Furyk, and the 2009 Masters Tournament (12 under par) at Augusta National in Augusta, Ga., in a playoff over Chad Campbell and Kenny Perry.

Cabrera, who was born in Cordoba, Argentina, was the first Argentine player to win both tournaments.

Cabrera only has one other PGA Tour win, at the 2014 Greenbrier Classic (16 under par) at The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. But he finished second at the 2013 Masters, losing in a playoff to Adam Scott, and has 28 wins on the Argentine Tour.

Now Cabrera, 49, is taking his talents to the Suncoast Classic. 

2 — Mike Weir

2. Mike Weir was the first Canadian and the first left-handed golfer to win the Masters, in 2003. Photo courtesy PGA Tour Media.

Golf fans remember Weir for being a mainstay of the Official World Golf Ranking top-10 from 2001 to 2005.

His biggest feat was winning the 2003 Masters Tournament (seven under par) in a one-hole playoff over Len Mattiace. In doing so, Weir, from Ontario, Can., become both the first left-handed player and the first Canadian player to win the event.

Since then, the 48-year-old Weir has had nine top-10 finishes at major tournaments, but never won another title. Hi last PGA Tour win came in 2007 at the Fry’s Electronics Open (now the Safeway Open) at Silverado Country Club in Napa, Calif.

3 — Chad Campbell

3. Chad Campbell has finished in the top-five of three PGA Tour majors. Photo courtesy PGA Tour Media.

Campbell, from Andrews, Texas, was once a member of the Official World Golf Ranking top-10, but just briefly, in 2004.

He won the 2003 Tour Championship (16 under par) at Champions Golf Club in Houston, Texas, and finished second at the 2003 PGA Championship (two under par) by two strokes to Shaun Micheel at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, N.Y.

But Campbell, 44, may be best known for finishing tied for second (12 under par, with Kenny Perry) to Angel Cabrera at the 2009 Masters after a playoff. He also finished tied for third at the event in 2006 with four others (four under par), three strokes behind Phil Mickelson.

4 — Ricky Barnes

4. Ricky Barnes set the U.S. Open 36-hole record in 2009, before ultimately finishing second. Photo courtesy PGA Tour Media.

Barnes, 37, may not have the PGA Tour wins of other recognizable names on this list — he has zero, in fact — but he has had some impressive performances.

Like the 2009 U.S. Open at Bethpage State Park’s Black Course in Farmingdale, N.Y, where he finished second (two under par), two shots behind Lucas Glover. Barnes actually set the tournament’s 36-hole record at the event, shooting an eight-under 132 through two rounds before dropping back in rounds three and four.

The Stockton, Calif., native also finished tied for 10th at the 2010 Masters Tournament (five under par), 11 strokes behind winner Phil Mickelson.

5 — Danny Walker

5. Danny Walker, a Lakewood Ranch High grad, won the Tour's Qualifying Tournament in 2018. File photo.

The 2014 Lakewood Ranch High graduate, now 23,  is in the midst of his first season on the Tour after winning the tour’s Qualifying Tournament Dec. 9 at Chandler, Ariz.’s Whirlwind Golf Club. It was Walker’s second-consecutive win, following his first professional win Sept. 16 at the Mackenzie Tour’s Freedom 55 Financial Championship at Highland Golf Club in London, Ontario.

Walker, who later attended the University of Virginia, was a sensation in high school, winning the 2010-2011 Florida High School Athletic Association 2A Individual State Championship (-4) at Juliette Falls Golf Club in Dunnellon.

6 — Norman Xiong

6. Norman Xiong won the 2018 Niklaus and Haskins awards while at the University of Oregon. Photo courtesy PGA Tour Media.

Xiong, 20, is from Guam, moving to San Diego, Calif., when he was 5. Xiong, who already loved golf, immediately joined The First Tee of San Diego, and a star was born.

Xiong, who attended the University of Oregon, was named the NCAA’s 2018 Nicklaus Award and Haskins Award (most outstanding collegiate golfer) winner and finished second to Danny Walker at the Tour’s Qualifying Tournament. Oregon coach Casey Martin, who was a Stanford University teammate of Tiger Woods, told Golfweek in 2018 that Xiong was the best player he’s seen at this age since Woods.

7 — Tyler McCumber

7. Tyler McCumber, a University of Florida grad, topped the Mackenzie Tour money list in 2018. Photo courtesy PGA Tour Media.

Like Xiong and Walker, McCumber, 27, is an up-and-coming player.

The son of 10-time PGA Tour winner Mark McCumber, Tyler McCumber topped the Mackenzie Tour money list in 2018 ($139,000), winning three tournaments along the way. He had the best scoring average on the Tour, and was second in total birdies.

If his name sounds familiar, you might be a Gators fan. The Ponte Vedra Beach native attended the University of Florida and captained the men’s golf team as a junior and senior.

McCumber has played well in the early Tour events, finishing tied for fourth (four over par) Jan. 23 at The Bahamas Great Abaco Classic at The Abaco Club in Winding Bay, The Bahamas, and tied for third (one under par) Feb. 3 at the Colombia Championship at County Club de Bogota’s Lagos Course in Bogota, Colombia.

8 — Seath Lauer

8. Lakewood Ranch's Seath Lauer received a special exemption into the Suncoast Classic.

Another Lakewood Ranch High attendee, Lauer’s story differs from Danny Walker’s in that it is a tale of redemption.

During high school, Lauer was once ranked as high as sixth in national recruiting rankings for his class. He then attended Florida State, where he captained the golf team as a senior in 2009-2010 and helped the Seminoles finish third at the NCAA Championships. But after that, Lauer struggled.

He fell short during the final stage of qualifying school — when it was for the PGA Tour, not the Tour — then spent years playing Tour Monday qualifiers and mini-tours. A two-year stint on the Mackenzie Tour ended in 2016, and Lauer has been out of the professional game since.

He received a special exemption into the Suncoast Classic. 

9 — Boo Weekley

9. Former PGA Tour player Boo Weekley is playing on his first tour since 2017 because of tendinitis. Photo courtesy PGA Tour Media.

Weekley, the Milton native, has three PGA Tour wins to his name, the most recent of which came in 2013 at the Crowne Plaza Invitational (14 under par) at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas.

Weekley, 45, has not played professional golf since 2017 because of tendinitis. The Tour is his way to get back to the top ranks. If the man who takes his nickname from Yogi Bear’s sidekick Boo Boo is going to get there, a strong showing at the Suncoast Classic would be a big help.

10 — Maverick McNealy

10. Maverick McNealy, son of Sun Microsystems co-founder Scott McNealy, was once the top-ranked amateur golfer in the world. Photo courtesy PGA Tour Media.

As recently as May 2017, McNealy, son of Sun Microsystems co-founder Scott McNealy, topped the World Amateur Golf Ranking while at Stanford. He won the 2015 Haskins Award and the 2017 Ben Hogan Award (best college player, per the Golf Coaches Association of America).

Now 22, McNealy is a professional, looking to earn his way onto the PGA Tour. In his rookie 2018 season, he finished 65th on the money list ($84,261) and made the cut in 12 of his 18 tournaments. The Portola Valley, Calif., native will look to continue his rise in 2019. 

I’m the sports reporter for Sarasota and East County and a Missouri School of Journalism graduate. I was born and raised in Olney, MD. My biggest inspirations are Wright Thompson and Alex Ovechkin. My strongest belief is that mint chip ice cream is unbeatable.

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