KNOXVILLE, Tenn (WVLT/SUBMITTED) -- PGA tour professionals Scott Stallings, Hunter Haas and Garrett Willis, along with current Nationwide Tour golfers Kyle Thompson, B.J. Staten, Brent Delahoussaye and Keith Nolan, and NGA/Hooter’s Tour player David Holmes shared memories of exciting and well-played past Knoxville tournaments during this year’s Service Provider Group sponsored media day held at Ruth’s Chris Steak House.
The tournament will be played the week of August 22-28 at Fox Den Country Club.
Stallings is taking a scheduled week off after competing in this past weekend’s John Deere Classic. Stallings is happy to be in Knoxville to share his thoughts about his hometown Nationwide Tour event.
"I love playing in this tournament,” he said. “Not only do I hear and see many supporters when I play here, I also find that I seem to always play well here, which means a lot to me. In fact I’ve noticed that this Nationwide Tour stop always seems to bring out the best in all of us who’re out here grinding it out from week to week.”
Stallings shot an 8-under par 280 during last year’s News Sentinel Open, finishing tied for 42nd. Last year was the Oak Ridge High School alum’s first full season as a Nationwide Tour professional. Last year’s Knoxville performance started a streak that led to seven-of-nine Nationwide Tour cuts made. He then went on to secure his PGA TOUR card during Q-School this past December. He said his confidence began to swell after playing well in front of family and friends at Fox Den Country Club.
“I started to feel like I was ready for the challenges of the PGA TOUR after playing here in Knoxville last August,” Stallings added. “There’s a lot to be said about support and encouragement and I definitely felt that I received so much of it here. It helped me put together a nice stretch run at the end of last season.”
Since securing his PGA TOUR card, Stallings has totaled an impressive $653,546 on tour this season. The year’s highlight to this point came during the Transitions Championship in Palm Harbor, FL. Stallings vaulted into contention with a 5-under 66 in the third round, which featured a hole-in-one on the 8th hole (6-iron, 214 yards). He finished alone in third place earning a check for $374,000. Since the Transitions, Stallings has finished tied for 11th at the Valero Texas Open, tied for 20th at The Memorial presented by Nationwide Insurance, and tied for 25th at the FedEx St. Jude Classic. He is currently 89th in Fed Ex Cup points.
Two-time Knoxville Champion Hunter Haas (2004, 2006) knows what it takes to win at challenging Fox Den Country Club. Rounds of 67-66-67-69 led to a 19-under-par 269, five-stroke victory there in 2006. He outlasted Shane Bertsch and Justin Bolli in 2004, winning on the first playoff hole. Both wins earned him checks worth $85,500 each. Haas is one of only six players to win the same Nationwide Tour event twice.
“I’ve had great success here in Knoxville,” Haas said. “I always feel comfortable playing the course at Fox Den and expect not only myself but all of us to come out and play great. In fact I hear there’ve been challenging improvements to the course. Whenever there are challenging course upgrades, we're all for it.”
Haas played his way onto the PGA TOUR this year after finishing 3rd on the 2010 Nationwide Tour’s money list. His late season run included five top-five finishes with titles at the Albertsons Boise Open presented by Kraft and the Price Cutter Charity Championship Presented by Dr. Pepper.
The Knoxville News Sentinel is the 2011 title sponsor of one of the Nationwide Tour’s four original events that is still on the schedule. Knoxville is joined by Boise, Idaho, Springfield, Mo. and Wichita, Kan. in having hosted a Nationwide Tour event every year since 1990. Fox Den Country Club has been the host venue in Knoxville every year since 1999.
The Knoxville News Sentinel has entered into a partnership with Pilot to present the News Sentinel Open. The official name of the 2011 tournament will be the "News Sentinel Open presented by Pilot."
Last year the proceeds from every ticket sold to the public were donated directly to local nonprofit organizations. The News Sentinel Open generated more than $56,000 in 2010, which benefited the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Tennessee Valley, News Sentinel Empty Stocking Fund, The First Tee, University of Tennessee Partners in Sports and Sports Management Scholarship in honor of Buck Jones, Shriners Kerbela Temple, East Tennessee Children’s Hospital, UT Medical Center, Ronald McDonald House of Knoxville, Concord United Methodist Men and the Tennessee Society of the Sons of the American Revolution.
The Nationwide Tour has been a fixture on the Knoxville sports scene, welcoming the future stars of the PGA TOUR to East Tennessee every year since the tour’s inception in 1990. Past champions of the event who have gone on to capture PGA TOUR titles are Jeff Maggert (1990), Brian Henninger (1992), Tom Scherrer (1995), J.J. Henry (2000), Heath Slocum (2001), Vaughn Taylor (2003) and Chez Reavie (2007).
Last year’s News Sentinel Open was won by Knoxville-born Chris Kirk who finished at 20-under par (268), two shots ahead of Travis Bertoni. The win was Kirk’s second of the season (Fort Smith Classic).
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