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Spotlight shifts to other TPC Sawgrass course

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(Left to right) Nationwide Tour president Bill Calfee, Winn-Dixie president Peter Lynch, Jim Furyk and PGA TOUR commissioner Tim Finchem introduced the Winn-Dixie Jacksonville Open on Wednesday.
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Oct. 21, 2009
By Nick Zaccardi, PGATOUR.COM Site Producer

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- The Nationwide Tour is coming to TPC Sawgrass next October, but the Stadium Course, for a change, won't receive top billing.

The new Winn-Dixie Jacksonville Open will be played on TPC Sawgrass Dye's Valley Course, affectionately known as the "younger brother" of the more famous Stadium Course.

The Stadium Course is marveled annually at THE PLAYERS Championship. Many forget that another Pete Dye-design sits within a 10-minute walk from the island green at No. 17.

No longer will that be the case. Hosting a Nationwide Tour event will allow the Valley Course to get its own props.

"It's a great opportunity for the PGA TOUR to showcase the Dye's Valley Golf Course," said 1993 Nationwide Tour graduate Jim Furyk. "Obviously, we have the beautiful Stadium Course right behind us. The Valley Course doesn't get enough recognition. I think it's going to be a great way for us as a TOUR to showcase this golf course."

Furyk, a local resident, said he has played the Valley Course more often than the Stadium Course during some stretches.

The Valley Course opened in 1987, six years after its older brother, and hosted the Senior Players Championship from 1988-1990.

It has been without a professional Tour event since, but it hasn't been forgotten. When the Stadium Course underwent a facelift three years ago, the Valley Course also received a touch-up.

"It's been improved," PGA TOUR commissioner Tim Finchem said at Wednesday's announcement. "The players that live here play it. It's an outstanding, competitive challenge."

Nationwide also headed to Colombia
Along with Wednesday's announcement adding the Winn-Dixie Jacksonville Open, The Nationwide Tour is also venturing into new territory next year.
The other first-year Nationwide event will be in Bogota, Colombia, the Tour's first trip to South America. It'll be played after the Panama Digicel Championship in Central America in February.
"We're getting a little more aggressive in Latin America and looking at that market, especially with the Olympics now being announced in Brazil," Nationwide Tour president Bill Calfee said. "We're going to look a little further in the South American market."

The Nationwide Tour is giving a three-year commitment to the Winn-Dixie Jacksonville Open and a showcase spot on the schedule. It will either be the last or next-to-last tournament before the season-ending Nationwide Tour Championship.

That'll ensure a strong field and go-for-broke play by those trying to get in "THE 25" and earn PGA TOUR cards.

The Nationwide Tour has tried for years to bring an event at or near the PGA TOUR's headquarters, but until now couldn't get the timing right.

"Stars aligned," said Nationwide Tour president Bill Calfee, who worked unsuccessfully to organize a tournament in nearby Orange Park. "I always thought we ought to play a tournament here at our headquarters at home. Tim certainly was on board with that, bringing those players who are going to be the future stars to Ponte Vedra."

The Valley Course will need some adjustments. At 6,838 yards, it's much smaller than the Stadium Course -- and most courses on the Nationwide Tour schedule.

Two par-5s will likely be converted to par-4s to make the course a par-70, and the front and back nines will be reversed. That's the beginning of the changes.

"We have an opportunity to make a few tweaks to it," Calfee said. "We'll add a couple tees here or there. ... We might lengthen a couple holes."

Either way, the Valley Course is making a name for itself.

"It'll be a good event for our community, for the PGA TOUR itself, to showcase that golf course," Furyk said. "You know that it's going to have a strong field because it's the week before the Tour Championship. You're going to have a lot of guys with a lot on the line to make it an exciting event."

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