Even the most optimistic person couldn’t have foreseen the success the Web.com Tour would have when it kicked off its inaugural season on Thursday, Feb. 2, 1990 at 7:30 a.m. PST at Bakersfield Country Club in Bakersfield, Calif.
The Web.com Tour began under corporate sponsorship of the Ben Hogan Company as the Ben Hogan Tour. The idea of former PGA TOUR Commissioner Deane R. Beman, the Web.com Tour was designed as a proving ground for up-and coming golfers, as well as a place for PGA TOUR veterans to hone their skills as they prepared for the Champions Tour. It has become so much more than that.
For the first two years of the Tour, the top-five money winners were awarded PGA TOUR membership. Beginning in 1992, the PGA TOUR Policy Board voted that, due to the success graduating players were having on the PGA TOUR, the number of cards available would be increased to 10; and in 1997 the number was increased to 15. In 2003, 20 players earned their 2004 TOUR cards, with it growing to 25 in 2007 and reaching all 50 available PGA TOUR cards in 2013.
That first event in 1990 was won by Mike Springer, who went on to win two more times that year and finish fourth on the money list. He was joined in the first graduating class by Jim McGovern, Dick Mast, Ed Humenik and Jeff Maggert, who was leading money winner and Player of the Year.
However, the player who made the biggest impact on the PGA TOUR from the 1990 Tour was John Daly, winner of the only Ben Hogan Tour Qualifying Tournament. Daly won the 1991 PGA Championship as a rookie and went on to finish 17th on the PGA TOUR money list. Since then, he has added four more victories, including another major championship, the 1995 The Open Championship.
Tom Lehman first established himself as a top-flight player on the Tour in 1991. After two nondescript years on the PGA TOUR in the early 1980s, Lehman won a tournament on Tour in 1990. But 1991 was the breakthrough season in his comeback. He won three times and was the circuit’s leading money-winner.
Californian John Flannery was the Player of the Year in 1992, winning three times and leading the Tour in earnings with $164,114.
On August 26, 1992 Nike, Inc., took over sponsorship of the Tour, beginning with the 1993 season. Sean Murphy was the star that year, setting records for wins in a season with four, career victories with five, and single-season earnings with $166,293. He added a sixth title in 1995.
While Murphy was busy setting records, his fellow Tour alumni were busy making names for themselves on the PGA TOUR. Daly collected his second career win in the 1992 B.C. Open, and others were beginning to earn their own hardware. McGovern, Mike Standly and Maggert all collected PGA TOUR titles in 1993, while Springer and Greg Kraft grabbed unofficial wins. The Tour Championship also was established in 1993 as a climax to the season. Rookie David Duval won the first Tour Championship, which featured only the year’s top-50 money winners.
In 1994, Chris Perry showed that consistency has its own rewards. Although six players collected multiple victories that year, Perry’s lone title in the Utah Classic, 10 top-10 finishes and no missed cuts earned him Player of the Year honors. He set a single-season earnings record with $167,148.
There were a number of firsts in 1994. In June, Tommy Armour III became the first player to win back-to-back tournaments—the Miami Valley Open and Cleveland Open. During the second round of the 1994 Shreveport Open, Omar Uresti set a record with nine consecutive birdies, setting a standard not only for the Web.com Tour but the PGA TOUR, Champions Tour and European Tour.
In May, Vic Wilk became the first left-hander to win an event, the Knoxville Open. Jerry Kelly continued the trend of the leading money-winner setting an earnings record in 1995 when he collected $188,878 to better Perry’s year-old mark. Besides winning twice, Kelly posted 15 top-10 finishes.
Stewart Cink was the top story in 1996. The 1995 College Player of the Year became the first player in Web.com Tour history to earn more than $200,000 in a single season with $251,699. He won three times, including the season-ending Tour Championship, and collected 14 top-10 finishes in only 21 events.
The 1997 season marked the first year of the three-win promotion, which grants immediate PGA TOUR access to any player who wins three Web.com Tour events in a season. Chris Smith was the first to do so winning that year’s Upstate Classic as well as the Dakota Dunes Open and Omaha Classic in back-to-back weeks.
In October, Steve Flesch joined Wilk as the only left-handed champions. Flesch won the season-ending Tour Championship. That victory vaulted him from 24th on the money list to fourth, earning him 1998 PGA TOUR membership.
The 1998 season saw more of the kind of action for which the Web.com Tour has become known. During a three-week period late in the spring, Notah Begay III and Doug Dunakey caught the attention of the golf world when each posted 59. Begay’s 13-under-par 59 came in the second round of the Dominion Open. Dunakey could have had the record all to himself were it not for a three-putt bogey on his final hole.
Bob Burns was named 1998 Player of the Year after leading in earnings with $178,664 and winning the Dominion Open and Tour Championship.
The 1999 season saw Carl Paulson establish a new record for consecutive starts with 83. The 83rd was particularly significant as Paulson recorded his first-ever Web.com Tour victory at the Utah Classic. That win, and another two weeks later in Boise, Idaho, vaulted Paulson to the top of the money list. His peers would later vote him Player of the Year. Seven players won twice on the Tour in 1999, and a record 22 earned more than $100,000.
The season-ending Tour Championship featured a thrilling finale at the Robert Trent Jones Trail Highland Oaks Golf Club in Dothan, AL. Bob Heintz won his second event of the season defeating Marco Dawson in a playoff to take home the largest check in Tour history—$72,000.
In late October, internet superstore Buy.com was announced as the new umbrella sponsor of the Tour. With Buy.com’s financial commitment, purses rose to a record $13.1 million in 2000, with the minimum purse jumping from $225,000 to $400,000. On the course, the 2000 season saw Spike McRoy earn Player of the Year honors after winning twice and earning a record $300,638. He was one of 53 players to earn $100,000 or more.
Tim Clark made history of his own in 2000 when he collected the first $100,000 payday on Tour by winning the Boise Open. The 2000 season was also notable for the emergence of international players who captured nine titles and claimed four of the top-15 spots on the money list.
The 2001 season was memorable when, for the second time, three players earned three-win promotions in one season. Heath Slocum was the first to do so, followed by Chad Campbell and Pat Bates, who won back-to-back tournaments to end the year. Todd Barranger tied the scoring mark by winning the Dayton Open with a 26-under-par effort, while Campbell set a single-season earnings record with $394,552 to capture Player of the Year. He also finished second at the PGA TOUR ’s season-ending Southern Farm Bureau Classic.
In 2002, the Tour added tournaments in Australia and New Zealand for the first time. In addition, tournaments were allowed to sell individual title sponsorships for the first time. Patrick Moore won three times and was named Player of the Year. A record 12 players earned $200,000 or more, and alums continued to excel winning a single season record 21 times on the PGA TOUR .
The season ended on a high note with the announcement of a new umbrella sponsor in Nationwide Insurance. The five-year agreement would start with the 2003 season and coincided with an increase in PGA TOUR cards awarded to 20.
Carter became only the sixth player to earn a three-win promotion to the PGA TOUR, yet did not win Player of the Year. That honor went to Zach Johnson, who set a Tour record for earnings with $494,882. He had two wins and nine top-three finishes in 20 starts while setting a new Tour scoring record of 68.97.
Jimmy Walker was the 2004 Player of the Year and leading money winner, as well as one of five multiple winners during the season. Alums continued to excel, winning a record 22 PGA TOUR titles, while the Class of 2003 made history with five members winning on TOUR , with seven earning at least $1 million and eight finishing in the top 125.
In May, Daniel Chopra set a Tour record when he shot 30-under at the Henrico County Open. Tyler Williamson and Chris Nallen each fired 60s during the year, one shot off the Tour record.
Jason Gore was the lead story in 2005 when he captured the hearts of golf fans everywhere at the U.S. Open. He followed that performance with a record-setting three straight wins on the Web.com Tour and shot 59 in capturing the last one. He completed his season with a September victory on the PGA TOUR and was named Web.com Tour Player of the Year. Any other year, Troy Matteson would have walked off with that honor as he won twice, finished in the top 10 a dozen times and set a new single-season earnings record of $495,009.
|The 2006 season featured a slate of 31 tournaments and $17 million. Ken Duke and Johnson Wagner battled throughout the year for top honors, with Duke emerging as the leading money winner and Player of the Year.|
Five players won twice—Wagner, Tripp Isenhour, Craig Kanada, Brandt Snedeker and Kevin Stadler—with a record 10 players earning more than $300,000 and 22 collecting $200,000 or more.
The Class of 2005 made its mark on the PGA TOUR in 2006 with 12 of the 21 graduates finishing among the top 125 on the money list. Chris Couch, Eric Axley and Troy Matteson each won on TOUR . They were among eight 2005 graduates whose earnings exceeded $1 million.
On-course success was exceeded only by the good news that Nationwide and the PGA TOUR had reached a new five-year extension of Nationwide’s umbrella sponsorship of the Tour through 2012.
In 2007, the Tour played for a record $18 million in prize money and a record 25 PGA TOUR cards were awarded at season’s end. Australia’s Nick Flanagan earned a three-win promotion to the PGA TOUR in August and later earned Player of the Year honors. Richard Johnson won the season-ending Tour Championship at Barona Creek to capture the money title. Another Aussie, Jason Day, 19, became the youngest winner in Web.com Tour history when he won in Cleveland in July. Five of the top-seven money winners were international members, and eight players surpassed $300,000 in earnings. Brandt Snedeker, a 2006 graduate, was voted PGA TOUR Rookie of the Year. Zach Johnson, the 2003 Player of the Year, won the Masters.
The 2008 season featured record prize money of nearly $19 million. Brendon de Jonge of Zimbabwe earned Player of the Year honors. Matt Bettencourt finished the year with a flurry to capture the money title. Bettencourt and three other players, Jarrod Lyle, Scott Piercy and Colt Knost, won two events. The Tour added an event in Mexico and one in Canada featuring hockey legend Wayne Gretzky, and played its first two $1-million events, the Tour Players Cup in West Virginia and the Tour Championship.
The Web.com Tour celebrated its 20th year in 2009. Four cities, which have hosted tournaments every year since 1990 (Boise, Knoxville, Springfield and Wichita), were highlighted. Despite facing the most challenging economic time in decades, the Web.com Tour maintained a strong foundation, playing 29 tournaments—in the U.S. and in five countries abroad. Australian Michael Sim was the year’s headliner as he rewrote the Tour’s record book, earning a battlefield promotion to the PGA TOUR by August and pocketing $644,142. Alumni on the PGA TOUR racked up a record 23 titles, including majors by Lucas Glover (U.S. Open) and Cink (The Open Championship), upping the TOUR alumni win total to 260 at season’s end since the Tour’s inception.
An array of young talent led the charge in 2010, highlighted by 22-year-old Jamie Lovemark, who became the youngest player in Tour history to capture the money title. Thirteen of “The 25” graduates were age 27 or younger when they received their cards in October. The Tour visited a record six countries outside the U.S. over 29 events, making new stops in Bogota, Colombia, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and the PGA TOUR's home base of Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. The year also featured tournament celebrity hosts in Camilo Villegas, Jerry Rice, Wayne Gretzky, Anthony Munoz, Arnold Palmer, Chip Beck, Gary Williams and Jim Furyk. On the PGA TOUR, alumni added a then-record 28 TOUR titles in 2010, raising the total win count to 288. Furyk became the first Web.com Tour alumnus to win the FedExCup and second to be voted PGA TOUR Player of the Year by his peers.
In 2011, four players—J.J. Killeen, Ted Potter, Jr., Mathew Goggin and Jason Kokrak—won two times and finished 1-4, respectively, on the money list, with Killeen capturing Player of the Year honors. Two of the most memorable wins came when Steve Wheatcroft set a 72-hole scoring record (255/29-under) and won by a record 12 shots at the Melwood Prince George's County Open and two-time heart transplant recipient Erik Compton won his first Tour event, at the Mexico Open. The Midwest Classic near Kansas City joined the schedule of 26 events. On the PGA TOUR, a record 32 of 45 official events were won by Tour alumni, raising the total to 320 wins since 1990. The 32 wins included seven by six players who competed on the Web.com Tour in 2010, highlighted by two Keegan Bradley wins, which included the PGA Championship. Bill Haas became the second alumni in a row (Jim Furyk) to capture the FedExCup.
The 2012 season was a significant one both on and off the golf course. Casey Wittenberg won twice, captured the money title and was named Player of the Year. Four promising young players joined him in winning twice—Ben Kohles and Luke Guthrie, both 22, Shawn Stefani, 31, and Russell Henley, 23. Kohles and Guthrie were college students before turning pro in June and had no Web.com Tour status. On the PGA TOUR, three alumni won majors, Bubba Watson (Masters), Webb Simpson (U.S. Open) and Ernie Els (The Open Championship), while fellow alum, Matt Kuchar, captured THE PLAYERS. For the third year in a row, a former Web.com Tour player, Brandt Snedeker, claimed the FedExCup. In late June, Web.com came on board as the Tour’s new umbrella sponsor (through 2021), and a few weeks later the PGA TOUR announced that all 50 PGA TOUR cards would be awarded through the Web.com Tour, beginning in 2013, establishing the Web.com Tour as The Path to the PGA TOUR. The Tour added successful new events in Chile and Evansville, Ind., to the schedule. Bill Clinton became the first sitting or former President of the United States to attend a Web.com Tour event when he traveled to Bogota, Colombia, in February. The final class of 25 graduates was determined in dramatic fashion at the season-ending Web.com Tour Championship when a James Hahn up and down on the 72nd hole triggered a series of movements around the 25th spot, with Jim Herman the ultimate beneficiary. He grabbed the final spot by just $940. Justin Bolli won the tournament itself and also advanced to the PGA TOUR.
2013 was perhaps the most significant year in the history of this tour. The Web.com Tour became The Path to the PGA TOUR with all 50 available PGA TOUR cards awarded through it. The new TOUR qualifying structure also brought about a revamped schedule that featured 21 Regular Season events, followed by the season culminating four-event Web.com Tour Finals, which featured both Web.com Tour and PGA TOUR members. Season highlights included Michael Putnam capturing the Regular Season money title and being named Player of the Year and first-year member Chesson Hadley securing the Web.com Tour Championship, while earning the second most money in one year in Tour history, $535,432. With four top-five finishes, John Peterson would win the Finals money title. Putnam, Hadley, Ben Martin and Andy Svoboda finished the year with two victories a piece. Two players shot 59 in July - Will Wilcox at the Utah Championship and Russell Knox at the Albertsons Boise Open. Peter Malnati was a Monday qualifier in June who went on to win the News Sentinel Open in Knoxville and secure his PGA TOUR card. On the PGA TOUR, 2012 graduate Russell Henley won in his first start as a member, at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Beginning in 2013, the five leading money winners from PGA TOUR Latinoamérica and PGA TOUR Canada earned Web.com Tour playing privileges for the following season. In November, PGA TOUR China was announced, putting a similar arrangement in place beginning in 2014.
2014: The Web.com Tour celebrated its 25th season and highlighted events in Boise, Knoxville, Springfield, Mo. and Wichita that have been on the schedule all 25 years. For the second year, all 50 available PGA TOUR cards came through the Web.com Tour. Competitive highlights included Carlos Ortiz of Mexico becoming the first three-time winner since 2009. Adam Hadwin joined Ortiz as the season's only other multiple winner and captured the combined Regular Season and Finals' money list, with $529,792. Steven Alker outlasted Dawie van der Walt in an 11-hole playoff to match the longest overtime in TOUR history. Sebastian Cappelen of Denmark became the first Monday qualifier to win a tournament, the Air Capital Classic, since 2011. The 50th and final PGA TOUR card was settled by less than $32 on the final day of the season. Fellow players voted Ortiz as Player of the Year.
2015: Player of the Year Patton Kizzire led the money list for the final 16 weeks of the season to capture the combined Regular Season/Finals' money list, with $567,866, the second-most in Tour history. Coming off a Major Medical extension, Chez Reavie was the Finals' leading money winner, notching a victory and a runner-up in the four-event series. Their reward was exempt status on the PGA TOUR in 2015-16. Kizzire, Dawie van der Walt and Martin Piller were the Tour's multiple winners, each claiming two titles. The feel-good story of the year belonged to Rob Oppenheim, who fell from 24th to 26th in the final event of the Regular Season only to sneak in as the 25th Finals' card earner at the Web.com Tour Championship, by $101, when Lucas Glover bogeyed the 72nd hole, playing in the second-to-last group.
2016: Player of the Year Wesley Bryan earned the 11th Three-Victory Promotion in Web.com Tour history, thanks to wins at the Chitimacha Louisiana Open presented by NACHER, El Bosque Mexico Championship and Digital Ally Open. With $449,392 in earnings, he captured the combined Regular Season/Finals money list in his rookie season on Tour. Grayson Murray, courtesy of a win at the Nationwide Children's Hospital Championship, won the Web.comTour Finals money title. Both Bryan and Murray are fully exempt for the 2016-17 PGA TOUR season. At the Ellie Mae Classic at TPC Stonebrae, Germany's Stephen Jaeger posted a Tour-record 58 in the opening round on his way to winning the event with a record 30-under 250 total.
2017: Player of the Year Chesson Hadley, who returned to the Web.com Tour for one season after being named PGA TOUR Rookie of the Year in 2014, won two times in 2017. The former Puerto Rico Open champion won the LECOM Health Challenge and Albertsons Boise Open presented by Kraft Nabisco on the way to becoming the first player in history to win the Regular Season and Finals money lists. Hadley was one of three players to win two times during the 2017 season, joining the likes of Stephan Jaeger (BMW Charity Pro-Am presented by SYNNEX Corporation, Rust-Oleum Championship) and Brice Garnett (Utah Championship presented by Zions Bank, WinCo Foods Portland Open presented by Kraft-Heinz).