Decision Pays Off For 2-Time USGA
Champ Knost; Earns '09 Tour CardNovember 10, 2008
By David Shefter, USGA
Many people criticized Colt Knost when the Texan decided to
forego an invitation to the 2008 Masters and exemptions to the '08
U.S. Open and British Open by turning pro after the 2007 Walker Cup
But Knost, who became just the second player in history to claim
the U.S. Amateur Public Links and U.S. Amateur titles in the same
year (Ryan Moore achieved the feat in 2004), stood steadfast to the
Having already graduated from Southern Methodist University and
achieving his goal of representing the USA in the Walker Cup at
Royal County Down in Northern Ireland, Knost, 23, felt ready to
start making a living, even if meant giving up the chance to play
Augusta National and Torrey Pines. To get those exemptions, Knost
would have had to remain amateur and put the professional tours on
hold for at least six months. He didn't want to wait that
While he failed to garner a 2008 PGA Tour card at Qualifying
School last fall, Knost managed to earn playing privileges on the
Nationwide Tour, where the top-25 finishers on the money list
automatically qualify for the PGA Tour the following season.
|Former U.S. Amateur champ Ricky Barnes was
on the right side of the Nationwide Tour money list in 2008.
With two victories and two other top-five showings, including
this past week's Nationwide Tour Championship in McKinney, Texas,
Knost placed sixth on the money list ($329,509) and will be among
the rookie class next year on the PGA Tour.
Knost joins four others with USGA ties - Ricky Barnes, Spencer
Levin, Bryce Molder and Casey Wittenberg - among the 25 players who
graduated from the 2008 Nationwide Tour to the PGA Tour. Only
Molder has previously owned a PGA Tour card.
"The first four months of the year I was second-guessed by
everybody and I didn't think it was fair," Knost told
The Associated Press
about his decision. "I proved I did the right thing for me. I
don't know what else I can do."
This past Sunday, Knost carded a final-round 65 at the TPC at
Craig Ranch to share third in the season-ending Nationwide Tour
Championship. It was his best finish since winning the Price Cutter
Charity Championship Presented by Dr. Pepper on July 20. In May,
Knost collected his first professional victory by claiming the Fort
Smith Classic in Arkansas.
Knost also played in four PGA Tour events in 2008 on sponsor's
exemptions, making the cut at the Mayakoba Golf Classic in Mexico
Two years ago, Barnes, the 2002 U.S. Amateur champion and a
member of the victorious '02 USA World Amateur Team, missed
qualifying for the PGA Tour by less than $1,000. But a final-round
71 on Sunday earned the Scottsdale, Ariz., resident a tie for 37th
and $5,000, good enough to collect the 25th and final PGA Tour
card. He was finally headed to the PGA Tour after four seasons on
the Nationwide circuit.
Barnes, who defeated current PGA Tour star Hunter Mahan in the
2002 Amateur final at Oakland Hills Country Club in Bloomfield
Hills, Mich., edged David Branshaw by $3,582 for the final
"In 2006, I was the odd man out," Barnes told
The Associated Press
. "I guess now I'm the odd man in. The breaks finally went my
Like Barnes, Molder seemed destined for stardom after a
decorated amateur that included two Walker Cup appearances (1999
and 2001) and one appearance in the World Amateur Team Championship
(2000) for the USA. In 2007, Molder earned a promotion to the PGA
Tour after finishing 22nd on the '06 Nationwide Tour money list,
only to make just seven of 21 cuts and finish with slightly more
than $250,000 in earnings.
Molder entered this week's Tour Championship ranked 32 nd on the
money list and looked to be heading to Qualifying School. But he
opened with rounds of 67-67-64 to share the 54-hole lead. But he
managed to survive bogeys at 16 and 17 with a par at 18 to shoot a
71 and move nine spots up to No. 23 on the money list.
"My hands were shaking on the final putt," said
Molder, a former All-American at Georgia Tech who now lives in
Scottsdale. "This is what we work for. I gave myself a chance
on the back nine Saturday and took advantage of it [on
Levin, a member of the 2004 USA World Amateur Team and the low
amateur at the 2004 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills, where he tied
for 13th, had two different seasons on tour this year. He started
by missing the cut in seven of his first nine starts, but then made
the cut in 17 of his last 19 events, including a third at the
Oregon Classic and a tie for fourth at the WNB Golf Classic. The
Elk Grove, Calif., native finished a spot ahead of Molder at No. 22
on the money list and will be a rookie on the PGA Tour in 2009.
Wittenberg, the runner-up at the 2003 U.S. Amateur to Nick
Flanagan at Oakmont (Pa.) Country Club and a member of the '03 USA
Walker Cup team, raised eyebrows by turning pro after his freshman
season at Oklahoma State in 2004. He toiled on various tour,
including the Hooters Tour, before earning status on the Nationwide
Tour for the 2008 season.
And despite not winning an event, Wittenberg still finished 15th
on the money list with $271,919 in earnings. He lost in a playoff
at the Ford Wayne Gretzky Classic in Canada to 2008 U.S. Open
qualifier Justin Hicks and was solo third at the Athens Regional
Foundation Classic in Georgia. The Memphis, Tenn., native also tied
for third at Bank of America Open in Chicago. In June he qualified
for the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, where he missed the cut with
rounds of 72-78.
He played in three other PGA Tour events in 2008, tying for
fourth at the PGA Tour's Viking Classic in Mississippi, earning
$148,800, and tying for 43rd at the Turning Stone Resort
Championship in Verona, N.Y.
Matt Bettencourt of Greenville, S.C., was the Nationwide Tour's
leading money winner with $447,035, edging Zimbabwe-born Brendon de
Jonge by just more than $10,000.
The full-field 2009 PGA Tour season begins in January with the
Sony Open of Hawaii.
David Shefter is a USGA Digital Media staff writer. E-mail him
with comments or questions at