Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Pga Feeder System Producing Big Talent

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Pga Feeder System Producing Big Talent

Article excerpt

Tom Lehman admits that were it not for the Ben Hogan Tour, he might not be one of the biggest success stories on the PGA Tour this year.

Lehman, second on the PGA Tour money list, was 1991 Ben Hogan Tour Player of the Year.

"Winning the Hogan Tour in '91 carried over to the regular tour," Lehman said. "I've been playing without fear for the first time in my life."

Lehman in the 1980s took several short and undistinguished stabs at the PGA Tour. His game didn't hold up. He got it in his head that he couldn't do it. Just when it appeared that he might make a move, the bottom would fall out.

A productive 1990 PGA Tour Qualifying School helped him to steady his nerves and improve his outlook. The 1991 Hogan Tour gave him the impetus he needed for a final all-out assault on the PGA Tour.

This time, his game held up. Several top 10 finishes in 1992 resulted in sizable checks and an improved psyche.

His first PGA Tour victory, the Memorial Tournament, came this year. He finished second in the Masters to Jose Maria Olazabal.

Lehman, 35, has earned more this year than in all of his years combined. He credits the Nike Tour for being there when he needed it. "I'm grateful for the opportunity it provided," he said.

He demonstrated that gratitude by appearing at Lake Forest Country Club during Gateway Classic Media Day on June 6. He conducted a clinic, gave playing tips and answered questions.

"It's the least I can do, given what the Nike Tour did for me," he said.

The Hogan Tour began in 1990 as the forerunner of the Nike Tour. Nike assumed sponsorship in 1992.

The tour's primary purpose is to serve as a feeder system to the PGA Tour. Basically, it gives young players a chance to hone their skills and play numerous courses under all conditions in a competitive tour setting.

Deane Beman, recently retired PGA Tour Commissioner, was a catalyst. He foresaw the future of the main tour being solidified by the success of the Hogan Tour.

"It's a collaborative effort between the PGA Tour, the Nike Tour, the PGA of America and its 41 sections and local civic organizations," Beman said. …

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