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  • Returning to the PGA
      Seconds after helping to present Bud Cauley the championship trophy at the Hotel Fitness Championship, Rich Beem, the winner of the 2002 PGA Championship, had this to say:
  • Playoff is averted when putt misses
      It all came down to a 10-foot putt on the 18th hole at Sycamore Hills Golf Club on Sunday, in the final round of the Hotel Fitness Championship.
  • Bud Cauley wins Hotel Fitness Championship to earn PGA Tour card
    Seconds after helping to present Bud Cauley the championship trophy at the Hotel Fitness Championship, Rich Beem, the winner of the 2002 PGA Championship, had this to say:
If you go
What: Hotel Fitness Championship, part of the Tour
Where: Sycamore Hills Golf Club, designed by Jack Nicklaus, opened for play in 1989. Par 72, 7,275 yards.
Schedule: Today, Pro-Am; Championship Thursday through Sunday
Tickets: At gate, $15 practice round, $25 championship round, $70 weekly grounds ticket, 16 and younger free with ticketed adults
TV coverage: Golf Channel
Purse: $1 million with $180,000 to winner
Field: Approximately 144 players, Top 75 on Tour money list, Nos. 126-200 on PGA Tour’s FedExCup points list
Importance: The top 25 players on Tour get PGA Tour cards for 2014. Another 25 will secure cards via the four-tournament Tour Finals that start in Fort Wayne
More information:
Stiles on Hotel Fitness Championship

PGA Tour player Darron Stiles discusses the Tour Finals, which begin with the Hotel Fitness Championship at Sycamore Hills Golf Club.

Photos by Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
Golfers and caddies chat on the putting green during Tuesday’s practice round for the Hotel Fitness Championship at Sycamore Hills Golf Club.
Hotel fitness championship

New format brings pressure

Indiana graduate Steve Wheatcroft of Jacksonville, Fla., watches his putt stop short on No. 16 during Tuesday’s practice round.

– Darron Stiles was one of the players involved in the process of determining the new format of qualification for the PGA Tour.

So, of course, he would boast that the excitement in and around the Hotel Fitness Championship at Sycamore Hills Golf Club is a good thing.

But Stiles also has to play in the new Tour Finals, which begin Thursday at Sycamore Hills, so he knows the pressure involved for participants who want to be in the big leagues for 2014.

“I kind of voted for this and was part of the process,” Stiles said. “It’s been good so far and it will be good to see how it goes through this first year. If there are any changes that need to be made, I’m sure they will be made. I like the way it’s setting up to be.”

Before this year, players who wanted to make it to the PGA Tour, full-time, had two ways to do so: Finish in the top 25 on the Tour or get one of the 25 cards available through qualification school.

Citing the importance of getting experience on the Tour, since the rigors of being a professional golfer can be difficult, the procedure was changed and the Finals were created for this year.

The top 25 players on the Tour still get cards, but another 25 get them by performing well in the four-tournament Finals. Positioning of all 50 cards will also be determined through the Finals.

Eligible for the Finals are the top 75 players on the Tour and Nos. 126 through 200 in the PGA Tour’s FedExCup standings.

Stiles is No. 188 there, having played in 20 PGA Tour events this year, finishing in the top 25 twice and earning $184,866.

On the surface it may seem a player of his caliber – he’s been a pro since 1995 – would be able to do just fine against less experienced players in the Finals.

But imagine the pressure of not doing well and being relegated back to the Tour, where Stiles has played 287 tournaments and won five times.

“That’s one of the excitement factors because it is such a great mix of players from both Tours. It can only get better from where it is right now,” said Stiles, 40, who has more than $1.6 million in career earnings on the PGA Tour and more than $1.8 million on the Tour.

Today, there will be a Pro-Am at Sycamore Hills, benefiting the Chick Evans Scholars, and then there will be four days of championship golf at Jack Nicklaus-designed Sycamore Hills. The winner of the Hotel Fitness Championship will pocket $180,000 of the $1-million purse.

“There are large purses and everyone is excited about that,” said Mark Anderson, one of the top players on the Tour this season. “And then the playoffs add a little bit more. A lot is on the line for the next four weeks and this is a good way to get it kicked off.”

Not many of the players had seen Sycamore Hills before this week, though Stiles played in a Mad Anthonys charity Pro-Am there roughly 10 years ago.

“This course is definitely the caliber of doing this (type of tournament),” he said. “There are several good golf holes on which you just have to step up and hit it well just to be in the right position. And then you have to hit another good golf shot to be in the green. It will be a really good test for this tournament.”