The Player$ Golf Tour comes to Teal Bend on Sunday.
The winners of the minimum $1,500 guaranteed first-place checks could: 1. Be on the PGA Tour in the near future. 2. Not break 100. 3. Both.
It’s that kind of tour. And JW Means III couldn’t be prouder.
Means co-founded the Player$ Golf Tour 15 years ago to honor and help grow the game. While other regional minitours come and go, their operators often take a big cut and/or the money invested by the competitors with them. This one has roots and low overhead. It also has gross and net divisions, which makes its lasting power all the more impressive when considering the nefarious behavior some will undertake when golf handicaps and money are intertwined.
The tour’s scratch players compete against each other, with the seniors getting a yardage break. The net players with handicaps up to 28 are divided into flights. Means says he has a proven method that safeguards against sandbagging.
“I had one guy play for seven years trying to beat the system,” he said. “We do the best we can to deter gamers and grifters. They don’t like me. I want people to be able to look in the mirror on their way out of the locker room and see who the problem was.”
Local pros Nick Podesta, Erick Justesen and Donnie Baucom are tour regulars. Means will be there Sunday. He’s 85 with “two artificial knees and 12 inches of steel in my back” and a 22 handicap.
I had one guy play for seven years trying to beat the system. We do the best we can to deter gamers and grifters. They don’t like me. I want people to be able to look in the mirror on their way out of the locker room and see who the problem was.
JW Means, co-founder of the Player$ Golf Tour
“I’m a horrible golfer, but I love to compete,” he said from a driving range in Reno, his home base.
The tournament entry fee is $425 ($300 for tour members). The field typically is split 50-50 between gross and net players. There are myriad side pots. Amateurs are allowed to play for money since it’s a private game, Means said, in which new players must be invited and sponsored by an established tour player.
Means relishes setting up each tournament venue.
“My job is make a player use all 14 clubs,” he said. “If they use their driver 14 times, they probably won’t cash very often.”
The tour averages two tournaments a month. All are in Northern California and Northern Nevada.
“It’s for people who love golf and love to compete,” Means said.
When life gives lemons, enterprising types make lemonade.
Lemons have rained down on Sacramento-area golf courses for months. At WildHawk, instead of wallowing in the muck, they made a par-3 course.
Superintendent Sam Samuelson came up with the idea, designed the short course and prepared teeing areas next to the cart path on patches of ground as flat and dry as possible. The 18 holes are between 110 and 180 yards.
More than 100 players have tried it since it debuted less than two weeks ago, general manager Paul Henderson said. The weekday rate is $22 with a cart, a significant reduction from the $48 full-course cost.
It won’t be around forever, however.
“Once the full course is all mown, we’ll take it out,” Henderson. “Early next week maybe.”
Health setback for Niger
El Dorado Hills’ Bob Niger has been diagnosed with an aggressive form of prostate cancer, putting his years-long quest to qualify for the Champions Tour on indefinite hold.
The cancer was detected during a routine physical. Doctors are still in the fact-finding stage, Niger said, so the cancer’s invasiveness has not been fully determined, leaving him in limbo.
Hormone treatment will be followed by radiation treatment, then chemotherapy lasting into the fall. Niger switched to a vegan diet three weeks ago and said he feels great.
“I’ll keep a positive attitude until such a time something tells me not to,” he said.
Niger, 56, was the Northern California Golf Association Player of the Year in 2006.
It’s been a rough 2016-17 PGA Tour season for Sacramento’s Spencer Levin.
In 13 tournaments (only Brian Stuard has played as many), Levin has made four cuts and earned $57,170 with his best finish 50th. He’s 180th on the money list and 190th in FedEx Cup points. He’s ranked 208th in all-around ball striking and 205th in fourth-round putting.
Levin has been fully exempt on the PGA Tour since 2010, earning more than $1 million in three seasons and more than $2 million in 2011.
50th Spencer Levin’s best finish in 13 tournaments in 2016-17
He’s played at least 30 tournaments in four seasons, so there’s time to turn things around.
▪ Austin Smotherman (Loomis) finished ninth in the season-opening PGA Tour Latin America tournament in Colombia. He earned $4,725. The top five in earnings at season’s end earn a place on the Web.com Tour.
▪ Peter Lansburgh (Sacramento), who had three top-10 finishes in four starts on the Dakotas Tour last year, is taking a swing at the Asian Development Tour. He tied for 15th in his first event in Malaysia. John Catlin (Gold River) is playing in the Asian for a third consecutive year.