The Price Cutter Charity Championship presented by Dr Pepper has awarded four exemptions into its PGA Web.com Tour event next week, Tournament Executive Director Jerald Andrews announced today.
The four players are all chasing their dreams, either through Monday qualifiers on the Web.com Tour or mini-tours. Receiving unrestricted exemptions are British Columbia’s Adam Cornelson and Georgia resident Jay McLuen. Restricted exemptions will go to Kentucky native Mark Blakefield and California native Kurt Kitayama.
Unrestricted exemptions are available to all players, including amateurs who have a USGA handicap of zero or less, according to the PGA Tour office. Effectively restricted exemptions are limited to Web.com Tour and PGA Tour players who are not otherwise exempt for the Price Cutter tournament.
The PCCC is scheduled for Aug. 11-14 at Highland Springs Country Club. For tickets or sponsorships, call 417-887-3400.
About each player:
Adam Cornelson will be making his Web.com Tour debut in the PCCC on unrestricted exemption. He turned pro in 2011 and is third on the Mackenzie Tour-PGA Tour Canada Order of Merit.
“It’s the first time I’ve ever had (an exemption),” Cornelson said. “It feels great. I was a little bit in shocked when I got asked.”
The British Columbia native and graduate of the University of New Orleans has had success this year. He won the Bayview Place Island Savings Open by Times Colonist on the Mackenzie Tour, firing a 20-under-par 260. He also played in the PGA’s Canadian Open.
“I’ve been out here a few years longer than I intended to be,” Cornelson said, referring to his time chasing the Web.com Tour and ultimately the PGA Tour. “But I’ve really gotten better. I started playing smaller tournaments, so everyone has their own path.”
Jay McLuen is a 35-year-old golfer still dreaming the dream. This year, he has received exemptions in two PGA Tour events – the BMW Classic near Greenville, S.C., and the Barracuda Championship in Reno, Nev., where he was tied for third after the first round and made the cut.
McLuen turned pro after his freshman year of college at the College of Charleston but soon detoured to become an assistant pro at a resort in Charleston, S.C. He then turned pro again after a few years and, in 2010, reached the finals of Q School, earning a PGA Tour card on a conditional basis.
He’s soldiered on during mini-tours and, since 2014, has built some momentum.
“If I get off to a great start … that’d be huge for Springfield to catapult me to a huge success story,” said McLuen, a dad to a 3-year-old daughter and 10-month-old son. “I’ve played on every single mini-tour you can think of. And I’ve been lucky to have a wife (Reye) who is supportive of me.”
The son of a golf course owner, McLuen in 2014 advanced to four Web.com Tour events (in eight tries) through Monday qualifiers, and his Reno performance offers hope.
“I know I can compete out there,” McLuen said. “I just feel like I need to fall in love with the pressure. There’s a different energy in a Tour event than a mini-tour event.”
Mark Blakefield, named Mr. Golf as a Kentucky high school senior in 1999 and part of the University of Kentucky’s 2005 Southeastern Conference championship team, almost Monday-qualified into the PCCC a few years ago.
He advanced into a four-way playoff at Rivercut Golf Course, only to finish No. 10 with a par while the other three golfers all birdied.
It’s been a challenging career for Blakefield, who has earned status off and on in recent years. But qualifying into Web.com Tour tournaments has been elusive.
That said, he has seen what it takes in past years and gained some momentum in February when he Monday-qualified into the PGA’s Honda Classic. In college, he was a teammate of J.B. Holmes, who in 2006 became the fastest to earn $1 million on the PGA Tour.
“It’s one of those things – you’ve got to get into tournaments and be able to do something with them,” Blakefield said. “I haven’t gotten into enough tournaments to have a fair enough chance. But I’m hoping I can get something out of the exemption in the Price Cutter and use it as a springboard.”
Kurt Kitayama, who turned pro in 2015 after a successful career at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, is in on a restricted exemption. He is currently 143rd on the Web.com Tour money list, and his best finish this year came last month as he tied for 13th in the Air Capital Classic presented by Aetna in Wichita, Kan.
“It means a whole lot,” Kitayama said. “It just gives me an opportunity to move up the money list. Anything can happen that week.”
Given he turned pro just a year ago, Kitayama emphasized that he still has much to learn about the game, right down to dealing with the intense travel schedule. The PCCC is a great example. He’ll arrive after playing in the Digital Alley Open in Overland Park, Kan.
“It gets hectic sometimes, but I’m learning a lot,” Kitayama said.