While watching the Byron Nelson Classic a familiar name popped up on the leader board — Sam Saunders. He shot a 66 and for a while was the first-round leader.
The casual golf fan is going to say: Who is Sam Saunders?
For me, it brought back memories of covering the Florida State High School golf tournament when Saunders, playing for Trinity Prep in Orlando, terrorized the field that included Bradenton Saint Stephens and Bradenton Christian. For others, it should be noted that he is Arnold Palmer’s grandson.
It has been a long journey for Saunders, who now has his PGA Tour card. It has been a journey that included playing on the West Florida Golf Tour. Saunders is one of 27 current and former PGA Tour players who once played on the WFGT to sharpen their games. Over 150 WFGT one-time members have sanctioned tour status on the PGA Tour, Web.com, PGA LatinoAmerica, PGA Tour Canada, PGA Tour China, European Tour, Champions Tour and Asian Tour.
The WFGT was started in 2010 in Sarasota and has paid out more than $4 million in prize money.
It has over 70 events per year, mostly in the Sarasota-Bradenton area. Its home facility is Moccasin Wallow Golf Club in Palmetto.
According to the tour organizers, the WFGT model has been successful because it is transparent with the players (they know where their money goes), consistent in every way possible (players know they are getting a professional product week in and week out), play the best conditioned courses and have a challenging schedule that players can utilize year round.
The tournaments range from one, two and three days.
Other recognizable PGA Tour members who played on the WFGT are Ted Potter Jr, Emiliano Grillo, John Huston, Gary
Woodland, Lee Janzen, Robert Gamez and many more.
After a short break following the spring season, the WFGT begins its summer season at Laurel Oak on May 21, followed by River Wilderness on May 29 and the Meadows Country Club on June 4.
Michael Visacki of Sarasota emerged from the winter schedule as the money leader with $16,427. Chris Kennedy of Lakewood Ranch is the WFGT’s career money leader with $106,260. Tour regular Sebastian Mark of North Port recently won the local U.S. Open qualifying at The Founders Club and will compete in the 36-hole sectional qualifying, the last stop before the 2018 Open.
Visit WFGT.com to view the complete tour schedule. The tournaments are free to the public and give golf fans a chance to see future stars.