It sounded like a nice gimmick three years ago when the brass at the PGA Tour/Nationwide Tour decided to extend invitations to all first-team All-Americans into the Nationwide Tour Childrens Hospital Invitational, a new tournament that would be held at Ohio State's Scarlet Course in Columbus, Ohio. But with Oklahoma State's Rickie Fowler nearly winning the event this past weekend (he fell in a playoff to Derek Lamely) after Daniel Summerhays won the title in 2007 as an amateur, the reward has become a win-win for the tour and for the top college players in the country. (Oklahoma State's Morgan Hoffmann also grabbed a top-10, with Washington's Nick Taylor finishing T-34.)
Seriously, the exemption has created a lot of buzz to see how some of the top college players contend in pro events like this. The incentive for the college players is obvious ... the spot in the field isn't just a token gesture but a serious way for a golfer to show just where he stands in the golf hierarchy.
The best thing of all for college golf is it shows how good these top players are and how close their games are to the pro level.
With the success we've seen from the college players at the Columbus event, it's not time for the brass at the PGA Tour/Nationwide Tour to consider offering these same first-team All-Americans some type of exemption through the first stage of qualifying at PGA Tour Q school. I'm not saying these players should be handed cards, but at least make the process a little less cumbersome. It would be another great incentive for the college players to do well during the season and earn first-team All-American honors.