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Hotel Fitness Championship
When: Aug. 26-Sept. 1
Where: Sycamore Hills Golf Club
Tickets: Range from $10 for practice rounds to $115 for upgraded weekly ticket
The skinny: The Hotel Fitness Championship is the first of four tournaments constituting the Tour’s new post-regular season playoff. Each of the four tournaments carries a $1 million purse. The field will be composed of the top 75 golfers on the money list, plus Nos. 126-200 on the PGA Tour money list. At stake are 50 PGA Tour cards.
hotel fitness championship and PGA Tour golfer Mark Anderson talks about life on both tours

Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette golfers Mark Anderson, left, Will Wilcox and Kevin Kisner, answer questions at a news conference at Sycamore Hills Golf Club.

Stellar careers take root on

The magic in all this sits to the right of Billy Kratzert this breezy morning, as the rollout begins for the Hotel Fitness Championship at Sycamore Hills a month hence. Three young guys in three chairs, none of them exactly familiar. And yet …

And yet, tilt your head just right, squint just so, and what you see there is the hole card for every Tour event: Possibility. That, and a glimpse – fleeting, perhaps, but a glimpse nonetheless – of what could be the future.

So maybe that is just Mark Anderson, Will Wilcox and Kevin Kisner you see sitting there, names that don’t ring any bells just now. And maybe it’s not.

Maybe it’s the next John Daly, who, back when the world was young and the Tour was known as the Hogan Tour, wore out Orchard Ridge when the Hogan had a Fort Wayne stop. Or maybe it’s the next Bubba Watson, or the next Zach Johnson, or the next Matt Kuchar, Jim Furyk, Webb Simpson, Keegan Bradley – alumni all, and whose pictures adorned the sign that invited you into Sycamore Hills on Monday morning.

You could be in on the ground floor for the next of these guys, that sign implied. Oh, the possibility …

And then you went on in, and here were Kratzert, favorite son turned golf analyst, and tournament director Duke Butler from the Western Golf Association, and Tim Benton from the PGA, telling you that alums have won 17 majors and 350 PGA Tour tournament over the years. And here was Anderson, a blond, blue-eyed 27-year-old from Beaufort, S.C., saying of course he saw those photos as he walked in, and of course he hopes to see himself among them someday.

“That’s your goal, to get back on that poster and move back on up,” said Anderson, who graduated from in 2011 but, like a lot of PGA Tour pros, still moves back and forth between the two tours.

“I know what it takes,” he says.

So does Wilcox, a Birmingham, Ala., native who turned pro in 2009 and is seventh on the money list. So does Kisner, a Georgia alum who turned pro in 2006 and has played in 48 PGA and 51 events.

“When I came back to the, my first goal was to win again,” Kisner said Monday. “I think winning on this tour just breeds confidence to propel you back to the PGA Tour. But every time you win it puts you in a better position once you get on the PGA Tour to have a chance to win out there. You know you’ve done it against some of the greatest players in the world on the Tour.”

And not just that anymore, of course. Sycamore Hills is not the site of any old event, after all; it’s the site of the first championship in a series of four as the Tour introduces a FedEx-style playoff, with a $1 million purse riding on each stop.

That makes the Hotel Fitness Championship both the biggest golf event in the state this year, and one almighty coup for a course and a city that’s scored a few lately. “It’s really a new era for the Tour,” says Benton, who explains that the top 75 money winners and Nos. 125-200 on the PGA Tour will be on hand for the Hotel Fitness event. “We’re excited to be coming here. The players are excited.”

If only for those million-dollar purses.

“We don’t play for (those) out here,” Anderson says. “I think that excites everybody. A lot’s on the line.”

“It’s really important to keep the pedal down now,” Wilcox agrees.

And let the the possibility, and the magic that comes with it, roll.

Ben Smith has been covering sports in Fort Wayne since 1986. His columns appear four times a week. He can be reached by email at; phone, 461-8736; or fax 461-8648.