Continuing to get more prize money and greater exposure are two of the goals NGA Hooters Tour chief Robin Waters is pushing for.
“We're continuing to explore ways to get more money into the purses and get more people involved in our marketing arm, Waters said Wednesday night during the awards banquet for the pro-am tournaments held earlier in the day.
The fifth annual Buffalo Run Casino Classic, which Waters considers one of the NGA Hooters Tour's top events, began today.
“We're continuing to build the credibility (of the tour), Waters said. “We're giving the players what we promised - the ability to develop and move on.
Ben Curtis, Chad Campbell and Zach Johnson have made the leap from the Hooters Tour to the PGA with almost instant success.
Curtis won the 2003 British Open while Campbell and Johnson have won the Tour Championship and Masters this season.
“In the past, we would lose eight, 10 or 12 players to the PGA or Nationwide. Last year, we lost 18 players who had qualified, Waters said. “The talent pool on our tour can play any day with anyone in the country.
Other Hooters Tour alumni include Shaun Micheel, Will MacKenzie, Jim Furyk, John Daly, Lee Janzen, Tom Lehman and David Toms.
Half of the 2006 Ryder Cup team were Hooters Tour alumni.
“Our dream is to partner with the PGA Tour in some form or fashion, Waters said. “Any opportunity we can have, that is our ultimate goal. That is these guys' dream. We are in the business of helping them to develop to fulfill that dream.
The Buffalo Run Casino Classic is the final stop on a tri-state swing that had stops at Bentonville/Rogers, Ark., and Joplin.
The tour will take a break throughout the month of July, then swing back into action the first week of August.
That meant cutting the schedule back from 21 events to 18. But there is a rhyme to the reason.
“The only reason we pulled back was I wanted to get our purses higher, Waters said. The total purse at each event this season is $200,000 with the winner getting $33,400.
“It basically was an economic shuffling of venues compared to purses, Waters said. “In our business, players want to know what they're going to get every week they go play. That is the No. 1 thing.
“In order for us to guarantee - guarantee' being the big word - $200,000 every week, we scaled it back to 18 events.
“We have exceeded the membership level we thought we would have. If we didn't have the players, we wouldn't be here. They are the greatest. Our chemistry with our players is awesome.
“This is probably among our top three events in the season - it's turnkey, Waters said. “The main thing is it's a compliment to Chief (John Froman), Annette (tournament coordinator Annette Black) and Steve (Buffalo Run general manager Steve Bashore) over here. They make the players feel special. That's all they want -to feel appreciated, respected.
The Buffalo Run Casino Classic continues through Sunday.
The field will be cut to the low 60 pros and ties following Friday's round.