It's been a real roller coaster ride for Matt Harmon since the former Michigan State golfer won the 2010 Buffalo Run Casino Classic.
After his victory here last June, Harmon failed to complete PGA qualifying school, but started the 2011 NGA/Hooters Tour season on an upbeat note before running into health problems.
"I am starting to get health again," said Harmon, who is one of 110 players in the field for the tournament that runs Wednesday through Saturday at Peoria Ridge Golf Course.
Doctors have diagnosed Harmon with Crohn's disease in May.
Also known as regional enteritis, Crohn's disease is an inflammatory disease of the intestines that may affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract. It causes a wide variety of symptoms.
"They did a bunch of tests and CAT scans and all the stuff you have to do in order to figure out what is going on," Harmon said. "Essentially, its being tired all the time, pretty moody. I had some real stomach pain. It was a pretty trying three months, trying to further your career and also be healthy at the same time."
Harmon said he's battled the ailment through a complete diet change.
"There is no medical cure for this," he said. "They can give you something that will mask it, but I would rather get better. From the people I have talked to, other than doctors, they say you can get through it through a straight diet."
With the diet change, which includes fruits, a lot of vegetables and farm-fresh meat (chicken, eggs and steak), he's had no symptoms for the last month.
"I have to travel with a giant cooler now and groceries are what I do on Mondays instead of running to the course to putt for a couple of hours," Harmon said. "It's a little more expensive, but it will all work out in the end for me."
His win here started a three-tournament run that saw him place first, tie for third at the Gold Strike Casino Classic and share eighth at the Chattahoochie Hospice Classic.
That helped Harmon finish as the tour's leading money winner in 2010 with $95,026.
Thus far this season, he's taken home $37,516 in 10 events. His best finish was a second at the Terry Moore Ford Open earlier in the season.
He had a T13 at the Woodcreek Classic Sponsored by Woodcreek Development in his last outing two weeks ago.
"Last year was a lot of fun," Harmon said. "I hope I can return that form."
His winning score of 25-under par 263 was the second lowest in tournament history.
"That 25-under par was the lowest I have ever had for four rounds and the second-round 62 was the lowest round I have ever shot in a tournament," Harmon said. "This would be a great time, especially with the Nationwide up for grabs this week."
The winner here receives an exemption for the Children's Hospital Classic next month in Chattanooga, Tenn.
Also, pros will be competing for a $200,000 guaranteed purse and 30 PGA Tour Q-School reimbursements.
Twelve of the top 20 money winners are entered in the event, including Brandon Brown and Jeff Corr, who are running 1-2. Corr won the tournament in 2008.
The tournament was pushed back to this week by the deadly tornado that ripped through Joplin in May.
Harmon said the Peoria Ridge layout plays different than it does in May.
"The wind is coming out of a different direction," he said at Monday's pairing party for the Tuesday pro-ams. "The holes that were easy last year were difficult today (during an afternoon practice round) and vice versa. It will be interesting to see which way the wind is going to blow this week during the event.
"The green are nice, probably soft from the rain this weekend. They are nice and smooth. Last year they were a little faster, but with the forecast we have (almost perfect late summer weather), they will be able to get them a little faster through the week. It will be a lot nicer not being 100 degrees."