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Pinnacle Bank Championship: As tournament approaches, Korn Ferry Tour enters crunch time

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Pinnacle Bank Championship: As tournament approaches, Korn Ferry Tour enters the homestretch

With time running out, many of the golfers on the Korn Ferry Tour are fighting to keep their spots for next season as the Pinnacle Bank Championship begins Thursday.

Time is getting short on the Korn Ferry Tour when it comes to Omaha for the Pinnacle Bank Championship.

Only four tournaments remain in the regular season before the newly-named golf tour — it was the Tour until June — reaches its playoffs.

Most of the 156 golfers starting the PBC on an expected blazing-hot Thursday at Indian Creek are aimed at one of three targets: No. 1, No. 25 or No. 75.

The vast majority, including Nebraskans Scott Gutschewski of Omaha and Brandon Crick of McCook, seek to be among the top 75 on the new Korn Ferry points list that replaces money winnings for ranking tour members. No. 75 is the cutoff for being in the three-tournament playoffs and on next season’s Korn Ferry Tour.

Gutschewski, who’s on a medical exemption that will carry over until next season, is No. 109, and Crick is No. 151.

The next threshold, The 25, guarantees PGA Tour cards for the 2019-20 season for the top 25 in points. The tour projects the top 11 on the current list as assured of not getting bumped out in the next month. Among those is last week’s winner in Colorado, Nelson Ledesma from Argentina.

The final race is for No. 1 at season’s end, including the playoffs, which guarantees a full exemption on the 2019-20 PGA Tour and a spot in the Players Championship next March. Xinjun Zhang of China is the current leader, and Robby Shelton, a fourth-year pro from Alabama, is second.

Zhang and Shelton are the only double winners on tour this season. Yes, the three-win promotion to the PGA Tour for the remainder of this season and all of the next, is still offered. It’s happened in Omaha three times at the old Cox Classic, with Chris Smith in 1997, Heath Slocum in 2001 and Jason Gore in 2005.

Other Nebraskans in the field are sponsor exemptions Ryan Vermeer of Omaha and Luke Kluver of Norfolk. They are in the same threesome for the first two rounds.

Vermeer, the director of golf at Happy Hollow Club, received his spot after becoming the first from the Nebraska PGA in 60 years to make the cut in a PGA Championship. Kluver gained his sponsor’s exemption through Sunday’s win at the Indian Creek Invitational for amateurs. Both played in last last’s PBC, as did Gutschewski and Crick.

Only one past Omaha champion is entered: 2012 winner Ben Kohles. Defending champion David Skinns is awaiting the birth of his third son and withdrew on Sunday.

Former PGA Tour event winners in the field are Frank Lickliter, Mark Hensby, Derek Ernst, Ben Martin and John Merrick. Lickliter turns 50 a week from Sunday, becoming eligible for the Champions Tour.

Reporter - High school sports

Stu is The World-Herald's lead writer for high school sports and for golf. Follow him on Twitter @stuOWH. Phone: 402-444-1041.

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