Martin shooting for the PGA Tour

TODD SAELHOF -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 1:14 PM ET

The difference between golfers on the Nationwide Tour and the PGA Tour can be a single stroke. Take for example Wes Martin -- a local playing in the Nationwide Tour's 2004 Alberta Classic later this month -- who's just a shot or two from qualifying for the PGA Tour.

The 31-year-old Calgarian -- a regular turn on the Nationwide Tour, which is considered the farm league for the PGA -- is eager to make it to the next level.

"It's something I feel I deserve," said Martin, a part-timer on the Nationwide and Canadian tours.

Martin will get some help for the $450,000 US Alberta Classic, one of 31 events on the Nationwide Tour.

He has accepted one of two sponsors' exemptions for the Aug. 19-22 tournament at Redwood Meadows Golf & Country Club near Bragg Creek, meaning he won't have to qualify for the second annual Calgary-hosted event.

Last year's Alberta Classic was held at The Links of GlenEagles in Cochrane, where Martin posted a 12th-place finish in one of his three Nationwide Tour appearances.

"I'm excited, especially playing on the home course," said Martin, a member at Redwood Meadows. "I feel a lot of pressure with all the people I know cheering me on. It's a little nerve-racking."

But the advantage of knowing the track, a big-hitter's course at 7,000-plus yards, should give him an edge. Despite having golfed less than he'd have liked this season -- including just eight events on the Canadian Tour -- Martin has spent time preparing for the Alberta Classic, especially for the extra length added to four of the course's holes.

"I was a little concerned about the course playing easy," Martin said. "But now the rough is treacherous and the greens are amazing. The fairways are firm, so balls are hitting and rolling through doglegs into the rough. And if you're in the rough all day, you're not going to put your approach shot exactly where you want.

"The greens have subtle breaks and have quite a few slopes and they're so big, you could have 30-, 40-footers all day.

"You gotta hit the fairways -- that is the key."

It'll be the key for everyone, including all those who attempt to shoot low in the qualifying round for the Alberta Classic at Canmore's Stewart Creek Golf Club Aug. 16. It's there other budding locals, such as Mike Mezei and Wes Heffernan, are expected to try and make the grade.

And the Nationwide field is certainly worth cracking.

Tour alumni have gone on to win 150 PGA Tour events -- highlighted by 13 this season -- along with 10 majors.

The alumni list includes stars such as John Daly, Ernie Els, David Toms, David Duval and Calgary's Stephen Ames.

"It's tremendous that it's back in the Calgary are for a second straight year," aid George Morrison, president of Leap Sports Inc., which holds the franchise rights for PGA events in the Calgary area.

"It's the second most prominent tour in (men's) golf and the end of the season, the top-20 money winners on the Nationwide Tour will earn promotions to the PGA Tour for the following season. So the challenge for Calgary is to come out and enjoy the future stars of the PGA Tour."

Like Martin. Or so he hopes.


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