Wichita Open nabs young stars

Three of the Nationwide Tour's young, rising stars have committed to play in the Preferred Health Systems Wichita Open, which begins Aug. 5 at Crestview Country Club.

Chris Kirk, Kevin Chappell and Jamie Lovemark — the top three players on the current Nationwide current money list — will be part of the 156-player field for the 21st annual tournament on Crestview's North course. Tournament director Roy Turner said a tour official confirmed the trio's plans to him on Monday.

"These are the type of players that the tour is made for," Turner said at a news conference to promote the tournament. "We couldn't be more thrilled to have them."

Golfers will compete for $575,000 in prize money — most in tournament history — in the four-day event, the 18th of 29 stops on the 2010 Nationwide Tour. The winner will receive $103,500, also a tournament record.

Kirk and Chappell missed the cut in last year's Wichita Open, but both are well on their way to capturing PGA Tour cards for next season. Kirk, 25, leads the tour in season earnings with $267,769 after following two second-place finishes with a victory in Fort Smith Classic. The former University of Georgia standout won the Ben Hogan Award for his collegiate and amateur achievements in 2007.

Chappell, 24, won the Fresh Express Classic in April and is $421 behind Kirk in season earnings. He opened last week's Ford Wayne Gretzky Classic with rounds of 61 and 63 before settling for third place, his fourth top-five finish of the year.

Lovemark, 22, won the NCAA individual title as a Southern Cal freshman three years ago. He earned his first professional victory at the Mexico Open Bicentenary on June 27, but his resume also includes a runner-up finish at last year's Open on the PGA Tour.

Those who want to witness the young stars will have new viewing options for the tournament. A $12 daily grounds pass includes three complimentary beverages and access to new hospitality viewing areas on the seventh and 17th holes that are similar to the corporate viewing boxes the tournament has used in past years.

"Right or wrong, we've always catered to the hospitality boxes above everything else," Turner said. "I wanted to find a vehicle that Joe Public could come in and enjoy the tournament the same way."