FINDLEY LAKE, N.Y. - Guillermo Pereira's season has been on the upswing for more than a month now, including a tie for third at last week's Nashville Golf Open.
So Pereira probably doesn't need another advantage going into this week's Web.com Tour stop at Peek'n Peak Resort. He
See Golf, C2
might have discovered one anyway - a comfort level with a course and a setting he says reminds him a lot of home.
Periera, a 22-year-old from Santiago, Chile, says western New York's topography, and the ski slopes cascading away from the Peak's Upper Course, are similar to the area where he grew up playing golf before attending college at Texas Tech.
Lately, though, he's felt comfortable wherever he's played. His season-best finish at Nashville came on the heels of a tie for 11th at the Lincoln Land Charity Championship in Springfield, Illinois. The surge began with a tie for 44th at the BMW Charity Pro-Am, followed by a tie for 28th at the Rust-Oleum Championship and a tie for 15th at the Air Capital Classic in Wichita. Before that, he had missed four straight cuts from March through early May.
"I missed three of those cuts by one shot, so I felt like I was getting close," Pereira said Tuesday before a practice round at Peek'n Peak, where a field of 156 Web.com pros tees off Thursday in pursuit of a $600,000 purse and $108,000 winner's share in the second annual LECOM Health Challenge.
Pereira has posted scores in the 60s in nine of his past 12 rounds. His short game, generally a strength, has been on the upswing. He ranks sixth on tour in scrambling entering this week.
"I think I just relaxed a little and realized that missing some cuts isn't the end of the world," Pereira said. "The mentality is better."
While the top four players on the Web.com Tour's money list are skipping Peek'n Peak, plenty of firepower joins Pereira in the field.
Rhein Gibson lost in last year's playoff, and Kyle Thompson, Erik Barnes, Sebastian Cappelen, Nate Lashley, Denny McCarthy and Adam Svensson posted top-10 finishes at the Peak in 2016. Four others - Adam Wise, Adam Schenk, Andrew Yun and Conrad Shindler - join Thompson and Lashley among the tour's top-10 money winners this season.
"Four guys not playing just means four more guys that are playing," said Lashley, who has a win in Punta Cana among three top-10 finishes this season and ranks eighth on the money list. "Really, anybody out here has a chance to win any given week."
Gibson, like Pereira, is just inside the top 50 on the money list. That puts him within striking distance of The 25 and a shot at PGA Tour status with a strong run this summer. The 31-year-old Australian got hot early last year at Peek'n Peak. An opening-round 8-under 64 was the first of four rounds in the 60s that got him into a four-man playoff eventually won by Rick Lamb.
"It's exciting to be back," said Gibson, who played in 20 PGA Tour events last year and failed to retain his status. "My game's progressing. I think everything's getting a little better every week. I'm putting in the time on the driving range and the putting green and starting to see some results."
Another player to watch this week is Lanto Griffin, who on Sunday posted his first Web.com Tour victory in Nashville and arrived at the Peak with soaring confidence.
"I've heard really good things about the golf course," said Griffin, who withdrew from last year's LECOM Health Challenge Monday qualifier after a rough start and hadn't played the Upper Course until this week.
"I did watch it on TV, the whole playoff, the 18th hole," he said. "All the guys I've talked to said it was one of the better courses we play, that it's really fair. Part of me wanted to take this week off, because it's my fifth tournament in a row, but I've heard the golf course is good, it's on TV, and I didn't want to miss it."
Other familiar names in the field include 48-year-old Rochester, New York, pro Dudley Hart; 47-year-old Alabamian Dicky Pride; and 22-year-old former teen phenom Beau Hossler.
Hart has two PGA Tour wins, two top-10s in major championships and more than $12.6 million in career earnings. Pride has won $5.6 million in 457 PGA Tour starts, including a victory at the 1994 FedEx St. Jude Classic.
Hossler finished in a tie for 29th at the 2012 U.S. Open at Olympic Club when he was a 17-year-old amateur. He turned pro last year.
John Dudley can be reached at 870-1677 or by email. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/ETNdudley.
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