Western Refining Classic brings top talent to El Paso

EL PASO, Texas – As the Western Refining College All-America Golf Classic celebrates its 40th playing, the tournament takes a few steps forward on the calendar. The Western Refining traditionally has been played days before Thanksgiving, but this fall was bumped to early in the month. The event will be played Nov. 8-9 at El Paso Country Club.

The calendar bump was made to satisfy an NCAA regulation. The Western Refining now is included in the playing and practice season, for which each school is allotted 144 days to be divided between the fall and spring seasons, rather than falling during the offseason.

From tournament chairman Gary Hanson’s perspective, that’s a positive for the field. It allows competitors to be in prime playing condition.

“This is our 40th anniversary and we weren’t sure, moving the dates up three weeks, what kind of impact that would have,” Hanson said. “Overall we’re pretty pleased with how that works out. … By having the tournament itself on Saturday and Sunday, we think we’re going to have a lot larger crowd of local people to come out and watch the golfers.”

The Western Refining, which has a limited 20-player field, has a rich history of champions that includes Davis Love III (1984), David Duval (1991), Tiger Woods (1995) and Matt Kuchar (1999). New Mexico senior Gavin Green won in 2013 and returns this year to defend the title.

The top-ranked player in the field is Alabama sophomore Robby Shelton. Shelton, who was college golf’s freshman of the year last season, is ranked No. 5 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Ranking. Green is ranked 13th.

Tournament festivities kicked off today with a long drive competition and a putting contest followed by a practice round. SMU’s Bryson Dechambeau won the long drive contest in a playoff over Green. The duo each hit shots of 341 yards forcing the playoff where Dechambeau won with a 348-yard blast. UCLA’s Jonathan Garrick won the putting competition. Green finished tied for second in the putting contest as well.

The 54-hole tournament begins Nov. 8 with a 36-hole day. Hanson is looking forward to the tournament grooving itself into its new, earlier date.

“I think we’ve got nowhere but up to go from here,” he said.

Click here for first- and second-round pairings and tee times

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