07/14/2015 11:44AM

Fornatale: Tour players jockeying for first-half prizes

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In honor of Major League Baseball's All-Star Break, the NTRA has released an all-star list of its own for the NHC Tour. In baseball, fans and managers select players to compete in the all-star game based on their performances at the halfway point of the season. The NHC Tour shares a similair halfway mark to the big leagues -- so now is a sensible time to reflect on what's been happening throughout the year.

Unlike in MLB, the halfway mark of the Tour also comes with tangible prizes: The top five players as of the end of the first half all receive a $10,000 bonus. The cut-off point for the first-half is contests that start on or before July 31 -- meaning the presitgious Wynn contest, which spans July 31 and Aug. 1, will be included.

Note that there is a difference between the full-year Tour standings and the first-half standings. This is because only a player's four best scores are used for the first half, whereas six scores are used for the full year. In order to have the full amount of scores applied, at least one score must come from an onsite event.

Later in the week, once Tour standings are updated, we'll examine in detail the race for the top five spots, but for now, let's take a look at the NTRA-appointed all-stars.

Ryan Flanders (San Diego, Calif.) – Flanders, who made the Final Table in his first NHC appearance last year, is the current NHC Tour points leader and heading into last weekend he was third for the first-half standings. The 41-year-old has five top 10 finishes this season.

Jonathon Kinchen (Austin, Tex.) – Kinchen, who made headlines by advancing two entries to the NHC Final Table in his first NHC appearance last January, continued his hot play into this Tour season with two outright tournament victories on NHCQualify.com and seven top 10 finishes. At age 33, Kinchen is the youngest member of the NHC All-Star roster. Despite his amazing start, he is in danger of finishing outside of the top five for the first-half standings. He will need an on-site score to secure his position and win the $10,000.

Eric Moomey (Trenton, N.J.) – Last year’s NHC Tour champion has continued to excel this year with two outright victories on NHCQualify.com and five top 10 finishes. The 42-year-old U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel is a three-time NHC qualifier and played in 65 NHC Tour events in 2014. He sits atop the first-half leaderboard and is a major threat to defend his title.

Anthony Kite (Princeton, N.J.) – Kite has six top 10 finishes, including a victory on NHCQualify.com. The 60-year-old retiree qualified for the NHC for the first time last year. He is second in the first-half standings.

John Nichols (Louisville, Ky.) – Nichols has two outright wins on NHCQualify.com and five top 10 finishes. The 40-year-old works as the head clocker at Churchill Downs and comes from a racing family as the son of a jockey and racetrack farrier and nephew of legendary rider “Cowboy” Jimmy Nichols. He is a four-time NHC qualifier. Nichols is surrently on the outside looking in for the first-half standings but could bolster his chances with a strong showing in the Del Mar or Wynn tournaments should he choose to compete in those events.

Bob Engelhard (King of Prussia, Pa.) – Engelhard has three top 10 finishes this season, including two hard-luck second-place finishes. The 61-year-old corporate insurance executive is a four-time NHC qualifier. He is one of several players gunning for the fifth-place spot for the first half and the $10,000 that goes with it.

Roger Cettina (Rumson, N.J.) – Cettina has six top-10 finishes this season. The 48-year-old construction executive has made five NHC appearances and was the runner-up at NHC 14 after leading into the final race. He's got work to do to make the top five for the first-half but must be considered a threat for the overall year, especially if he can do well in one of the big summer on-site contests.

Robert Crowe (Loomis, Calif.) – Crowe has a league-leading nine top 10 finishes. The 49-year-old financial officer, like several others in this All-Star group, qualified to the NHC last year in his first season of play.

Michael Marlaire (Boulder Creek, Calif.) – Marlaire has four top-10 finishes. Yet another who made it to Las Vegas for the first time last January, the 61-year-old is Director of the NASA Research Park at NASA Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley.

Matt Rentze (San Diego, Calif.) – Rentze has three top-10 finishes, including a third-place finish at Surfside Race Place. He is a five-time NHC qualifier.

For the full year, every Tour player is competing for a total pool of $250,000 in prize money, with the 2015 NHC Tour champion to receive $75,000 plus an automatic berth to the 2017 NTRA National Handicapping Championship. The remainder of the top 20 will receive cash prizes on a descending scale from $20,000 for second to $1,000 for 20th. An additional $25,000 Tour bonus will be awarded to the NHC Tour top 20 finisher with the highest score at the NHC in Las Vegas.