Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

ALBANY -- Josh Broadaway was playing at Stonebridge Golf and Country before it was the Stonebridge Golf and Country Club.

Honest.

"My father was good friends with Wayne Whitfield (who later became the club's president), and they let some of the prospective members of the club play the course before it opened,'' said Broadaway, who was a high school student at Byne Christian at the time. "It was really cool. There were no divots, no ball marks. They didn't even have golf carts. We had to use the work carts.''

Pretty cool stuff for the teenager, indeed.

Now, 16 years later Broadaway is back -- all the way back from a successful career in the Nationwide Tour -- back home to Albany and Stonebridge, where he will try to win the Michelob Ultra Classic golf tournament, which begins today and runs through Sunday.

It's the first pro tournament in Albany since 2006, the last time an NGA/Hooters Tour event was held at Stonebridge.

Broadaway, who now lives in Dothan, Ala., hasn't played in a Hooters event since 2005 when he was a rookie on the Hooters Tour.

He won a tournament title and finished in the top five in five other events and earned nearly $74,000 before moving on to the Nationwide Tour.

Nothing would be sweeter than for Broadway than to win this week.

"It would be awesome,'' he said Wednesday afternoon. "It's great to be home playing in front of friends and family. I think maybe a few people will come out (today) and Friday, and if I get going and am in (the hunt) I'm sure there will be friends and family there to support me on Sunday.''

Broadaway played nine holes Wednesday to warm up, and left the course feeling pretty good about his game.

"I've been playing real well the last month,'' he said. "My last seven competitive rounds of golf have all been under par. I've just been playing solid, and not making many bogeys. Just been playing well, tee to green and hitting a lot of greens in regulation.''

Broadaway is a regular on the Nationwide Tour, where he has picked up 10 Top 10 finishes and finished in the top 25 in 27 events. He recently finished 43rd in the PGA's Honda Classic.

But to win at home at Stonebridge would mean something special.

"I played nine holes (on Wednesday),'' Broadaway said. "It's just like I remembered it.''

Well, there were some divots and ball marks ...

Broadaway will face a tough field, which includes the favorite, Ted Potter, who is the money leader and the points leader on the Hooters Tour. Potter has won two of this season's five events and has finished no worse than 11th. He will be looking to make his mark at Stonebridge, where he started his pro career.

Potter had his worst finish on the Hooter's Tour back in 2006 during his debut when he finished tied for 56th at Stonebridge. He will tee off today full of confidence.

"It's been going well,'' said Potter, who is from Ocala, Fla. "I've just been hitting the ball well and making putts. On different days the putts start falling, and when the putts are falling your confidence builds.''

Part of that success comes from Potter's style.

"I'm pretty aggressive with my putting,'' he said. "I don't like to leave it short, and sometimes I'll roll by it by three feet.''

He will be the one watch for the next four days, and everyone knows it.

"He's just good,'' said Robert Streb, who won the longest drive competition on Wednesday. "He's always in play, and his short game is really good. He makes a lot of putts.''

Will Wilcox is the hottest player on the tour right now. He beat Billy Hurley and Matthew Harmon by four shots to win the Terry Moore Ford Open at Rock Barn Golf and Spa in Conover, N.C., two weeks ago.

Then again, Potter didn't play at Rock Barn.

"When (the players) looked at the entry list at Rock Barn, we all gave big fist pumps because Ted wasn't in the field," joked Wilcox.

Jesse Hutchins, of Kirkersville, Ohio, is also off to a great start to 2011. The former Wright State golfer is second on the money list and has a win and a runner-up finish in five events. Hutchins has good memories of the 6,913-yard layout at Stonebridge. In 2006, Hutchins posted a 21-under-par 267 total and finished third.

Brandon Brown, of Shelbyville, Ky., will also be in the field. Brown, an Eastern Kentucky alumnus, won the Charter Childhood Cancer Awareness Classic in Gainesville, Ga., early this season.

Other than Broadaway, there are seven pros with ties to Albany, including former Deerfield golfer Brandon Anthony, who once starred at Darton, as well as fellow former Cavs Brent Witcher, Michael Gordy, Jason Flowers, Chesley Gunn and Roy Steinberg. Shane Folds of Cordele is also in the field.

It promises to be a good field -- with a $200,000 purse -- and the Hooters Tour is happy to be back in Albany.

"It's our first time since 2006, but it's great to be here,'' said Frank Monk, the tournament director. "Because Albany is a great place to be geographically and weather-wise this time of the year. The community has really embraced us and the folks at Stonebridge (like GM George Hobaugh) have been so accommodating.

"This is a great course at Stonebridge. These players all aspire to become PGA players, and we try to provide them with quality venues to play with challenging golf courses in superb condition. Stonebridge offers both. It's the combination of all those factors that makes coming here great.''