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Pro golfers get caught in Charlotte's web

No one is going to confuse Charlotte with Orlando, Fla., or Scottsdale, Ariz., but a city that once had no PGA Tour players to call its own now has a collection of them.

Robert Karlsson, 22nd in the latest world rankings, plays both the PGA and European Tours from his base at the Club at Longview.

Buddies Johnson Wagner and Brendon de Jonge, college teammates at Virginia Tech, have been anchored in Charlotte for a few years.

Webb Simpson moved here from Raleigh last summer to be in the same city as his wife Dowd's family.

Mathew Goggin, who nearly won the 2009 British Open and is the leading money winner on the Nationwide Tour this year, has settled here. Jeff Curl, a former Charlotte 49ers golfer now on the Nationwide Tour, is also a Charlottean.

Peter Oosterhuis, one of the game's best players back in the 1970s and now a familiar face on golf telecasts, can be spotted around south Charlotte when his television duties don't have him on the road.

David Eger, a winner at the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf on the Champions Tour a week ago, splits his time between Charlotte and Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

Though he lived here for a time last year, Fred Couples still has a home, Bobcats season tickets and club memberships in Charlotte.

"It's Charlotte. It's the (Wells Fargo Championship) tournament." Wagner said.

"Guys love to play here and they love the city. It's a great place to travel from because there are so many nonstop flights. And, there's a lot of good golf."

De Jonge moved to Charlotte after finishing at Virginia Tech, knowing the city had a large alumni base and several friends had moved to Charlotte. It wasn't long after that Wagner, who had family here, followed him.

Just because there's a group of tour players based here doesn't mean they're always playing golf together.

"All of our schedules are different so it's hard for all of us to be there at the same time," de Jonge said.

They also play at different places. Wagner is a member at Quail Hollow while de Jonge plays at TPC Piper Glen and Carolina Golf Club, which has offered membership privileges to the area tour pros. Simpson practices at Carolina while Karlsson plays at Longview.

A native of Sweden, Karlsson and his family were looking for an American base last year after living in Monaco. He was familiar with the city from having played in the Quail Hollow tournament and, unable to return to Europe because air traffic was suspended because of a large volcanic ash cloud over the Atlantic, the Karlssons visited Charlotte.

"I had played in Hilton Head and a friend had brought the kids over," Karlsson said. "I said maybe we should go have a look at Charlotte...It's a very nice town.

"When I came up, we found a house and went for it. It was an empty house and the kids were running around in the rooms saying they wanted to live here."

For Karlsson, Charlotte Douglas International Airport allows him to fly direct to European destinations, making it easier for him to play both tours. For all the Charlotte-based players, it's easy to get home from tournaments without making connections.

"I just love (living in Charlotte)," Simpson said. "The airport is great and my wife's family is there. In Charlotte, I can go a little incognito. Not that many people know me. In Raleigh (his hometown), it seems like everybody knows me."

While Orlando and Scottsdale offer warm weather winter golf, that's not guaranteed in Charlotte. And, at least in Wagner's case, that's another selling point.

"I like having winter," Wagner said. "I lived in Florida for a while and missed it.

"When it's perfect every day in the winter, you feel guilty if you don't go out and play golf. It's nice to have days when you can't play golf."

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