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Allred eager to get back on Nationwide bus

Forgive Jason Allred if, when he stepped on the golf course this week, he paused to savor the moment.

The sight of players milling about the practice facility. The buzz of golf talk between them and caddies and fans. The smell of acres and acres of dew-basted mown grass.

After three years of inconsistent work — the Ashland native hasn't had status on a major professional tour since 2008 — he's found an office, of sorts, in the Nationwide Tour, a place to call home.

"I'm so excited to get started," said Allred, 31. "It's kind of a nice change to be able to show up and just play and not have to do the qualifying thing."

He showed up this week in Bogota, Colombia, for the season's first event, the Pacific Rubiales Colombia Championship.

Play begins Thursday at Country Club de Bogota. Allred will be paired with Darron Stiles and Omar Uresti the first two rounds. Their tee times are 12:30 p.m. (Eastern) from the No. 1 tee on Thursday and 7:50 a.m. from the No. 10 tee on Friday.

Allred played two full seasons each on the PGA (2005, '08) and Nationwide ('06, '07) tours, but in the last three years has played in only seven tournaments on either circuit. Much of his competitive play was on a mini tour near his Scottsdale, Ariz., home and in assorted other pro and pro-am events.

He did, however, qualify for the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, made the cut for the first time in a major and tied for 47th place.

Despite the vagabond turn his career took, he didn't stop working on his game or give up hope of full-time work.

After a summer and fall of putting up some impressive scores last year, he tackled the PGA Qualifying Tournament for the 10th time, advancing through the first two stages to position himself for shot at the big show.

In the six-round final stage at La Quinta, Calif., in early December, he flirted with making the top 25, which was necessary to earn a PGA card, before settling in as one of 52 players to earn exempt status on the Nationwide.

He shot a 3-under-par 429, with consistent rounds of between 70 (twice) and 73 (twice).

"Right after Q School, to be honest, the competitor in me was a little disappointed," said Allred. "My goal was to get back on the PGA Tour. That said, as the days went on, I was so thankful and really excited about the opportunity to have a place to play consistently this year."

He was tied for 42nd place entering the final round, then shot a 1-over 73.

"Through the whole fall, I felt good about my game," said Allred, "and more than anything, I felt good about my job. I truly considered it a privilege to still be able to do it. Q School is interesting because you go through all kinds of emotions. In the final stage, I felt like I played well in each of the rounds. I was really close and on the verge of shooting a really good score. I played solid and gave myself a chance."

He needed a round of 4 under on the last day to crack the PGA Tour. He was 2 under through five holes but played the last 13 in 3 over.

Since then, Allred has attempted to Monday qualify for recent PGA events in La Jolla, Calif., and Scottsdale, shooting 1 over and 2 under, respectively, but failing to make the fields.

"I felt like I played a good round here," he said, referring to the Waste Management Phoenix Open two weeks ago. "I got off to a poor start."

The tournament, renowned as the rowdiest on tour, is almost in Allred's back yard, he said, but he's never played in it.

"If someone hits a great shot, I think I can probably hear them," he said of boisterous fans. "Or a really bad shot."

Since turning pro in 2002 after a stellar career at Pepperdine University, Allred has played 68 Nationwide events. He's made the cut 31 times and has two top-three finishes, six top 10s and a dozen top 25s. His earnings total $247,128.

On the PGA Tour, he's earned $357,918 in 57 events.

Not having standing on either in recent years has given Allred perspective.

Asked what he learned from 2005-08 that might help in his return to tour play, he said he probably learned more in the ensuing three years when he didn't know from week to week what would happen.

"It kind of taught me to enjoy the opportunity a little more," said Allred. "Secondly, I've learned not to put so much pressure on myself and to not live and die with every shot. I'll train and compete my heart out and hopefully trust that the results will take care of themselves."

Ideally, the results will lead back to the PGA Tour.

Nationwide players can advance in two ways: Three victories earn an immediate escort to the PGA, aka, a battlefield promotion; and the top 25 on the money list at season's end move up.

Although he dabbled at recent PGA events, Allred will be devoted to the Nationwide. He expects to play in about 23 of the 25 tournaments.

After the first three events abroad — in Panama and in Chile after this week — the first tournament on U.S. soil is March 22 in Louisiana.

The closest tournaments to southern Oregon are in Hayward, Calif., beginning April 12 and Boise, Idaho, starting Sept. 13.

Allred's caddie is a friend, Gareth Gobey, who played college golf at William Jessup, and his swing coach is Mike Bender. Allred continues to work with Lynn Marriott and Pia Nilsson, the founders of Vision54, a decorated teaching facility in Phoenix.

His agent is Tommy Limbaugh of 4U Management, which also represents golfers Lee Janzen, Ben Crane and Steve Lowery, among others.

With all of that in place, now it's time to go play.

"I'm excited," said Allred. "My game feels really good."

Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479, or email ttrower@mailtribune.com