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Petrovic battles into U.S. Open

By BOB HARIG

© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 7, 2001


Tim Petrovic has played on golf tours in Australia and Canada, on other tours that go by the name of TearDrop, Hooters, Golden Bear, Nike and Buy.com. His game nowhere to be found, he spent several years in the 1990s working at a Tampa Pizza Hut.

And now he's headed to the U.S. Open.

Petrovic, 34, who lives in New Port Richey and plays out of Fox Hollow Golf Club, will be part of the 156-man field next week at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Okla. A former University of Hartford golfer, Petrovic earned his spot on Tuesday at a sectional qualifier in Purchase, N.Y., by claiming medalist honors, shooting 3-under-par 138 over two courses.

"The road has been full of potholes, speed bumps and forks," Petrovic said after qualifying for his first major championship. "I wasn't one of those wunderkinds, and if I look back I can't even see the tunnel I've just come through because it's seemed just a long journey to get here."

After his dalliance in the fast-food industry, Petrovic returned to golf in 1997. Competing on the Golden Bear Tour -- a minitour with events in the West Palm Beach area -- Petrovic was player of the year in 2000.

He returned to the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament last fall, where he earned fully exempt status on the Buy.com Tour. Petrovic is fourth on the money list with $139,172, with two seconds, a third and a fourth-place finish Sunday in Scranton, Pa. The top-15 finishers on the Buy.com money list earn their PGA Tour cards for 2002.

"Buy.com events are my No. 1 priority right now," Petrovic said. "But to play in the Open is a bonus and really special after all I've been through."

LONG LAYOFF: John Huston has moved from Safety Harbor to Clearwater, but that's not the reason he's missed most of the past two months. A pulled muscle in his lower back started bothering him at the Tour Championship. Huston has not played since missing the cut at the WorldCom Classic in mid-April.

"My back was really hurting me at the TPC through Hilton Head," Huston said. "And I was getting a little worn out. I decided to take some time off. Then a couple of weeks ago, I was feeling pretty good and then pulled a muscle in my back again. Now I'm just starting to feel decent."

For six weeks, Huston didn't touch a club. He's also seen his standing on the money list steadily decline. He is 72nd with $352,402 and plans to return at next week's U.S. Open. "At least I'll be well rested," Huston said.

HALL VOTE: Here's why the LPGA has it right when it comes to the Hall of Fame. Entrants make it almost entirely on their playing record. But the PGA Tour version has some flaws, based on the recent naming of Greg Norman and Payne Stewart. Although Norman undoubtedly would have made the Hall at some point -- based on his status as the No. 1-ranked player in the world for a long stretch, his 70 worldwide victories and his overall popularity -- it is obvious that the voters are giving more weight to those in recent generations.

You can debate whether Norman and Stewart should make the Hall. Norman has 18 PGA Tour titles and two majors championships. Stewart, who died in a 1999 plane accident, had 11 wins, including three majors.

But what about players from long ago such as Leo Diegel, who won two PGA Championships and had 30 tour wins? Or Craig Wood, who won a U.S. Open and a Masters and 21 tour titles? Or Henry Picard, who captured a Masters, PGA and 26 tour wins. Or Denny Shute, who had two PGAs, a British, and was a runner-up twice in the U.S. Open? And if colorful personalities are Hall bound, what about Tommy Bolt?

GOLF NUT: When not breaking his age on a regular basis or giving time to volunteer organizations, Tom Jewell found time to write a book. Jewell, 71, the retired tournament director for the JCPenney Classic and the 1997 winner of the Golf Nut of the Year award wrote Having a Ball With Golf: Memories of a Golf Nut. Jewell wrote the book longhand, and it is a compilation of his experiences in golf, including high-profile players and courses. It is available through Penmann Books, P.O. Box 611, Brentwood, Tenn. 37024. Cost is $12.95.

- Information from other news organizations was used in this report.

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