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USGA changes rules to give amateurs a shot at pro tours


© St. Petersburg Times,
published July 5, 2001

As an accomplished amateur golfer who has spent much of his adult life playing for glory rather than cash, Doug LaCrosse faces a life-altering decision as his 50th birthday approaches next year: remain an amateur or attempt to qualify for the Senior PGA Tour.

This week, the United States Golf Association made it easier on LaCrosse and potentially hundreds of golfers who might be unsure if they should attempt to qualify for a professional tour.

Previously, the act of qualifying meant a golfer was turning professional and lost his or her amateur status. But what if the player failed to earn a spot in the pro ranks? The amateur status was lost, not to be regained for at least a year.

That changed with the approval this week of a rewritten version of the Rules of Amateur Status effective Jan. 1. Any amateur entering PGA Tour qualifying -- if he waives the right to prize money -- will remain an amateur if he does not qualify.

"It's very interesting," said LaCrosse, 49, a longtime Tampa amateur who has won 15 Florida State Golf Association championships and was the 2000 player of the year. "I think what it'll do is open the doors for more people to try and qualify. They won't have to worry about losing their amateur status. The fields will be fuller with guys trying to catch lightning in a bottle." LaCrosse, a member at Palma Ceia and Avila in Tampa and one of 25 nationwide to qualify for the U.S. Amateur and U.S. Mid-Amateur in 2000, is unsure of his senior plans. He says the new rules do not affect him much, because he believes to make it in senior golf requires a full commitment.

In other words, LaCrosse would not necessarily revert to being an amateur if he failed to qualify.

"If I'm going to make that decision, I'm going to go at it 110 percent," he said. "I'm going to be dedicated, put the work and effort in. If I didn't make it, I'd do the Monday qualifying. At some point in time, you have to bite the bullet and do it. You have to go in with enough positive thinking and persevere.

"In my case, I'm not looking for a quick deal. If I didn't make it, I'd think of it as a three-year process. But this certainly gives a lot of people a different option."

If gives younger golfers alternatives as well. A college player could try to go through PGA Tour qualifying, fail, and return to his college team.

The rules also allow amateurs to accept free equipment from manufacturers without losing amateur status. They still will be unable to make deals with companies or represent them in advertising.

MAJOR CHANGE: For the first time since 1990, the Nabisco Championship, the LPGA's first major of the year, will not go head-to-head with the Players Championship. Because of a scheduling quirk in 2002, the Players Championship will end March 24, with the Nabisco to be played a week later. Next year, there will be two PGA events -- Houston and Atlanta -- that follow the Players before the Masters.

BRITISH OPEN QUALIFYING: This week's Western Open offers the opportunity for players otherwise not exempt to qualify for the British Open, July 19-22 at Royal Lytham. For the first time the British Open is offering a U.S. event -- other than a major -- as a chance to get into the tournament, outside of the 36-hole qualifying traditionally offered the Sunday and Monday before the championship. The top eight players in this week's field who are otherwise not exempt will earn a spot in the British Open.

LOCALLY: Jeff Hollis of Mangrove Bay, Bill Conway of Belleair Country Club and Earl Maurer of Countryside Country Club received three of the seven major awards given annually by the North Florida Chapter of the PGA of America. Hollis won the group's golf pro of the year award; Conway won the Horton Smith Award, given to the group's top educator; and Maurer won the award for club relations. Gerald Goodman, tournament director for the Tampa Bay Classic, was given the section's amateur of the year award. ... Jay Overton, the former director of golf at the Westin Innisbrook Resort, qualified for his first Senior PGA Tour event this week in Ada, Mich., by shooting 63 on Monday in an open qualifier. ... Jim Smith of Missing Links Driving Range won the West Central Chapter/North Florida Section PGA Championship last week at Tampa Palms with a 36-hole score of 150. St. Petersburg Country Club's Bill Buttner was second at 151.

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

PGA Tour

WHAT: Western Open.

WHEN: Today-Sunday.

WHERE: Lemont, Ill.

COURSE: Cog Hill Golf and Country Club, Dubsdread Course (7,073 yards, par 72).

PURSE: $3.6-million.

WINNER'S SHARE: $648,000.

TV: 3-6 p.m. today-Friday, ESPN; 3:30-6 p.m. Saturday, 3-6 p.m. Sunday, Ch. 28.

NOTES: Robert Allenby won last year. Phil Mickelson won the Greater Hartford Open on Sunday in Cromwell, Conn.


WHAT: Jamie Farr Classic.

WHEN: Today-Sunday.

WHERE: Sylvania, Ohio.

COURSE: Highland Meadows Golf Club (6,365 yards, par 71).

PURSE: $1-million.

WINNER'S SHARE: $150,000.

TV: 1-3 p.m. Friday, 2-4 p.m. Saturday, ESPN2; 4-6 p.m. Sunday, ESPN.

NOTES: Annika Sorenstam won last year. Betsy King won the ShopRite LPGA Classic on Sunday in Absecon, N.J.

Senior PGA Tour

WHAT: Charity Classic.

WHEN: Friday-Sunday.

WHERE: Ada, Mich.

COURSE: Egypt Valley Country Club (6,909 yards, par 72).

PURSE: $1.4-million.

WINNER'S SHARE: $210,000.

TV: 1-3 p.m. Friday, Pax; 6-8 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, CNBC.

NOTES: Larry Nelson won last year. Bruce Fleisher won the U.S. Senior Open on Sunday in Peabody, Mass.

Other tournaments

EUROPEAN PGA TOUR: European Open, today-Sunday, Dublin, Ireland (TV: 9 a.m.-1 p.m., 8-10:30 p.m., 11 p.m.-1:30 a.m. today-Saturday, 8:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m., 8-10:30 p.m., 11 p.m.-1:30 a.m. Sunday, Golf Channel).

BUY.COM TOUR: Hershey (Pa.) Open, today-Sunday.

JAPAN GOLF TOUR: Jyuken Sangyo Open, today-Sunday, Hiroshima.

EUROPEAN PGA CHALLENGE TOUR: Challenge Total Fina Elf, today-Sunday, Chambourcy, France.

FUTURES TOUR: Capital Region Classic, Friday-Sunday, Guilderland, N.Y.

LADIES EUROPEAN TOUR: British Masters, today-Sunday, Cheshire, England.

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