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Classic delayed one day

Golf tickets for Thursday will be honored for any of the weekend tournament rounds.


© St. Petersburg Times,
published September 12, 2001

PALM HARBOR -- The Tampa Bay Classic golf tournament, scheduled to begin Thursday at the Westin Innisbrook Resort, has been postponed a day because of the terrorist attacks Tuesday in New York and Washington.

The PGA Tour canceled Tuesday's Celebrity Skins Challenge and today's Partner's Pro-Am to allow players more time to travel. The 72-hole tournament is scheduled to begin Friday, with the second round on Saturday and a 36-hole finish on Sunday.

"With the circumstances, it's not even a consideration (to play golf) with what our nation is going through right now," Tampa Bay Classic tournament director Gerald Goodman said. "I think it was a wise decision by the PGA Tour. The situation has us all stunned."

The lipped-out 3-footers, the errant drives, the general frustration that accompanies golfers from week to week on the PGA Tour all but evaporated around the course Tuesday.

A smattering of players who made it to town for the tournament ventured onto the Copperhead course practice grounds with a sense of detachment, not quite sure what to do, stunned like the rest of the nation.

"It's a strange day. There's nothing you can do," said golf legend Jack Nicklaus, who accompanied his son, Gary, a competitor in the tournament, on Monday to Tampa Bay and planned to leave Tuesday for other business obligations later in the week, which he canceled. "I don't think any of it's appropriate now," he said.

Nicklaus watched the events unfold on a television in the players' locker room. Others milled around, doing the same. Some players halted practice rounds and practice sessions and retreated to their rooms at the resort. Some practiced, with nothing else to do. Others were unable to make it to the Tampa Bay area because of the Federal Aviation Administration's shutdown of all commercial airports nationwide.

Today's pro-am was to include 47 pros and 141 amateurs, who paid $4,000 for the privilege of getting to play a round of golf on a championship course with a professional golfer. But 65 players in the 156-player field had yet to register by Tuesday night, including John Daly, Ben Crenshaw and Mark O'Meara.

The PGA Tour also elected to postpone its American Express Championship in St. Louis, where only 46 of 67 players in the field made it. The plan as of Tuesday was to have a 36-hole opening on Friday, with 18 holes on Saturday and Sunday. The Tour also postponed its start until Friday.

Goodman said there would be no refunds for the $4,000 pro-am spots scheduled for today. That money goes to the tournament's operating budget and ultimately affects charitable contributions. Tickets for Thursday will be honored that day for the practice round or for any of the weekend tournament rounds, Goodman said.

"All of our sponsors and pro-am participants fully understand our cancellation of the pro-am," Goodman said. "That's the highlight for them participating in the PGA Tour, which makes us different than other sports. But to a person, they have been very understanding of the PGA Tour's decision not to have the pro-am and to postpone the opening round."

For information, contact the tournament office at (727) 942-5566.

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