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Bill Kwon

Sports Watch

By Bill Kwon

Saturday, October 23, 1999



Qualifiers know
about pressure

KAANAPALI, Maui - Pressure? You want pressure? In golf, playing a $5 Nassau with only a couple of dimes in your pocket is nothing. No pressure at all.

The real pressure in golf is trying to be one of the Monday qualifiers for a tournament that week. Just ask anyone facing that pressure cooker.

Perhaps the best spokesman on the Senior PGA Tour at the moment is Jim Ahern, the latest and only the seventh player to win a tournament using the Monday-qualifying opportunity.

Despite a high success ratio - Ahern qualified for a Senior Tour event five times in eight tries - he will be the first to tell you that it's a nerve-racking experience.

No. 5 proved to be a lucky charm for Ahern, a South Dakota native who high-tailed it out of that northern exposure some 30 years ago to attend Oklahoma State for a more sublime clime in order to play more golf and improve his game.

"You can golf from mid-April to September. That's about all," said Ahern, who no longer has to show up on Mondays to the qualifying cattle call after having beaten Hale Irwin, of all people, in a playoff to win the AT&T Canada Senior Open in August.

Ahern is the first to use the Monday route to win on Sunday since Dana Quigley did it two years ago. He has since parleyed it into more than $400,000 in earnings this year, good enough to be 44th on the money list.

INTERESTINGLY, Quigley knows he has fallen into a good thing since not having to qualify on Mondays. He played in all 38 official events last year and this week's EMC Kaanapali Classic marks his 88th straight tournament appearance. "I can't afford to take the time off," he says.

The pressure of being a Monday qualifier does leave mental scars, to be sure.

"It's difficult," says the softspoken Ahern. "You know you've got to shoot under par. If you don't, you're not going to make it."

What's surprising, according to Ahern, is that few Monday qualifiers have done what he has done to improve their chances.

"I'm surprised not many others do it and maybe I should say it. But I always call ahead to the golf shop where the qualifying is being held and ask for a caddy who's a good player and who knows the course.

"There's no way, no chance to make it if you're playing a course sight unseen," Ahern said.

Perhaps that's one reason why Steve Veriato, a former Hilo native who now plays out of Austin, Texas, qualified on Monday for the third time in four years in the Kaanapali Classic.

He definitely knows the course. Veriato shot a 3-under-par 68 yesterday and was in a three-way tie for 10th place. He finished tied for fifth last year and third in 1996. His only disappointment is not receiving a sponsor's exemption.

You don't have to tell him about the pressures of qualifying on Mondays.

FATHER TIME

Talk about feeling old. In this year's Kaanapali Classic are some names familiar to long-time Hawaiian Open watchers. Among them, George Burns, Mark Hayes, two-time winner Hubert Green, John Mahaffey and 1993 champion Howard Twitty. However, seeing that Tom Shaw, who won the Hawaiian Open in 1971, is now eligible in the super-senior category -- a 36-hole tournament within a tournament -- really made me feel old with the passage of time.



Bill Kwon has been writing about
sports for the Star-Bulletin since 1959.



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