Thursday, January 20, 2005

Senior golfers
master crossover

Many of them play the
Champions Tour event this week
after competing at Waialae last week

It's hard to go to a PGA or Champions Tour event and not cross paths with somebody.

If you don't find Tom Kite at the Sony Open in Hawaii one week, look for him to be prowling the fairways of the $1.6 million MasterCard Championship that begins tomorrow at the Hualalai Golf Club on the Kona Coast of the Big Island.

Fellow 50-somethings Peter Jacobsen and Craig Stadler also played last week on the PGA Tour, only to switch clothing in order to blend in with the senior set this weekend

Stadler spent some quality time with son Kevin at the Sony Open. A recent Nationwide Tour graduate, the young walrus wasn't around for the weekend, while the old man earned nearly $125,000 for finishing in a tie for ninth.

Champions Tour dad was only five shots removed from world No. 1 Vijay Singh, who won in Hawaii for the first time. It gives the 51-year-old a boost entering the Champions Tour equivalent to the PGA's Mercedes held on Maui.

"It's always fun when you do well," Craig Stadler said. "I played well over the weekend (6-under, 134), got to spend some time with my son and now have the opportunity to come back over to this tour and try to have some more fun."

Stadler is one of a growing set trying to have the best of both golf worlds. Kite is using a special exemption to get his PGA Tour card renewed and played well enough the first three days at the Sony Open, before shooting a final-round 75 to fall into a tie for 72nd.

"You can't afford to have a bad final round in a golf tournament like this," Kite said. "But I saw some good things out here I can use on this tour. Playing both will be challenging. We'll have to see where this road takes me."

The younger Jacobsen had a bit more success over the final 18 holes and it showed with a stellar 68. Like Kite and Stadler, Jacobsen plans to pick and choose what events he enters on both tours. He shot well at the Sony Open, finishing in a tie for 30th at 2-under 278, good enough for a nearly $33,000 paycheck.

And who started this cross-pollination between the young guns and the veteran slingers? Well, that would be one Jay Haas, who like Stadler, has a son trying to make a name for himself. Haas is still the more famous of the two, playing so well last year, he was selected to the U.S. Ryder Cup team.

Kite once told Haas that if he had it to do all over again, he would have stayed longer on the PGA Tour, before selling his soul on the senior circuit.

"I would have played a pretty similar schedule to what Jay did last year; a majority of the tournaments on the PGA Tour and a lesser number, but certainly some tournaments on the Champions Tour," Kite said if he could be 50 again.

And also be as competitive as Haas was with the younger set. Kite's game flew south for several winters his final days as a full-fledged member of golf's major leagues.

"So, I was looking forward to the Champions Tour to kind of give me a reason to work on my game," Kite said. "But in Jay's case, the way he's playing, there's no reason for him to spend a majority of his time on the Champions Tour."

Kite will spend most of his time on the PGA Tour, at least through June. Once the major events on the Champions Tour come into play over the summer, look for Kite to be entered in those tournaments. He is a past winner of the MasterCard in 2002, becoming only the fourth player to win the season-opening event on both tours.

But he'll have to play a lot of rounds out here to track down the king of the MasterCard, iron man Dana Quigley. Quigley has pocketed nearly three-quarters of a million dollars in seven MasterCard appearances, including a win in 2003 and a runner-up performance to defending champ Fuzzy Zoeller, his only victory on the Champions Tour in 2004.

Like several of his fellow seniors, Quigley has a tie to the PGA Tour. His nephew, Brett Quigley, flirted with winning his first tour event last week at the Sony Open. He prepared for the 2005 season by playing golf with Uncle Dana at several sites in Florida and beyond.

"How many days?" Quigley pondered how much golf he played with his father and uncle during the offseason. "Every day since probably Dec. 5. So, at least a month. Actually more than that, because we were in Puerto Rico the week before and we played every day there.

"For me, it actually turned out to be probably a blessing because I have a tendency to try to be too perfect, hit a lot of golf balls and practice a lot, and I literally didn't hit more than 2 hours' worth of golf balls the whole time, just played. We got to the tee at 7:15, we hit six balls and off we went."

Dana Quigley heads into tomorrow's 54-hole event with a streak of 11 consecutive sub-par rounds in the tournament, including eight straight in the 60s. Quigley has never had a round over par in 21 rounds at Hualalai. He would be among the early favorites.

Joining him will be Hawaii favorite Hale Irwin. Irwin's history in the islands isn't matched by anyone, including recent people's choice Ernie Els. Irwin has six Champions Tour wins in the island chain, including one here in 1997.

Other notables in this elite field include Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Lee Trevino, Larry Nelson, Gil Morgan, John Jacobs and Wayne Levi. The first tee time is set for 11:17 a.m. tomorrow. The event will be shown live locally on The Golf Channel from 2:30-5:30 p.m. all three rounds.

PGA Tour

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