Open Qualifying Is Back To 18 Holes It Was Considered Too Hectic To Have Almost 6,000 Hopefuls Cover 36 Holes In One Day.

Posted: May 19, 1994

The United States Golf Association has decided once again that it's too difficult to get nearly 6,000 golfers around 36 holes on one May day that could be fraught nationwide with fickle weather.

Thus, local qualifying for next month's U.S. Open will be 18 holes, instead of the usual 36, and probably will stay that way.

"Sure, you never say never," David B. Fay, executive director of the USGA, said Tuesday. "But there are so many entries, there's always a chance of bad weather, you can't come back to a course the next day. I think we'll find ourselves comfortable with this."

This year, the USGA received 6,010 entries for the Open. Sixty-five players are fully exempt and 170 are exempt from local qualifying. The other 5,775 must go through the first stage of qualifying.

Locally, 120 players - 79 professionals and 41 amateurs - with handicaps of 2.4 or better will compete on Tuesday at Commonwealth National Country Club in Horsham. That's about the average for the last four years, when local qualifying was 36 holes.

In 1989, the USGA decided to change the local qualifying phase to 18 holes

from 36. But it went back to the old way in 1990 because of many complaints, the major one being that you need 36 holes to separate the better players from the good ones.

Fay said there was merit to that argument. That's why the sectional qualifying, the second and final phase, will remain at 36 holes.

While James D. Sykes, executive director of the Golf Association of Philadelphia, the organization that oversees play, will have less work recording scores and setting up two courses, as he would for a 36-hole day, he admitted he had mixed emotions about the change.

"For me, 36 holes is an exciting day," Sykes said. "There's a lot of activity all day. The pizzazz has gone out of it. But it's the right move."

Among the players who still need to qualify at sectionals are Ben Crenshaw,

Lanny Wadkins, John Cook, Hubert Green and Mark O'Meara. Seve Ballesteros also must qualify if he slips out of one of the top two spots on the European Order of Merit as of May 30.

BELL ATLANTIC'S LOCAL FLAVOR. The Bell Atlantic Classic announced yesterday that it had offered sponsors' exemptions to three local players - Pete Trenham, Dick Smith and Bob Thatcher - for next week's Senior PGA tour event at Chester Valley Golf Club in Malvern.

Trenham, head pro at St. Davids Golf Club, received the spot reserved for the winner of last week's Philadelphia PGA Seniors Championship.

Smith, director of golf at Galloway National Golf Club in Galloway Township, N.J., is a former president of the PGA of America. Thatcher, owner and head pro at Olde Masters Golf Club in Newtown Square, played on the Senior tour and in Europe last year.

The final three berths in the tournament field will be up for grabs Monday during qualifying at Reading Country Club.

Also on Monday, LPGA players, including Hall of Famer Sandra Haynie, Val Skinner, Cindy Figg-Currier and Kay Cockerill, will compete in the St. Christopher Hospital for Children Women's Golf Classic at Commonwealth National.

On Tuesday, a 24-player field featuring Jay Sigel, Larry Laoretti, Jim Dent and J.C. Snead will compete in the PNC Bank Dick Hendrickson Invitational Pro- Am at Aronimink Golf Club in Newtown Square. Sigel, of Berwyn, will be back at Chester Valley later as one of 10 players in the Merrill Lynch Shootout.

Mary Ann Saleski, the tournament's executive director, said 14 of the top 20 money-winners had committed to playing, including defending champion Bob Charles, leading money winner Lee Trevino, Ray Floyd, Tom Wargo, Rocky Thompson, Bob Murphy and Chi Chi Rodriguez. The event starts May 27.

NOTES. The team of Robin McCool of Saucon Valley Country Club and Bob Housen of Manasquan River (N.J.) Golf Club captured a 7-shot victory in last weekend's Commonwealth National Invitational tournament at Commonwealth National. The Forsgate (N.J.) Country Club team of Jim Guerra and John Barone was second and the Huntingdon Valley Country Club duo of Sykes and Michael Gregor placed third. . . . The team of Hank Ball and Tom Harper fired a 77 yesterday to win the Middle Atlantic Blind Golf Association event at Skippack Golf Club. Mike Connell and Frank Paincheck were second at 86 and Al Mussneck and Kevin Kooney were third at 88. The alternate-shot competition teams a blind player and his coach. . . . The Golf Association of Philadelphia shortened the Joseph H. Patterson Cup event from 36 to 18 holes because of the unavailability of LuLu Country Club in North Hills, one of the participating courses. The event will be played May 31 at North Hills Country Club.

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