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Archive for Tuesday, July 27, 1993

KANSAS OPEN A FIXTURE HERE

July 27, 1993

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There is no danger of the Kansas Open being stolen by another city in the Sunflower State.

No enterprising chambers of commerce, eager to bring 150 or so pro and amateur golfers to town, figures to swipe the event that has been a fixture here the past 18 years.

That could well be because no city has a golf course like Alvamar, willing to give up revenue for a week while raising money for charity, in Lawrence's case, Cottonwood Foundation, Inc.

"There have been times we've thought, 'If we didn't host the Kansas Open, it would die. It's gone,''' said Alvamar director of operations Jerry Waugh, also the tournament director. "No one in their proper mind would take this thing on.

"You may be able to find a company that would like to be a beneficiary, but you wouldn't find the combination with a course wanting to share in that.

"Nobody is going to give up revenues or take the time to run it. We full well know if we won't do it, it won't happen at all. At times we've thought, 'Goodness, all the man hours spent, all the effort and potential revenue lost, why do we do it?' Because nobody else will. So we stick our heads down and go after it."

WAUGH WASN'T speaking with bitterness.

Alvamar officials like the Open and the fact the tournament has helped raise more than $290,000 for Cottonwood the past six years.

"Bob Billings (Alvamar owner) has made a commitment to this tournament. We all feel it's good for golf. It's a unique format in that we bring in both professionals and a field of 30 amateurs," Waugh explained. "It allows club pros in the state to compete. We bring in many of the young golfers who are trying to land a spot on the (PGA) Tour. It caters to a lot of people and we think that is important."

Alvamar's commitment to bringing in pros and amateurs alike is one reason the meet's format will remain the same in upcoming years.

The Nike tour recently approached Alvamar about bringing a Nike mini-tour event to town as a substitute for the Kansas Open.

"We're doing things for a lot of people. If we expand to a larger tournament like Nike, we'd eliminate the amateur and local professional and we don't want to do that. Also you take on some heavy financial responsibilities," Waugh said.

CURRENTLY, THE Kansas Open has an entry fee of $400. Corporate sponsorships and entry fees have helped the tourney pot swell to $60,000. Nike tour events have a much larger purse.

"They put $100,000 in the purse and also want the sponsoring groups to put an additional $100,000 in," Waugh said. "They want the purse between $175,000 and $200,000. That would put an additional fund raising burden on our community.

"Unless we brought the Kansas City area into the fundraising, I'm not so sure we'd be able to do it. Also, one of the stipulations has always been having Cottonwood the recipient of this. We wouldn't want to change. We would not bail out on them."

For all those reasons, the Nike tournament, which would likely bring a higher-caliber group of golfers to Lawrence, will likely remain in Wichita and not venture here.

"Any visions of getting bigger is not necessarily better," Waugh said. "We're flattered that a tournament structure like Nike would look at us and say we have a good course and the administrative qualities they are searching for. We're flattered our tournament has grown to that status. But we must remember who we are and perform to that level."

Even without Nike, the Kansas Open is not small-time. First-place prize money is a healthy $10,000.

"I THINK $10,000. . . that's comparable to what's happening throughout the country in these state mini-tour events," Waugh said. "We could move it up to $12,000 or $13,000 for the winner, but that wouldn't support the tailenders. We try to distribute the money. We feel that's the way you keep some of the kids going and presents and opportunity for local pros to cash a check."

Golfers, who flock to Alvamar, yearly comment how fortunate they are to play at Alvamar.

"We've we never suffered for interest," Waugh said. "We always have a waiting list. The biggest field we've had was 192. We could still attract that many, but it'd drive me crazy worrying about the weather If you have weather delays, you'd sweat the thing out."

Like last year, 156 golfers will tee it up Wednesday through Friday. Until last year, the tourney held a Thursday-Saturday format.

"Everything was moved up a day. Nobody made any comments about it either way. It was well accepted. So that's the way we'll go again this year," Waugh said.

So Sponsor Day was Monday. The practice round is today and the actual tourney Wednesday through Friday.

"This frees up the course for the weekend as far as Alvamar is concerned. And it permits another travel day for the competitors," Waugh said. "It did squeeze us a bit on pro participants on Monday because that is a travel day for them, but it didn't pose that great of a problem."

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