Archive for Wednesday, July 29, 1998

S OPENING ROUND OF THE KANSAS OPEN.

July 29, 1998

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The recent rain which Lawrence has received should both help and hurt Alvamar, site of today's first round of the 23rd annual Kansas Open.

``Really, anytime you get rain it goes two ways. One, it helps you because it's July, it's hot out and the grass is getting scorched,'' Kansas Open tournament director Brad Demo said. ``So there's some relief on that side of it. Then you have to look at the bad side of it. For the last week we've been trying to get our greens faster and faster and it's difficult when you get so much rain. They're really not as fast as the players are used to.

``As for the golf course itself, the fairways are just starting to dry out. (Monday) night was the first time we could get our fairway cutters out. So there's both positives and negatives.''

Beginning at 7:30 a.m. today, 138 professionals and 30 amateurs will begin their quest for the coveted Kansas Open crown and a share of the $72,690 purse.

One of those amateurs, former Kansas University golfer Alan Stearns, sees no downside to the rain.

``It's going to help it,'' said Stearns, who received an exemption into the tournament. ``It's going to make it a little longer course. Especially with all the long hitters out here, it's going to give them an advantage.''

Some of the past champions among this year's field include defending champion and two-time winner Brian Fogt (1993, '97) as well as Chris Endres (1989), this year's Prairie Golf Tour money champion Steve Gotsche (1990) and Jeff Freeman (1996).

Brad Davis, last year's amateur champion, also has returned to defend his title.

``I played at this tournament only once before, in '94. It was a strong field from what I can remember,'' Stearns said. ``But I don't know if I'm just more familiar with the young pros now because I played with them in college, or it's just a stronger field, but I recognize many, many names.''

Two of the other candidates to take home the Kansas Open-record first-place prize of $12,000 are Slade Adams and Clay Devers, former Open low amateurs and KU golfers who since have turned pro.

Devers lost a one-hole playoff to Frank Lickliter Jr. in 1994 and finished tied for third in 1995.

``Clay Devers has played here all throughout his college career,'' Stearns said. ``He's got to be one of the top players. From there, there's so many other professionals, a lot of them you don't even know of. But there's so many good guys out here that someone who you've never heard of could come out and shoot 13-, 14-under and win the tournament.

``Amateur-wise there's a ton of great golfers in the field, including Chris Thompson -- who just won the Kansas Amateur -- and Ryan Vermeer. Both guys play this course exceptionally well.''

Stearns, who earlier this summer won record-setting back-to-back Kansas Golf Association tournaments, isn't sure what to expect during his second stint at the Kansas Open.

``Golf is up and down and I've had a good summer,'' Stearns said. ``In a tournament like this, my goal is obviously to make the cut and just have a chance at low amateur. It's just such a strong field I think making the cut is a pretty good starting goal.

``Then if (being low amateur) falls into place, so be it.''

-- Robert Sinclair's phone message number is 832-7185. His e-mail address is rsinclair

//www.ljworld.com.

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