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Archive for Thursday, February 15, 2001

Kansas Open in limbo

Cottonwood withdraws sponsorship

February 15, 2001

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The Kansas Open, a summer tradition at Lawrence's Alvamar Golf Course for a quarter of a century, has gone into limbo.

Cottonwood Inc., the golf tournament's organizer and beneficiary for the last 14 years, has pulled the plug.

"We'd been looking to make a change for the last three years," said Kesha Dougan of Cottonwood Inc. "Our net profits had been going down and down."

In place of the Kansas Open, Cottonwood Inc. will host a golf fund-raiser called the Cottonwood Classic on July 27 at Alvamar.

Dougan said Cottonwood Inc., a provider of social services to adults with developmental disabilities, hopes to raise more than $40,000 with the one-day tourney.

According to Dougan, Cottonwood realized about $34,000 from the 2000 Kansas Open after hitting a low-water mark of $27,000 the previous year.

"We feel the majority of people gave to the Kansas Open because of Cottonwood, and they'll be pleased that more of their dollars will go to Cottonwood now," Dougan said.

Cottonwood Inc. has benefited by more than $650,000 since taking over the Kansas Open in 1987, Dougan said.

"While we were overjoyed at the sizable amount of money that had been raised over the years, the times have changed, and we must change with them," Bill Salome, chair of the Open sponsor committee, said.

Most of last year's $72,690 purse was generated through entry fees that had reached the $400 level, and it had become increasingly difficult to attract pros willing to spend that much money in hopes of earning a first prize check of $12,500.

"The Kansas Open was pretty special in 1976 when there weren't that many tournaments," Dougan said. "It became harder and harder to attract professionals to play. We had a number of cancellations last year. In the past we had a waiting list."

Perhaps indicative of the quality of pros lured to the Kansas Open was the fact the 2000 tournament was won by an amateur Kansas University golf team member Casey Harbour for the first time.

Brian Kortan of Albuquerque, N.M., finished second by two strokes, but pocketed the $12,500 first-place check. Harbour won a $500 gift certificate.

The decision by Cottonwood Inc. to pull out has wounded the Kansas Open, but apparently hasn't killed it.

The Kansas Golf Foundation, a branch of the Lawrence-based Kansas Golf Association, may take over the event. Jerry Waugh, director of the Kansas Open for 17 years, is president of the KGF and he is working to keep the Kansas Open extant.

"It won't be a fund-raiser anymore," Waugh said. "It will still be a three-day tournament for pros and amateurs, but we'll cut back the entry fees and cut back the purse."

In the beginning, reasonable entry fees lured club pros and assistant club pros from all over the country to the Kansas Open, but as the fees rose participation by grass roots pros declined.

"Club pros won't pay $400 to have a chance to compete against kids who play the game year round," Waugh said.

Waugh envisions a Kansas Open that will lure those club pros back. So does Kansas University men's golf coach Ross Randall, director of golf operations at Alvamar.

"My guess is it will be more of a regional event," Randall said. "I would think we're going to continue to have a Kansas Open. There are still enough people who want to play in it."

But will the Kansas Open remain at Alvamar?

"It's a real commitment as far as facilities. You close everything for four or five days," Randall said. "But Alvamar started it, and I think we'll continue to host it."

Phil Rodgers, a touring pro from California, won the first Kansas Open in 1976. Gary McCord, another touring pro, won in 1979.

Among the former Kansas Open winners are such current PGA Tour members as Jay Williamson, Frank Lickliter and KU grad Matt Gogel.

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