Originally created 09/08/01

Morgan leads strom-plagued Allianz Championship



WEST DES MOINES, Iowa -- Weather again played havoc with the Allianz Championship on Friday, a day after a possible tornado ravaged the course during the pro-am competition.

A fierce storm packing heavy rain and high wind delayed the start of the first round by four hours. A second storm roared through at mid-afternoon, forcing Senior PGA Tour officials to suspend play for 2 hours, 15 minutes.

Gil Morgan, a winner twice this year, was 4 under after nine holes on the nearly deserted course. DeWitt Weaver and Bob Gilder were 3 under through nine.

Spectators were barred from the Glen Oaks Country Club because of the stormy weather and the threat of additional storms. The only spectators were a few hundred club members and residents of the Glen Oaks housing development, enough to deliver a smattering of applause for a good shot.

The weather dealt a cruel blow to the first-year tournament, which drew a classy field that included the top 15 money winners on the senior tour and golfing icon Arnold Palmer.

"It's nice to be here," Palmer said. "I wish we could do something magic to this weather."

What the senior tour's on-site meteorologist called a "developing tornado" tore through the heart of the course on Thursday, knocking down leaderboards, collapsing the roofs of two skyboxes, toppling a semitrailer and littering the grounds with tree limbs.

Crews worked all night to repair the damage and clean up the debris and the course was ready for the tournament's start Friday morning. Then a storm roared in, carrying 60 mph wind and rain so heavy it forced motorists on nearby Interstate 35 to pull off until it subsided.

The two skybox roofs collapsed a second time and a catering company's tent that had been destroyed on Thursday was torn up again.

"I felt like I had been kicked," tournament director Hollis Cavner said.

Cavner said officials decided to keep fans away because parking lots were too muddy and more severe weather was possible.

"What would happen if we get another storm like that at two o'clock today and we've got 20,000 people out here?" Cavner said. "It's not worth it to us."

He was off by an hour in his estimate. The second storm hit just before 3 p.m. local time, sending golfers scurrying to the clubhouse.

The absence of fans left the course eerily quiet. Volunteers were told not to report so there were no leader boards, marshals, scorekeepers and standard bearers. Scores did not become available until golfers made the turn.

A small contingent of fans followed Palmer, who turns 72 on Monday. Most of the others watched from the greens and tee boxes near the clubhouse. Many holes farther out on the course had no fans around them.

It was the first time fans had been turned away from a senior tournament since the final round of the Boone Valley Classic near St. Louis on May 28, 2000.

If all 78 golfers could not play at least nine holes Friday, the round would be declared a washout and the tournament would be cut to 36 holes.