Originally created 03/06/02

Tour opens in North Augusta



Mother Nature didn't let the National Golf Association/Hooters Tour start as planned last week in Albany, Ga.

But Robin Waters, president of the professional golf tour, expects better weather this week as the tour visits North Augusta's River Golf Club for the third annual Kandy Waters Memorial Classic.

"We had the never-ending round. The golf course wouldn't heal," Waters said Tuesday of the Albany event, which was canceled because of weather-related problems. "It's a roll of the dice this time of year when you play north of the Florida line."

It was only the second time in four years an NGA/Hooters Tour had to be canceled. At the Stonebridge Classic in Albany, frost delayed play each of the first two days. Tournament officials shortened the season-opening event to 36 holes when heavy rain set in Saturday, and the event was canceled when more rain fell Sunday.

This week's stop at the River Golf Club - "easily in the top four courses we play each year," Waters said - features a purse of $140,000. That makes it the third richest of the tour's 21 events.

The event features a number of players with local ties, including tour regulars Vaughn Taylor and William Lanier.

Four local players - Michael Webb, Scott Volpitto, Brian Smith and Rodney Tapp - made it through Monday's qualifier to earn spots in this week's field. Fifty-eight players attempted to earn one of 10 spots up for grabs.

Scott Parel, a pro from Augusta, received a sponsor's exemption into the 150-player field.

A practice round and pro-am event are scheduled for today. The tournament begins Thursday, with the first tee time at 7:30 a.m.

The tournament will feature former PGA Tour player Vance Veazey as well as several players who compete on the Buy.com Tour.

"We've got such a good quality of players," Waters said.

Reach John Boyette at (706) 823-3337 or jboyette@augustachronicle.com.