Originally created 03/10/02

Gealy leading Hooters by seven



The National Golf Association/Hooters Tour originated in 1988 as the T.C. Jordan Tour, named after its founder and owner.

Fourteen years and two names later, it is the third-largest men's professional golf tour, behind the PGA and PGA-owned Buy.com, and is the prime breeding ground for future PGA stars.

"I think it's come a long way," Augusta's Vaughn Taylor said of the NGA/Hooters Tour. "My first year, I didn't go to qualifying school, so I decided to start out here. I think it was a good idea."

After shooting a 5-under-par 66 in the Kandy Waters Memorial Classic on Saturday, his 26th birthday, Taylor enters the final round at the River Golf Club tied for sixth place, 11 strokes behind leader Elliot Gealy of Salisbury, N.C.

Gealy shot a 65 Saturday, giving him a comfortable, seven-stroke cushion over 2001 NGA/Hooters Tour Player of the Year Zach Johnson of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, going into today's final round of the $140,000 tournament.

Jordan sold the tour to Hooters of America Inc. CEO Bob Brooks in 1994, and it became the Hooters/Jordan Tour. .

Brooks injected new life into the tour, investing a considerable sum of money in the project. He put it on the map as a PGA developmental league, and his passion for helping younger pro golfers get to the next level began to show.

Augusta's William Lanier, a Westside graduate who played for Louisiana State, is one of many who credits Brooks for the growth of the tour.

"I think a lot of (the tour's strength) comes from the support of Mr. Brooks and his dedicated staff," said Lanier, who shot a 75 on Saturday and stands at even-par.

In 1995, Hooters extended its sponsorship to a 20-year agreement, and the tour adopted its current name, the NGA/Hooters Tour, adding a reference to the tour's sanctioning body, the National Golf Association.

"If it wasn't for (Brooks') love of golf and wanting to see these guys have a place to play, (the tour) wouldn't be around today," said NGA/Hooters media relations director Steve White. "Mr. Brooks has a soft spot in his heart for young golfers, and wants them to have a place to prove themselves."

Some PGA Tour golfers whom the NGA/Hooters Tour has developed include Stewart Cink, John Daly, Jim Furyk, Lee Janzen, Tom Lehman, Scott McCarron and David Toms.

Reach Lane Kramer at (706) 823-3221.