Senior PGA Tour officials will have a close eye (and ear) on the scene when the inaugural Toyota Invitational, a $200,000 tournament featuring 21 tour members, spends the next two days at Cattail Creek Country Club in western Howard County.
The event is a trial balloon looking toward the possibility of gaining a regular spot on future Senior Tour calendars. Although there are variables that go into making a presentation for a possible tour event, there is no set list of criteria, according to Tim Crosby, a Senior Tour vice president for sponsor relations.
"If an opportunity presents itself [a schedule opening], the more ammunition we have, the better it is. We're pleased they are out there with a proposal."
The tournament will be a relatively new experience for the Senior players. Playing two days for a purse scaled from $45,000-$5,000 is a lot different than spending occasional Mondays stopping by a charity or corporate outing, having some fun, picking up a check, and moving along.
"There is a small event at the beginning of the year, but this is the only one I can think of with this format," said Bruce Summerhays by telephone from Ada, Mich., where the First of America Classic ends today. "The money definitely makes for more of a competitive feeling, and we'll have our game faces on."
Summerhays is in his second full tour season after a distinguished career as a club professional.
Fourth in his first qualifying try, the Utah native had rookie-of-the-year credentials with three second-place finishes, 14 top 10's, and earnings of $729,000 in 36 events. Hale Irwin, also entered in the Toyota tournament, earned the rookie honors with two wins and $800,000 in 12 starts (10 top-10 finishes).
Although still looking for that first tour victory, Summerhays has recovered from some early-season sinus problems to play well of late, including a fourth at the BellSouth in Nashville, Tenn., and a tie for eighth in the Senior Open in suburban Cleveland.
"I've proved I could succeed, but you need to be a realist," he added. "The tour allows you the opportunity to know you can play, and with that, the intimidation level goes down.
"Right now, I believe the tour has elevated itself. There is not a big gap top-to-bottom, and the talent is getting deeper and deeper."
The Toyota tournament will be played as a two-day pro-am, with the final standings for the Senior pros based on 36-hole scores. Tomorrow, they will be joined by amateur foursomes, and Tuesday they will be accompanied by Middle Atlantic PGA pros (playing for $15,000) and their respective club champs.
The Johns Hopkins Children's Center will be the primary beneficiary of proceeds from the tournament.
Tomorrow's tee times: First tee: 9 a.m.--DeWitt Weaver; 9: 10--Tom Shaw; 9: 20--Gibby Gilbert; 9: 30--Dave Eichelberger; 9: 40--Bob Eastwood; 9: 50--Charles Coody; 10: 00--J.C. Snead; 10: 10--Bruce Crampton; 10: 20--Jim Dent; 10: 30--David Graham; 10: 40--Bruce Devlin; 10: 50--Jim Albus; 11: 00--Hale Irwin; 10th tee: 9 a.m.--Bruce Lehnhard; 9: 10--Don Bies; 9: 20--John Paul Cain; 9: 30--Butch Baird; 9: 40--Bruce Summerhays; 9: 50--Buddy Allin; 10: 00--Jack Kiefer; 10: 10--Jerry McGee.
Where: Cattail Creek CC, Glenwood
Who: Senior PGA Tour pros Buddy Allin, Butch Baird, Jim Albus, Don Bies, John Paul Cain, Charles Coody, Bruce Crampton, Jim Dent, Bruce Devlin, Bob Eastwood, Dave Eichelberger, Gibby Gilbert, David Graham, Hale Irwin, Jack Kiefer, Bruce Lehnhard, Jerry McGee, Tom Shaw, J.C. Snead, Bruce Summerhays, DeWitt Weaver
Schedule: Tomorrow: Pro-am event, 9 a.m.; Tuesday: Senior Tour pros joined by MAPGA pros and respective club champs in pro-am event, 8: 30 a.m.
Purse: $200,000 for tour pros (first place $45,000); $15,000 for MAPGA pros
Tickets: $15 each day; $25 two-day package.
Call (410) 992-5500.
Directions: From Beltway, take I-70 west to Route 97 south. Go three miles. Parking is about two miles north of the course, with free shuttle bus service provided.
Pub Date: 8/11/96