Rhoden earns conditional tour status | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Rhoden earns conditional tour status

Tribune and AP reports

Jim Grant/Tahoe Daily Tribune Rick Rhoden lines up his putt during the American Century Championship at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course. Rhoden won the event in 1991, 1993, 1995, 1997, 1999 and 2003.

Celebrity golf likely lost its best player on Monday.

Six-time American Century Championship winner Rick Rhoden secured a conditional exemption card for the 2006 Champions Tour.

Rhoden, 52, shot his second straight 3-over-par 75 on Monday to finish in a five-way tie for 10th place in the Champions Tour National Qualifying Tournament at the PGA of Southern California Golf Club in Beaumont, Calif.

Celebrity golf officials have indicated in the past that once a player becomes a professional on another tour, that celebrity is no longer eligible to compete in their tournaments.

NBC Sports, which chooses the players for the American Century Championship at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course, couldn’t be reached for comment on Monday.

Japan’s Massy Kuramoto shot a 2-under 70 in windy conditions to win the $45,000 first prize. The 50-year-old Kuramoto, a 30-time winner on the Japanese Tour, finished the 108-hole event at 3-under 429. Rhoden finished at 437.

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“It was a long six days and I am very tired,” Kuramoto said. “I wanted to keep the ball low today and just play one shot at a time. I just tried to make par on every hole today but the wind was very difficult. It feels good to finish. I am very happy.”

Kuramoto opened the final round tied for the lead with Masingill at 1 under, and quickly moved into the lead with an eagle at the fourth hole and a birdie at No. 5. He stayed out of trouble the rest of the way with winds gusting to 25 mph and punctuated his win with a birdie at the final hole.

The top seven finishers earned tour cards for 2006.

Kirk Hanefeld, from Acton, Mass., closed with a 70 and finished two strokes behind Kuramoto at 1 under, and Japan’s Joe Ozaki (72) was third at 1 over. PGA Tour veteran Keith Fergus, who played in 23 Champions events this season and finished 37th on the money list, closed with a 70 and finished tied for fourth with England’s Bill Longmuir (74) and Scott Masingill, of Payette, Ind., who had a 75. Rick Karbowski, of Worcester, Mass., had a 71 and finished seventh at 3 over.

Conditional status was awarded to players who finished eighth through 15th places. Joining Rhoden with conditional cards were Jack Ferenz, of Vero Beach, Fla., Chris Starkjohann, of Cardiff By The Sea, Calif., Danny Edwards, of Scottsdale, Ariz., Japan’s Katsuyoshi Tomori, Mike San Filippo, of Hobe Sound, Fla., and Argentina’s Eduardo Romero.

Rhoden, who pitched for 16 seasons in the majors, started the final round in sixth place but a double bogey on each nine sent the former big-league pitcher out of the top seven. He had shot a tournament-low 66 on Saturday to move into contention.

It was Rhoden’s fourth try at a tour card. Last year he finished 64th in the national finals and in 2003 he didn’t get past regional qualifying.

Before Monday, Rhoden’s best shot at qualifying was during his first attempt in 2002. Rhoden started the final round in seventh place but his 3-over 75 left – his only over-par round of the tournament – left him one shot out of 16th place, the last qualifying position.