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Celebrity golf holds breath

By Steve Yingling

Tribune sports editor

Six-time American Century Championship winner Rick Rhoden could soon lose his celebrity golf tour status if he can qualify for the Champions Tour.

Rhoden, 51, who pitched for the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees during his 15-year major league career, begins the senior tour’s qualifying finals today at the King & The Bear World Golf Village in St. Augustine, Fla.

For the first time the finals will go to a 108-hole format. Due to the longer tournament, the field has been trimmed to 90 players from four regions and there will be a 72-hole cut.

Fifteen tour cards are up for grabs in the six-day event that concludes Monday.

After finishing runner-up to Dan Quinn in the American Century Championship in July, Rhoden underwent neck surgery. He recovered nicely to pass the regional qualifying stage in St. Augustine early this month.

Rhoden was sixth after firing rounds of 73, 67, 69 and 76.

Tom Dawson of Reno also made the final cut. Dawson qualified for the final stage by two strokes at the Calimesa, Calif., regional. He finished 12 strokes behind winner Mark Johnson.

Dawson showed character in making the final stage. He opened with an eight-over-par 80 but bounced back with rounds of 69 and 70 before wrapping up play with a 75.

Although Rhoden failed to qualify for the final stage last year, he came as close to making the tour as possible in his first try in 2002.

Rhoden started the final round in seventh place but picked an inopportune time to shoot his only over-par total in the four-day event. His three-over 75 left him one shot out of 16th place, the last qualifying position.

The difficulty in earning a tour card was evident in that Rhoden’s four-round total was five-under 283.


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