Sheehan third, Rhoden 16th in Champions Tour qualifying |

Sheehan third, Rhoden 16th in Champions Tour qualifying

Butch Sheehan of Reno and former major league pitcher Rick Rhoden are off to solid starts after the first round of Champions Tour Qualifying Finals on Tuesday in Homassassa Springs, Fla.

Sheehan, the brother of former LPGA Tour star Patty Sheehan, birdied six holes, including four on his front nine, en route to a first-round 68. His 4-under total left him in a four-way tie for third, one shot behind co-leaders David Eger of Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., and Des Smyth of Ireland.

Rhoden battled back from a sluggish front nine that saw him bogey three holes. However, the five-time celebrity golf championship winner rolled in six birdies, including the final two holes, to move into a nine-way tie for 16th place.

The poor iron play that troubled the 49-year-old Rhoden during regionals two weeks ago was never a factor. In fact, Rhoden hit 78 percent of the greens in regulation, which was ninth best in the field. But his putter deserted him as times as he needed 30 shots with the short stick, ranking him 50th for the first round.

The top eight players after four rounds receive full tour status for 2003. Ninth through 16th places will earn partial tour status.

Sheehan earned $321,682 and finished 54th in the final Champions Tour money list in 2002. The Red Hawk Golf Club member scored six birdies despite an average driving round where he hit fairways 71 percent of the time. Rhoden hit 79 percent of the fairways off the tee.

Smyth and Eger jump-started their rounds with a slew of birdies. Eger birdied the opening two holes, while Smyth birdie five of the first nine holes.

Like Rhoden, Robert Ault of Mesquite, Nev., was among nine players tied at 70.

Former PGA Tour player Andy Bean struggled to a 76.

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