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2006 Daily News
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Castle PinesTuesday, Aug 8 Headline News

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Ryder Cup fight

Steve Jones Added to INTERNATIONAL

Browne, Legerski Renew
Friendship at Castle Pines



Phil MicklesonRyder Cup fight, big boppers provide INTERNATIONAL fireworks

By JOHN FINERAN
INTERNATIONAL Daily News

CASTLE ROCK, CO —In terms of years, The INTERNATIONAL has reached the legal age limit - 21 years.

But in terms of significance on the world golf stage, Jack Vickers' annual Modified Stableford get-together at the par-72, 7,619-yard Castle Pines Golf Club never has been more important.

While some of the PGA TOUR's top long-distance bombers like Bubba Watson, J.B. Holmes, Robert Garrigus, Tag Ridings, Ryan Hietala, Camilo Villegas and Charley Hoffman will try to launch golf balls on sub-orbital flights in the rarified air at 6,300 feet in the Rocky Mountain foothills, there is more important work for others in the field of 144 of the world's best professional golfers.

Just two events - this one and the PGA Championship next week at Medinah
Country Club in suburban Chicago - remain for U.S. players on the PGA TOUR to gain the points needed to make captain Tom Lehman's 12-man team that will attempt to bring the Ryder Cup back across the Atlantic Ocean.

Sunday's winner, if he's an American, will receive 375 points toward the team, which could see a major shakeup. Past INTERNATIONAL champions Phil Mickelson, this year's Masters champion and defending PGA champion, and David Toms, who beat Mickelson for the 2001 PGA title, ranked second and fifth respectively in the latest U.S. team point standings, both can lock up spots with a Top 10 finish.

David TomsMeanwhile, Chris DiMarco (No. 6), J.J. Henry (No. 8), Zach Johnson (No. 9), John Rollins (No. 11) and Lucas Glover (No. 13) could solidify spots in the Top 10 with a strong finish this week. Only DiMarco, the runner-up at this year's British Open, has previous Ryder Cup experience.

Two veterans with 11 Ryder Cup appearances between them are lurking in the middle of the second 10 - two-time INTERNATIONAL champion Davis Love III (No. 14) and Fred Couples (No. 15) - and could move up with a solid finish. And a victory could lift former INTERNATIONAL champion Tom Pernice Jr. (No. 17), Arron Oberholser (No. 19) or Stewart Cink (No. 20) to the Top 10.

Lehman, who played on three Ryder Cup teams, is in this week's field as well, as much for himself as for those players who could be playing for him on the U.S. squad. He will be assisted by Loren Roberts, who recently won the Senior British Open, and Corey Pavin, who won the U.S. Bank Championship two weekends ago in Milwaukee. Pavin, a former U.S. Open champion, is making his 16th appearance this week at Castle Pines while Lehman's appearance will be his 11th.

Lehman's team will try to erase the memory of the 18 1/2-9 1/2 Massacre in Motown by captain Bernhard Langer's European squad at Oakland Hills in 2004. Langer, a two-time Masters champion from Germany, will be playing this week. This year's Ryder Cup matches, the 36th, will be played at The K Club outside Dublin, Ireland. The Europeans, who have won four of the last five matches, will be captained by Wales' Ian Woosnam and he'll keep a close watch on the happenings here this week with possible team members David Howell, Sergio Garcia, Paul Casey and former two-time Masters champion and 1991 INTERNATIONAL champion Jose Maria Olazabal among the contestants.

This week's field includes 19 American and European golfers who number 60 Ryder Cup Matches between them. As usual, the field also has its share of major champions - 20 at last count with the additions Monday of former U.S. Open champion Steve Jones, a Colorado favorite, and former Masters champion Larry Mize.

Among the other 18 major winners are defending INTERNATIONAL champion Retief Goosen of South Africa (two U.S. Opens) and his compatriot Ernie Els (two U.S. Opens, one British Open) who won the 2000 INTERNATIONAL and is the tournament's all-time leader in points and money earnings.

Also entered this week are Mark O'Meara, winner of the Masters and British Open titles in 1998; Rich Beem, who followed his 2002 INTERNATIONAL victory by winning the PGA Championship; Denver's David Duval, winner of the 2001 British Open; Justin Leonard, the 1997 British Open champion; two-time British Open champion Greg Norman, the 1989 INTERNATIONAL champion; and Bob Tway, the 1986 PGA champion.

Other INTERNATIONAL champions in the field are inaugural winner Ken Green (1986), Steve Lowery (1994), Clarence Rose (1996) and Australia's Rodney Pampling (2004), one of 12 golfers from Australia in the field.

The 144 players represent 16 countries, including the first two golfers ever from the People's Republic of China -Lian-Wei Zhang and Liang Wen Chong. Norway is represented for the first time by Henrik Bjornstad, one of 36 first-time participants.

Exciting Camilo Villegas, a 24-year-old former University of Florida golfer, is the first golfer ever from Colombia, and he packs plenty of wallop for his 5-foot-9 frame. Villegas, always colorfully adorned, is averaging 304.7 yards a drive, which is almost 15 yards behind the average of PGA TOUR-leader Watson, a left-hander, who is averaging 319.4 when his drives hit the fairway.

INTERNATIONAL fans, among the most knowledgeable in golf, surely will be watching Watson and the other long-knockers, including field members Jason Gore and Stuart Appleby, who have long pokes of 427 and 426 yards, respectively, this season. They all could make short work of Castle Pines' four par-5 holes -the 644-yard first, the 535-yard eighth, the 623-yard 14th and the 492-yard 17th, which has surrendered double eagles (+8 points) to Jim Gallagher Jr. in 1990 and Lowery in 2002. Next year, the INTERNATIONAL moves to the Fourth of July week, July 2-8, on the FedEx Cup schedule. But there should be plenty of fireworks this week at Castle Pines, considering the exciting field and all that is at stake.




Steve JonesSteve Jones Added to
INTERNATIONAL After Technicality Almost Eliminated Him

CASTLE ROCK, CO —After playing in
15 of the previous 20 tournaments, it came as no surprise that Steve Jones planned to be in the field for The INTERNATIONAL in 2006. There was one hitch: He wasn’t eligible, according to PGA TOUR rules.

Unbeknownst to the former University of Colorado golfer, Jones’ eligibility to play in invitational events had expired, even though his 1986 U. S. Open victory entitled him to participate in non-invitationals.

Realizing this, Executive Director Larry Thiel began scrambling last week to find a spot for Jones, hoping to offer him one of the 16 sponsor exemptions. But they were all taken.

“Bottom line, he wasn’t in the field and we began to wonder why,” said Thiel. “So when we found out, I started looking at our options. I had already assigned my sponsor exemptions, so I had nowhere to go.”

Finally on Sunday night, upon learning that Bo Van Pelt had withdrawn, Thiel was able to include Jones to the field that already included 18 other major championship winners. (It increased to 20 total later when Masters winner Larry Mize was added.)

Jones is an eight-time PGA TOUR winner whose last victory came in the 1998 Quad City Classic. Playing in 19 events this year, his best finish was 17th in the John Deere Classic. He has earned $279,768.

At The INTERNATIONAL, Jones has amassed 178 points and earned $171,174. His best finish was a tie for 20th in 2001. He has made the Sunday finals three times.




Browne, Legerski Renew Friendship at Castle Pines

By JOHN FINERAN
INTERNATIONAL Daily News

Olin BrowneLast year’s Pro-Junior Challenge was the start of a beautiful relationship between PGA TOUR member Olin Browne and 17-year-old Tucker Legerski, a young golfer who was born with spina bifida.

    The love affair continued Monday morning in the eighth annual event that featured five foursomes — one professional with three Colorado junior golfers — playing Castle Pines’ “Milkshake” loop — holes 10, 11, 16, 17 and 18 — in a scramble that was scored using the INTERNATIONAL’s Modified Stableford scoring system.

    Last year, Browne captained the winning team that included Legerski.
Monday, Browne and Legerski helped Trinidad’s Drew Gagliardi and Fort Collins’
Jasmine Schutt-Van Meveren into the winner’s circle with a +11 effort.

    “I have so much fun,” said Browne, who has participated in all eight of the Pro-Junior Challenges that highlight Youth Day at Castle Pines. “The kids are great, so cool and so much fun to be around. That’s why I’m begging Don (Hurter, Castle Pines’ head pro, who runs the Pro-Junior with wife Sue) for a permanent invitation. The kids are an inspiration.”

    And certainly the most inspiring is Legerski, who has undergone 10 surgeries in his young life but has always managed to keep up on the golf course (he has a career-best round of 88) and in the classroom, where he carries a 3.6 grade-point average.
    “Tucker is an incredible young man,” Browne understated. “His life has not been an easy road, but Tucker has never been afraid to address his surgeries.”

    The latest surgery came Feb. 28 in Salt Lake City, where doctors helped to straighten Tucker’s spine, which once had him leaning forward and to the right at a 78-degree angle.

    “They basically took out part of my spine, straightened it and that made me more upright,” Legerski said. “Since then, I’ve grown three inches and look better.”

    Staying in touch with Legerski through all the tough times — the young man’s mother Kristi had surgery as well shortly after last year’s INTERNATIONAL and is on the road to recovery — Browne continually remained impressed.

    “People like Tucker put what we do out here in the proper perspective,” Browne continued. “He’s just a wonderful young guy, and that was apparent from the first time we met. Kids like Tucker are the future of our country and our world. You can’t implant the enthusiasm and the optimism in him that he carries with him every day. You want to be able to support people like that.”

Browne provided more than morale support. There was an undisclosed financial help as well from the golfer, who prefers to keep it private, and fellow pro Brandt Jobe, last year's INTERNATIONAL runner-up and a former resident of Castle Pines.

       “Olin is my hero, my biggest role model,” Legerski said. “He has done so much for me.”

    Browne never had a bigger fan than last Sept. 5 when he held off Jason Bohn for a one-stroke victory in the Deutsche Bank Championship at the Tournament Players Club of Boston in Norton, Mass.

“I was cheering for him all the way,” Legerski said. “I was really, really happy to see him win.”

It was Browne’s third career PGA TOUR victory and first since his 1999 victory in the Colonial, and the winner’s check of $990,000 propelled Browne to his best season ever — almost $2.2 million in earnings. The season earned Browne, who played last season with sponsors’ exemptions after losing his card following finishes of 130th (2003) and 127th (2004) on the money list.

“I’m forever grateful that (executive director) Larry Thiel and (Castle
Pines and tournament founder) Jack Vickers invited me back to play after I had fallen on hard times,” Browne said. “This is my favorite event on tour, one that I would love to win.”

Until he does, Browne will be satisfied with his three Pro-Junior Challenge victories, especially the last two with Legerski as a teammate.

Monday, the team made a par on the 10th hole before Gagliardi birdied the 11th from seven feet.

Then Legerski took over, chipping in from the fringe on the par-3 16th hole and then sinking a 12-foot uphill putt on the par-5 17th for an eagle.

“Tucker actually called the shot at 16,” Browne said. “I don’t even think Tom Watson would have made the shot that Tucker did. And at 17, he read it inside left lip and nailed it.”

The shot of the day for the foursome, however, belonged to Schutt-Van
Meveren, who knocked a 7-iron approach from 143 yards to the 18th green to 10 inches and sank the putt for the team’s third birdie.

“She has a beautiful swing,” Browne added.

Second place went to the team captained by 1996 INTERNATIONAL winner Clarence Rose that finished with +8 points and included Bryan Brennan of Eagle, Jamison Bair of Eagle and Bobby Moyer of Aspen. Rose did sink a 25-foot birdie putt on the 18th green to win his team some new shoes.

“I hope you guys remember me whenever you wear those shoes,” said Rose, who
is gearing for a Champions Tour berth in two seasons.

They will, but they likely will also remember Legerski’s speech at a morning
breakfast.

“Tucker read a paper he wrote about his battles,” Browne said. “It was a wonderful speech. He is an extraordinary young man.”
Indeed, Tucker Legerski and Olin Browne are cut from the same cloth.

PRO-JUNIOR CHALLENGE

Results from Monday’s eighth annual Pro-Junior Challenge, a scramble tournament using the modified Stableford scoring system that was played at Castle Pines’ “Milkshake Loop” — holes 10, 11, 16, 17 and 18. Professional listed first:

+11: Olin Browne; Drew Gagliardi (Trinidad, Colo.); Tucker Legerski (Pueblo); Jasmine Schutt-Van Meveren (Fort Collins).

+8: Clarence Rose; Bryan Brennan (Eagle); Jamison Bair (Eagle); Bobby Moyer (Aspen). +5: Brandt Jobe; Jesse Gaass (Denver); Aaron Guereca (Denver); C.J. Dorsey (Denver).

+4: Kane Webber; Mark Roush (Pueblo); Jasmin Rios (Denver); Ned Imhoff (Denver).

+2: Duffy Waldorf; Tyler Muhs (Aurora); Clay LeBrec (Denver); Molly Dorans (Erie).

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