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GOLF / THOMAS BONK : Considering the Rest, Stockton Likes His Own Sport Just Fine

October 16, 1994|THOMAS BONK

After he saw the baseball players strike and the hockey players get locked out, or whatever happened to them, Dave Stockton was certain of one thing.

"I picked the greatest sport to play," said Stockton, the leading money winner on the Senior PGA Tour.

"I mean, nobody can fire me, nobody can trade me. The only bad part is you start with zero in January. But at least you're still tied with everybody else. And you can't strike because you've got to go out there and play.

"I still can't believe hockey. They could have had the whole market cornered with baseball out. It's incredible. I'm just so glad we don't have to put up with that. It's hard to look down from our lofty position. . . . We feel sorry for them."

Yes, it's a very rewarding game that Stockton and his peer group are playing these days. Never before have so many seniors made so much money or attracted so much attention. Stockton and Raymond Floyd head a field of 17 of the top 20 money winners who will play in the Ralph's Senior Classic beginning Friday at Rancho Park.

For Stockton, it's a chance to get closer to front-runner Lee Trevino and repeat as player of the year. Stockton has won $1.3 million and leads the seniors, but Trevino, sidelined indefinitely because of a disc problem, has won six times to Stockton's three and that may be the important factor.

"Winning is more important than money," Stockton said.

Stockton has been associating himself with both since joining the senior tour in 1992. He was rookie of the year after finishing seventh on the money list and winning the Senior Players Championship. Last year was even better. He won five more times and led the money list with $1.16 million.

This year, Stockton has been extraordinary. He has won three times, repeating in the Senior Players Championship, has 19 top-10 finishes in 28 events and has banked that $1.3 million. The whole experience has left Stockton sort of awe-struck.

"I thought last year was amazing and here I'm going to blow it out of the sheets right now," he said.

"Unless I get tired, I'm going to keep beating these guys over the head. So I can't see quitting anytime in the near future. I've got a day job that works, so I'm going to go with it."

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Palmer on Price: It might have been the year of Price, as in six-time winner Nick Price, but it's also been a great year for golf, says Arnold Palmer.

"I think we're enjoying probably one of our better years," Palmer said. "I think we had a little bit of a lull, but that's evened out."

Palmer said Price has put the golf world on notice.

"He certainly is indicating that he is the top player," Palmer said. "I think only time will tell, but Nick is a great guy, a great ambassador for the game."

Palmer, whose personal highlight was playing his final U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club near his boyhood home at Latrobe, Pa., has not entered any more senior events this year.

He said he will be playing the Franklin Funds Shark Shootout at Sherwood Country Club, a mixed team event at Tampa and the Diner's Club matches at the Jack Nicklaus Course at PGA West in La Quinta.

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Palmer on Daly: Palmer, who knows a thing or two about fan support, acknowledged the enthusiasm of John Daly's galleries but said Daly needs a little work to become a complete player.

"John Daly is a little immature," Palmer said. "As he gets a little older and understands what's going on, I think he will accept and handle the situation very well.

"He can be tremendous for the game of golf, but he has to make some changes in his personality. It's just a learning process and it will come with a little more maturity."

*

Palmer's 'Empire': Palmer was in Rancho Cucamonga to attend a ground-breaking ceremony Wednesday for a planned 18-hole public golf course, designed by his company, and a branch of the Arnold Palmer Golf Academy.

Palmer said he and his design group plan on doing more public golf facilities.

"I just think it ensures that we will have golf available to the average guy," he said. "He can go to a public facility that is the same caliber as the country clubs."

The golf course and his training academy are part of a 380-acre development called Empire Lakes to be built on land owned by General Dynamics. The course is scheduled for completion by next fall.

*

Total Fehr: Rick Fehr has often taken a back seat to everyone. He was an eight-time runner-up and hadn't won since 1986 and last weekend very nearly got derailed on his way to a rare victory--by a courtesy car.

Fehr's ride to the final round of the $1.1-million Disney Classic was running so late that he sent his wife and children to the theme park in their rental car. Fehr stayed behind, waiting for his courtesy car.

He finally got to the course only 15 minutes before his scheduled tee time. Fehr closed with a 68 and won by two strokes over Fuzzy Zoeller and Craig Stadler.

Better late.

Golf Notes

The National Veterans Foundation golf tournament will be played Oct. 24 at North Ranch Country Club in Westlake Village. The event benefits the National Veterans Foundation. Film maker Oliver Stone will be honored as the national veteran of the year. . . . Sammy Rachels of Defuniak Springs, Fla., defeated Darrell Kestner of Manhasset, N.Y., in a playoff for the 27th PGA Club Professional Championship last week at the Oaks Course near the Lake of the Ozarks. Rachels, 44, made $32,000. Rachels and the next 24 finishers, earned berths in next year's PGA Championship at Riviera.

The 19th Retired Military Seniors Open Championship will be played Oct. 29-30 at SCGA Member Club at Rancho California in Murrieta. The event benefits the Navy Relief Fund. . . . The eighth Long Beach State Hall of Fame golf tournament is set for Monday at the Old Ranch Country Club in Seal Beach.

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