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New Tour Trying to Get the Drop on Minor Leagues

July 24, 1998|PETER YOON

It's a mini tour with major plans.

And if all goes according to plan, it could be a major player in the world of professional golf by the time it is done growing.

The Teardrop West Golf Tour, the newest in the overcrowded world of minor league professional golf, visits the High Desert Monday through Wednesday for a tournament at Crystalaire Country Club in Llano.

This aggressive, California-based tour has been attracting some of the top fields in the state all year by offering lucrative prizes and taking over some of the top events.

"Our target is the player who aspires to play on the PGA Tour or the Nike Tour," said John McCarthy, director of the Teardrop West Tour. "We provide a place for those players to come out and play."

But despite the existence of other, established mini tours in California, the Teardrop has been gaining prominence because of its purses.

Prize money varies from tournament to tournament, but in most first place is worth $10,000, with $6,000 to the runner-up and $4,000 for third.

The Golden State Tour, another California-based mini tour, awards $1,000 to winners.

"The money definitely gets your attention," said Jeff Sanday, a former Cal State Northridge star who plays the Teardrop Tour full time. "It's brought players out from outside of California."

But the prize money isn't all it's cracked up to be.

Sure the first three spots look pretty good, but things change drastically from there.

In many tournaments, anything less than a top-10 finish and players don't break even from their $500 entry fee.

"It definitely favors the top players," said Sanday, who has been in the top three on the Teardrop money list all season. "Unless you finish in the top 10, you're going to lose money."

Some players are beginning to realize this and the fields are beginning to suffer.

Despite having more than 400 players registered for the Teardrop West Tour, the Crystalaire event has yet to reach a 100-player field.

"A lot of players can't compete on the Teardrop," Sanday said. "Some will just have a hard time coming up with the $500 each week to enter."

In order to attract more money and sponsors, there has to be better players in the fields. To get better players in the fields, the prize money has to be worth it.

"From my point of view, it's worthwhile," said Sanday, who has two Teardrop victories this season. "But for the average player out here, it gets too expensive."

Already having acquired the California Golf Tour on the West Coast and the Powerbilt Tour on the East Coast, there is talk of the Teardrop Tour acquiring the Prairie Tour in the Midwest, the Hooters Tour in the Southeast and maybe going after the granddaddy of all mini tours, the Nike Tour, in the distant future.

"Our long-term goal is to provide a tour across the country," McCarthy said. "Our growth has been pretty rapid even more than most players are used to."

Somewhere along the way, McCarthy hopes to become involved with the PGA Tour.

"When we're firmly entrenched in the golf world we'd like to get our top players exempt into the final stage of qualifying school," McCarthy said.

For now, McCarthy hopes to continue the Teardrop Tour's expansion in California. He has already acquired the California State Open, played last month in Palm Desert, and the Queen Mary Open, played in May in Lakewood.

McCarthy has plans to restart the San Diego County Open and the Southern California Open, discontinued in recent years because of lack of funding.


Julie Park of Granada Hills shot even-par 72 on Tuesday at Coto de Caza Golf and Racquet Club to earn one of 16 available spots in the U.S. Girls' Junior Championship Aug. 4-9 at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Penn.

Ina Kim of Los Angeles, who will be a Harvard-Westlake sophomore, qualified at 74.


Ryan Wyman of Valencia shot 78-82--160 and did not make the cut in the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship at Conway Farms Golf Club in Lake Forest, Ill.


Anne Lee of Northridge shot 76-78-76--230 and finished 27th in the AJGA McDonald's Betsy Rawls Girls' National Championship at DuPont Country Club in Wilmington, Del.

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