Getting paid $500 to show up at a golf tournament is rather unusual, but that's what players can look forward to as the No-Exemptions Tour (aka NEXT!) is launched in Florida by Frank and Mary Magee.
The Magees already operate the highly successful Moonlight Professional Golf Tour. Their newest venture will have its inaugural event on the Pine Barrens course at World Woods Oct. 15-16, and they hope to have a "major" tournament monthly come 1998.
"Moonlight serves the developing player and is growing nicely," Frank Magee said. "We had over 3,350 rounds played last year, and with over 1,800 rounds completed in the first quarter this year are on target for over 6,000 rounds in 1996.
"NEXT will bring real major league professional golf to Florida on a consistent basis, with qualifying sites around the country feeding Florida with talent for large-purse competition. The format is similar to the USGA's Senior Open qualifying scheme with single-stage format."
Qualified golfers will be paid $500 in advance to come to Florida, where NEXT purses will be guaranteed to be $840 times the number of players. Players not living close to qualifying sites, once the 20-30 sites are announced, can contact the Magees at (813) 392-5175 and a site will be arranged that is convenient. One in seven golfers will qualify under the format.
The qualifying entry fee is $300, which is comparable to other major tours, Magee said. Golfers may attempt to qualify as many times as they wish for the "majors." Orlando, Tampa and Miami likely will be qualifying sites in the state.
"We're cautiously optimistic that the concept will be tremendously successful simply because there's such a strong need out there," Magee said.
"Like anything new, it will take a year or two to grow and should reach full maturation in three years. For 120 players, we're talking about a $100,000 purse with $20,000 for first place and each qualifier getting that $500 in advance. No other tour does that."
While some amateurs may compete to gain the experience, Magee stressed that NEXT is for the pro golfer. He added that Inverness' Brian Brown will serve as tour administrator for the local section. Brown's number is (352) 637-3370.
FOUR WIN JUNIOR TITLES: Four players from Hernando County won their divisions Saturday in a North Suncoast Junior Golf Association tournament at Pine Ridge Country Club.
Spring Hill's Jennifer Straussner led the parade of winners with a 92 in the girls 17-18 tournament division. In nine-hole divisions, Brooksville's Rodney Coburn turned in a 51 in the boys 10-12 intermediate group, and Spring Hill's Kelly Wilkins posted a 77 in the girls 10-12 intermediate. The other victor was Brooksville's Ryan Brewer with 34 for seven holes in boys and girls 8-9 division.
Other high finishers qualifying for the Tournament of Champions in mid-August were: Brooksville's Doug Ferris, second with 75 in boys 16-18 tournament; Spring Hill's Misty Laushot, second at 97 in girls 15-16 tournament; Spring Hill's Russell Sanders, second with 51 for nine holes in boys 13-18 intermediate; and Brooksville's Justin Greene and Spring Hill's Bret Baliszewski, second and third respectively with 35s on a match of cards in boys and girls 8-9 division (seven holes).
Southern Woods will play host to the next NSJGA event Saturday.
Juniors also are reminded of the Marion Walker Scholarship Tournament Aug. 3 at Inverness Golf and Country Club, starting at 10:30 a.m. It's a parent-child event with $25-per-entrant fee that includes a barbecue.
PLANTATION TAKES LEAD: A team from Plantation Inn Golf Resort in Crystal River took over first place Monday in the Suncoast Men's Travel League by shooting a 355 score on its home course. Glen Lakes finished second at 357, with Spring Hill and Citrus Hills tied for third at 358.
Other scores included LakeSide 359, Twisted Oaks 361, Pine Ridge 367, Sugarmill Woods 369, Seville 370 and Rivard 378.
Plantation now has 19 points for the second half of the season, followed by Spring Hill at 17.5. Rounding out the standings are Citrus Hills 14.5, Glen Lakes 14, Twisted Oaks 10, Sugarmill Woods 9, LakeSide and Pine Ridge 8, Rivard 4 and Seville 3.
Glen Lakes is the site for the next match next Monday at 8:30 a.m.
OCALANS WIN FOUR-BALL: Randy Briggs and Daniel Owen of Ocala shot 59-68 for a 127 score and a seven-stroke victory over the weekend in the Florida State Golf Association Four-Ball Championship at World Woods.
The lone North Suncoast team to finish in the top 20 was Crystal River's Bob Bleakley and Tim Kuntz. They tied for 19th at 138 with rounds of 71-67.
NICE PAYDAY FOR CHILLEMI: Ocala's Connie Chillemi, a participant every December in the Florida Women's Open at Plantation Inn Golf Resort in Crystal River, tied for 10th place with a 290 (70-69-74-77) at the LPGA Friendly's Classic in Massachusetts that concluded Sunday.
Chillemi received $9,336 for her best payday on tour this year. She had earned $1,769 in six events prior to her strong effort at Crestview Country Club in Agawam, Mass.
NIKE UPDATE: Homosassa's Joe Cioe picked up $3,200 Sunday at the Nike Philadelphia Classic. He posted rounds of 70-70-71-69_280 and tied for 12th place.
Spring Hill's Rich Sadler shot 71-73_144 and Homosassa's Glen Hnatiuk 73-73_146 to miss the cut for weekend play in the 72-hole tournament.
Hnatiuk slipped to 21st on the Nike money list with $51,845 while Cioe fell to 37th with $33,128. Next up is the Nike Miami Valley Open, another 72-hole event in Ohio that begins Thursday.