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EX-ASSISTANT WHO QUIT JOB CASHES IN AT PGA QUALIFYING

George McNeill never thought he be-longed behind the counter as an assistant pro. His decision to quit paid off Monday when he won the PGA Tour qualifying tournament and joined 39 other players who earned cards for next year.

McNeill closed with 5-under 67 on PGA West's Stadium Course, his fifth consecutive round in the 60s, for a five-shot victory over Robert Garrigus. McNeill earned $50,000 and will be atop a list of 61 players who earned cards through the Nationwide Tour or Q-school.

"I didn't feel like it was easy at any time, even today," said McNeill, who finished at 409 in the six-round event.

He had given up on Q-school after failing for the eighth time, and took a job at Forest Country Club in Fort Myers.

Palm Harbor's Bob Heintz qualified at 13 under, tied for eighth. Brandon's Michael Bradley, a former PGA Tour winner, made a par putt on No. 18 to earn his card on the number at 8 under. Gulfport's Kyle McCarthy (488) tied for 121st.

Others earning cards included former PGA Tour winners Paul Stankowski and Jonathan Kaye.

The next 49 players earned full status on the Nationwide Tour, including two-time U.S. Open champion Lee Janzen.

Elsewhere

Seve Ballesteros will play in a few PGA Tour events next season as he prepares for the senior Champions Tour. Ballesteros turns 50 on April 9.

AUTO RACING

ISC drops plan for Staten Island track

International Speedway Corp., the largest U.S. racetrack operator, said it scrapped plans to build a NASCAR track on Staten Island because of a lack of political support and unacceptable approval requirements. The company said it will develop new plans for the 676-acre tract, formerly home to an oil-tank farm, and will continue to seek a site for a track in the New York area. The France family, which runs NASCAR, is the majority owner of ISC.

TENNIS

Evert's divorce from Mill becomes final

The divorce of Chris Evert from former skier Andy Mill became official in a Fort Lauderdale family court. Evert, 51, and Mill, 53, were married for 18 years. A settlement calls for Evert to pay Mill $7-million in cash and securities.

SERENA'S BULL BITE: A pit bull registered to Serena Williams reportedly bit a security guard outside her home last week. Williams told police she didn't own the dog, but Palm Beach County Animal Care and Control assistant director Dennis Yeskey told the Palm Beach Post that it was registered to her, and her Web site shows two photographs of her tan pit bull named Bambi.

ET CETERA

SOCCER: The Colorado Rapids will open Major League Soccer's newest stadium April 7 when it hosts D.C. United to begin MLS' 12th season in Dick's Sporting Goods Park.

WEIGHTLIFTING: Thailand's Pawina Thongsuk set a world record at 313 pounds in the clean-and-jerk at the Asian Games in Doha, Qatar.

SAILING: Switzerland's Bernard Stamm started his defense of the Velux 5 Oceans by winning the first leg of the around-the-world solo race from Spain to Fremantle, on Australia's west coast. Stamm, sailing his Open 60 Cheminees Poujoulat, arrived Monday in Fremantle after 43 days and 12,000 miles.

RODEO: Matt Austin withdrew from the National Finals in Las Vegas, giving up a shot at a second straight world bull riding title, because of injuries. Austin tore abdominal and groin muscles during a ride in Liberty, Texas, in October. He had a successful ride Thursday, then was bucked off his second-round bull Friday and had to be helped from the arena.

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