Open Qualifying Goes Public for the First Time

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For 93 St. Louis-area golfers, the road to the U.S. Open begins at Quail Creek Golf Course on Tuesday with an 18-hole local qualifier.

It will end there for 84 of them.

Only the top nine scorers will advance to the second stage, sectional qualifying June 7 at Old Warson Country Club.

The Old Warson qualifier will be 36 holes, with the top three scorers going to the Open, which will be June 16-19 at Oakmont Country Club in Pittsburgh.

The Quail Creek field comprises 51 professionals and 42 amateurs.

Pros to watch: Jeff Hunter (St. Clair CC), John Hayes (Forest Hills CC), Garth Bayer (Old Warson), Jim Knoesel (A.L. Gustin), Jerry Tucker (Bellerive), Brian Fogt (Bellerive), Larry Emery (Glen Echo) and Bob Gaus (Tower Tee).

Amateurs to watch: Steve Irwin, Scott Thomas, Don Bliss, Roger Null, Craig Schnurbusch, Jerry Waitulavich and Terry Tessary.

The first threesome will tee off at 7:30 a.m. and the final group at 12:30 p.m.

Adding to the pressure is the fact that local qualifying for the first time is 18 holes instead of 36. The reason for this is the difficulty in securing a site with so many players, said Tom O'Toole, executive director of the Metropolitan Amateur Association and a rules official for the U.S. Golf Association.

Irwin Benefit Monday: The 19th Hale Irwin St. Louis Children's Hospital Benefit on Monday at Old Warson is expected to raise $500,000 for the Epilepsy and Seizure Disorders Center at the hospital. This would bring donations over the years to $4.8 million.

As usual, Irwin has assembled a solid lineup of pros, including Jay Haas, Jay Delsing, Mike Springer, Tom Wargo and Cathy Reynolds. Brett Hull of the Blues also will play.

Maltbie Relocating? PGA Tour veteran Roger Maltbie reportedly is impressed enough with The Bluffs by Tom Fazio, an upscale daily fee course scheduled to open in 1995, that he may become its PGA Tour pro. Maltbie and Bluffs officials continue to discuss the possibility.

The Bluffs is being built at the Missouri Research Park, near the juncture of Highways 40 and 94 in Weldon Spring.

Course of the Week: Eleven months, five floods and nearly $1 million later, Sunset Lakes Golf Course is back in business. Nine holes opened this weekend, with the full 18 scheduled to open Memorial Day weekend.

"We're going to have a gala grand re-opening during the holiday," said co-owner Jim LaBarbara. "Various St. Louis personalities will be on hand. We'll have a barbeque for the players."

Sunset Lakes suffered more extensive flood damage than any other area golf facility. …