A pair of Payson golf courses are playing host to a prestigious four-ball tournament that has drawn 86 teams from around the United States.
Beginning today (Tuesday) at both Chaparral Pines and the Rim Golf Club, the teams will compete in the 19th Trans-Mississippi Four-Ball Championships.
Eighteen holes of stroke play in both a regular and senior division are scheduled to continue Tuesday and wrap up Wednesday afternoon. Because of a lack of enough golf carts, spectators will not be allowed, a club spokesman said.
Drawing the tournament to Payson is a definite highlight of the local golf scene, said Chaparral Pines pro Bryan Billmeir. "This tournament has been held at some of the best courses around the country. We're glad to have it here."
The tournament field will not include any local players, but among the entrants are defending champions Bob Gross and Steve Titus of Pasadena, Calif. The pair won the crown last year when the fray was contested at Pumpkin Ridge course in Cornelius, Ore. According to tournament directors, the pair are expected to make a strong run at a second gold-medal finish, but can expect stiff competition from others participating, including six former champions and several who have won national honors.
Among the former gold medalists are Jerry Hudgins and Mike Rice of Houston. The pair won the 1995 Trans Mississippi Championship at River Oaks in Houston. Other former crown holders include Bob Cayton of Pebble Beach, Calif., Jamie Crow of San Angelo, Texas and Eddie Lyons of Shreveport, La.
Cayton won the 1996 title at Broadmoor course in Colorado Springs with Casey Boynes, but in Payson will be paired with Ken Helwig of Pebble Beach.
Crown captured the 1994 championship with his father, Tom, but is now playing with Chris Johnston also of San Aneglo.
Paired with John Pigg, Lyons was a three-time winner. His new partner for the Payson shootout is Mike Mitton of Shreveport.
In the 18-team Senior Division for players 55-years and older, Bill Heldmar of Tulsa, Okla., the tournament's 1992 champion, is expected to make a run at the title. His partner is Roger Brown of Arkansas City, Kan.
Tournament rules prohibit the seniors team from having a total handicap of over 12, four strokes higher than the regular division, in which players must be 25 years old.
In both the divisions, the twosomes will play one course, then the other on the first two days, with a cut being made to approximately two-thirds of the Championship Division after 36 holes. The Senior Division and the third flight of the Championship Division will play on Thursday at Chaparral Pines. The remaining twosomes will contend for for the 1999 title in the championship round at the Rim Golf Club.
According to tournament directors, proceeds from the competition help build the Trans-Mississippi Turf Scholarship Fund, which now grants $51,000 in scholarships to young men and women pursuing careers as golf course superintendents or in areas of turf management.
The 99-year-old Trans Mississippi Golf Association will conduct its next tournament, a match play championship, July 10-15, 2000 at White Bear Yacht Club in White Bear Lake, Minn.