Eger Smyth Share Champions Q-School Lead


Champions TourBROOKSVILLE, Fla. -- David Eger and Des Smyth carded 5-under-par 67s and hold a one-stroke lead after the first round of the Champions Tour Qualifying School Tournament at World Woods Golf Club's Rolling Oaks Course.
Eger had seven birdies and two bogeys in his round. He appeared in 13 events on the 2002 Champions Tour schedule with just one top 10, finishing 83rd on the money list.
Starting on the back nine, Eger got off to a fast start with birdies on his first two holes. After a bogey on his fifth hole, Eger birdied four of his next eight holes.
Smyth, an eight-time winner on the European Tour, shot an opening nine of 31 and reached 6-under-par with one hole remaining. However, he bogeyed his final hole to fall back into a tie with Eger.
Smyth, who captured the 2001 Madeira Island Open for his last win, is a six-time Irish National PGA Champion. His best finish this season in Europe was a tie for 10th at the Telefonica Open de Madrid.
Five players are just one shot behind, including Champions Tour veterans Butch Sheehan, Frank Conner and Jerry McGee. Sheehan appeared in 27 tournaments this season with just two top-10s, finishing 54th on the money list. Two-under-par after 12 holes, Conner holed his second shot for eagle on the fourth hole (his 13th) and then birdied the next to reach 5-under, but bogeyed his final hole to finish one back. McGee, who joined the Champions Tour in 1993, won four times on the PGA Tour, but never on the elder circuit.
Eamonn Darcy and Rex Caldwell are among a group of eight two shots off the pace. Darcy, another fine player from Ireland, is a four-time Ryder Cup member with four European Tour victories to his credit. Caldwell, a winner 19 years ago on the PGA Tour, posted three birdies on his back nine to shoot 69.
Former major league baseball pitcher Rick Rhoden, the all-time winner and money leader on the Celebrity Tour, opened with a 2-under 70, which included six birdies and four bogeys.
Eligible for the Champions Tour next year, Ed Fiori also stands at 2-under-par, while Andy Bean, who is eligible in March, struggled to shoot 76.
This is the 13th time that the Champions Tour qualifying tournament is being held in Florida. One hundred and 10 players are seeking entrance to the over-50 circuit, with just the top eight players gaining fully exempt status for 2003. The winner of the four-day event will receive a check for $42,000.