Wednesday, March 31, 1999

Kroger Classic lures Irwin


Officials cite improvements in the course

BY GEOFF HOBSON
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The Kroger Senior Classic hailed its bid to become a hot tournament Tuesday when the senior circuit's top player agreed to play Cincinnati.

        Hale Irwin, the Senior PGA Tour's leading money winner the past two years, plans to make his first pro tournament appearance in Greater Cincinnati Sept. 20-26 at the Golf Center at Kings Island.

        Irwin, who won a record $2.8 million last year, is one of the big names organizers sought for years in a tournament criticized for lack of drawing power.

        “We set out to get the best players,” said Don Schumacher, who became the tournament's new general chairman last fall. “You either do that by pleading or by investing in what you already have. We chose to invest. It's a huge boost for us in the community and with other players.”

        Schumacher said raising the purse from $1.1 million to $1.4 million — fourth highest on tour — is a reason golfers are taking a second look at the Kroger. He also cited adjustments Jack Nicklaus made to the course he designed.

        About 160 trees 20 and 30 feet high have been added at the corner of doglegs and most are on the fairway side of the golf cart path, making the course more difficult.

        There are a dozen new bunkers and most fairways are re-contoured.

        Irwin, 53, is No. 27 on this year's money list at $112,933, his best finish a fourth at Tampa's GTE Classic.

        It was at the GTE Schumacher met Irwin and about 40 other golfers during the week to pitch the Kroger. He plans to talk to about 20 at an upcoming stop in Birmingham, Ala. Gil Morgan, who has also never played the Kroger, is on his wish list.

       



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