'01 champ Lickliter studies hard

Working with Sonnier raises his game, hopes

Kemper Open

Notebook

May 30, 2002|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

POTOMAC - When Frank Lickliter won his first PGA Tour event at last year's Kemper Insurance Open, most figured his career would take off. Though he wound up 19th on the money list and made nearly $2 million, Lickliter was not satisfied with what he considered erratic results.

During the week of the Tour Championship in Houston, Lickliter started working with Randy Sonnier, an accomplished amateur player and teacher whose pupils include Rocco Mediate and whose mentors included golf legends Lloyd Mangrum, Claude Harmon and Jackie Burke.

"I've learned more in the last seven months about golf than I had learned in the past 18 years," Lickliter said yesterday.

His progress was slowed by a hand injury, but recent results have encouraged Lickliter: a tie for eighth at the Byron Nelson Classic and a tie for 12th the next week at Colonial.

"It's really exciting," he said. "It's just taken a little while."

Lickliter was the third straight first-time champion at the Kemper, following Tom Scherrer and Rich Beem.

"I guess it's a coincidence," said Lickliter, who beat J.J Henry by a stroke. "The one thing you get when you get to this golf tournament are hosts that treat us all well. It's like coming home."

Lickliter doesn't know why the tournament has trouble drawing more top players. This year's field includes only two of the top 20 money-winners on the PGA Tour and eight players among the Top 50 in the world rankings.

He doesn't think that the absence of Tiger Woods, who was rumored to be heading here, will detract from the tournament.

"Tiger can't fill all the tee times," Lickliter said. "He can't have a one-man golf tournament. You can't win the golf tournament without some great players there."

No Open-and-shut case

Greg Norman said yesterday that he plans on trying to qualify for next month's U.S. Open at a sectional qualifier in Tampa, Fla. Should Norman be successful, he could face a quandary.

Norman lost his PGA Tour membership last year for not playing the minimum number of events, so he is allowed to play in only 10 tournaments this year.

Norman, 45, has played in six events so far and, aside from the Kemper, has received a sponsor's exemption in three others. The PGA Tour already has cut Norman a break by not counting the Masters and PGA Championship on his record.

"If I qualify, it's going to be interesting," said Norman, who played in 11 events last year, one shy of the requirement. "Maybe I can't play in the U.S. Open."

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