Michigan Golfer ON-LINE

Life After Tiger
by John Vanden Heede

BENTON HARBOR -- Joel Kribel, an understudy to Tiger Woods a year ago, will be at center stage of the Western Amateur golf tournament July 30 to August 3 at Point O'Woods Golf & Country Club in Benton Harbor.

Kribel achieved star status in the Western Golf Association tourney last summer by winning the championship after Woods, his teammate at the time at Stanford, lost in the first round of match play.

The tournament was a breakthrough event for Kribel, who has since maintained his top billing even though he is just 20 and a junior-to-be at Stanford. The Pleasanton, California resident has been ranked among the world's top amateurs ever since the Western Amateur.

Still, Kribel doesn't have Woods' star appeal. Just like on the PGA Tour this year, Woods drew exceptional crowds as an amateur a year ago. About 40,000 fans watched the Western Amateur at Point O'Woods last summer, with the largest crowd of 11,500 being on the first round of match play when Woods lost. With Woods gone, the attendance the following day for the semifinals and finals of match play dropped to 9,248, according to tournament officials.

Woods' fan draw can't be replaced, but WGA officials promise an exceptional field. "Even though Tiger Woods has turned professional and won't be playing this year, we still have a great field of amateurs," states Greg McLaughlin, tournament director for the WGA.

Eight of the tournament's match play Sweet Sixteen return in Kribel, Dan Green, Michael Henderson, Douglas LaBelle II, Randy Leen, Terry Noe, Whit Staples and Roger Tambellini.

There's also Steve Scott, Jason Enloe, Robert Floyd and Kalle Aitala.

"Scott and Kribel lead a group of All-American collegiate players who will again give the Western Amateur the best field of any amateur championship in 1997," adds McLaughlin. "The players call our tournament 'The Masters of amateur golf,' and this year's excellent field and venue will serve to further enhance that reputation."

The tournament starts July 28 with prequalifying at Lake Michigan Hills in Benton Harbor and Hampshire Country Club in Dowagiac. Prequalifying survivors will join exempt plays at the Point on July 30. A starting field of about 180 golfers will play 18 holes Wednesday and Thursday before a cut to the low 50 and ties for 36 more holes of medal play Friday. The surviving Sweet Sixteen from Friday will go into match play on the weekend. There will be two rounds Saturday and the semifinals and championship matches on Sunday.

Scott, who took Woods into extra holes before losing in last year's U.S. Amateur, stands with Kribel as tournament favorites. Others in the top 10 of amateur rankings are Enloe, Floyd, Leen and Aitala.

Floyd is the son of PGA golf great Raymond Floyd and a teammate of Steve Scott at the University of Florida. Floyd is best known at the Western Amateur for defeating Woods in the 1995 match play semifinals. His brother, Raymond Jr., is also entered in the Western Amateur.

Aitala, who is from Finland, should again give the tournament another excellent international representation. Australians Steve Allan and Brett Partridge made the Final Four last summer.

Noe has the distinction of being the last golfer to beat Woods as an amateur at last year's Western Amateur.

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