Newton Kansan

Out of about 3,000 golfers throughout the United States who attempted to qualify, 156 players will be in Newton, competing in the U.S. Amateur Public Links tournament at Sand Creek Station Golf Course next week.

"It might not be your professional players, but it's guys who love the game, who have a passion for the game who play just as good if not as good as the professionals," Brad Evenson, sales and marketing director for Sand Creek said.

At 7,365 yards, the golf course will be a challenge for players, Evenson said.

"We're a course that has a lot of distance from green to the next tee," he said. "Not only is the course 7,300 plus yards, but when you factor that guys are walking sometimes 50 to 80 yards farther from the green to next tee, it makes for a grueling day. It's going to be a good test for these guys."

The Kansas wind will either throw players off or "let those guys who've really honed their game rise to the top," Evenson said.

Tuesday, based on qualifying scores, the 64 best players will remain in the tournament. They will be seeded. Sand Creek General Manager Chris Tuohey compares it to March Madness. The 64th ranked player will compete against the number one player, the 63rd will play against the second best and so on.

Along with players from all 50 states, there will be eight players from foreign countries, such as South Africa, China and Japan, Tuohey said.

Evenson said the golfers are "bona fide public course players. What that means is they're not a member of a private club, but these players are still used to playing some of the nicest and best golf courses in the world."

Tuohey said the APL and the NCAA Division I Championship held at Prairie Dunes Country Club in Hutchinson in May are generating interest in tournament golf in this area.

"It really does support the public golfer," Tuohey said. "Public courses have become just as good as a private club. It's free. You don't have to pay anything. You can walk right up to the number one tee and see some of the best players in the world."

This APL tournament will be the last - the end of a tradition that started at Ottawa Park Course in Toledo, Ohio in 1922.

"I think the public links championship really served a great purpose in getting the public involved in the game of golf," Evenson said. "It gave them something to compete for."

Touhey said, "I just want the entire city to know how really special this championship is for Newton. I really do think it will change things for the better for our community to have a championship of this magnitude."