By Ronn Rowland
Phoenix Sports Writer
For the weekend golfer who likes to play for a little cash, the opportunities presenting themselves have grown.
That’s because the Oklahoma Pro Golf Tour, based out of Muskogee, and the Long Shots Tour in Edmond will combine tournament fields.
“This year, we have merged all of our events,” said Keith Coleman, owner of the O-Tour. “That way, we play one schedule. We have it broken down with five events on the east, five events on the west and four events in a neutral location. We will also have a major tournament in the east, west and at a neutral location.”
The idea for the merger came as a result of a tournament held at the end of the 2011 season.
“We held a Ryder Cup- type event with 10 golfers from our tour and 10 golfers from their tour,” said Coleman, who is also the softball coach at Muskogee High School. “It was such a good success and so popular, we decided last year to have three combined events and another Ryder Cup, which we call the Oklahoma Cup. Those had big fields and had a lot of money.
“So going into the end of last year, Stephen Riley (Long Shots owner) and I began talking about merging all of our events this year just to primarily help both tours grow. It will still be two separate tours but we are just combining our events.”
And Coleman is quick to point out one factor that will help in the growth.
“The big appeal for any tour is obviously money,” he said. “Guys like to win money. The merging of the schedules will allow us to pay out a lot of money. All of the east side events will be Oklahoma Tour events and all the west side will be Long Shot events, The neutral events will be split between the two tours.”
While the golfers will be playing for prize money, their amateur status might not be affected, provided they remain under United States Golf Association guidelines.
Rule 3-2 of the USGA Rules of Golf states “An amateur golfer must not accept a prize (other than a symbolic prize) or prize voucher of retail value in excess of $750 or the equivalent, or such a lesser figure as may be decided by the Governing Body.”
“These tournaments are for the weekend warrior,” Coleman said. “We have some very good golfers but the majority of the guys are between an 8-and 15-handicap, former college athletes, guys like me. I use golf as a way to still compete.”
The first tournament of the 2013 season is March 2 at WinStar Golf Club in Thackerville which is three weeks into the slowpitch season. However, Coleman has his priorities in order.
“My priority is softball,” he said. “I make the softball schedule first and then golf. I work every event around softball.”
For anyone interested in joining the Oklahoma Pro Golf Tour, contact Coleman at (918) 348-9904 or go to the tour’s web site at www.otourgolf.com.