Rain stops opening-round play at Greater Hickory Classic

Updated: September 14, 2007, 11:07 PM ET
Associated Press

CONOVER, N.C. -- Heavy rain forced Champions Tour officials to call off Friday's opening round of the Greater Hickory Classic at Rock Barn Golf and Spa.

The first round will resume at 8 a.m. Saturday, with the second round expected to begin at 12:30 p.m. The 54-hole tournament's final round is scheduled for Sunday.

More than two inches of rain -- the remnants of Hurricane Humberto, which came ashore in Texas on Thursday -- soaked Rock Barn's Robert Trent Jones course, leaving standing water on several fairways.

"It became obvious to us that we were wasting our time keeping people here trying to get golf in today," tournament director Ben Nelson said.

The showers that began around early Friday morning dropped more than an inch of rain before the scheduled 7:45 a.m. opening tee time, forcing tournament officials to delay the start by more than 2 1/2 hours.

Officials suspended opening-round play about 90 minutes later after another heavy downpour drenched the course. After a second 90-minute delay, tournament organizers called off play for the day.

Forecasters expect the rain to continue through the evening, but the showers should clear the area by Saturday morning.

"If things go right as we planned it, we should be able to finish the second round by darnkess [Saturday]," Nelson said. "The forecast is very nice, so we feel confident that we'll get it all in or enough in that come Sunday, we'll be able to finish a 54-hole tournament."

Only 54 of the 78 players competing were on the course when play was suspended. Rod Spittle was the on-the-course leader at 3-under through five holes, with three others -- Jerry Pate, Allen Doyle and Bob Gilder -- at 2-under.

"I've been lobbying for a five-hole tournament for the last hour, but I can't get anyone to go along with that," said Spittle, who bogeyed the first hole but made four straight birdies before play was stopped.

"When we got started, we knew that we could get called off the course at any time. ... I was fortunate to make a few birdies before the horn sounded. It's nice to have a couple red numbers when we get our marathon started tomorrow."

Among the players waiting to tee off were Jay Haas, who won the tournament in 2005 and leads the 2007 Champions Tour standings, and defending tournament champion Andy Bean, who beat R.W. Eaks in a one-hole playoff to win last year's event.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press