Before this year, professional golf had never had an established second circuit for those older players on the way down and the younger ones on the way up. Players had to settle for domestic minitours or the distant Asian and European tournaments.
This year, the Professional Golf Association, which represents club pros, and the PGA Tour formed the Tournament Players Series to fill the void.
This weekend the so-called satellite tour is at Hillendale Country Club outside of Baltimore and such great golf names as three-time Masters champion Gary Player and 1963 British Open winner Bob Charles are competing for a chunk of the $200,000 in prize money in the Greater Baltimore Open.
Player, Charles and former Masters winner George Archer were the favored threesome over the par-70 course as far as the crowds were concerned, but some of the younger players such as Dave Davis, Mark Balen and Billy Bassler tore up the course with 68s in today's second round.
In addition to the large purse, the tour, Player said, "is also for fun. Golf's become such a big business. We've lost a lot of the old camaraderie we had when we were playing for $15,000 or $20,000. I once finished 16th in a tournament and won $26. I wish this tour had been around when I was young."
The 47-year-old South African, 10th on the all-time earnings list, has played in three of the seven TPS stops along with his 21-year-old son Wayne.
"I find it fantastic," Player said. "It's as well organized as the PGA Tour. It's good to play with all the young guys. I'd love to see (Jack) Nicklaus, (Arnold) Palmer or (Lee) Trevino play in just one of these events to help ensure that the series continues."
Player and his partners all were bothered by the fast greens. Player was four over on the front nine, losing three strokes on the final two holes; Archer and Charles, who carded a 69 Thursday, were both three over. Charles skyrocketed to a 79 today for a 148, while Player and Archer each shot 72, placing them at 144 and 143, respectively.
Davis, a 1980 all-America at Texas Christian, is one of the young players getting a chance to prove himself on the TPS tour. Davis just missed the qualifying scores for the 1983 PGA tour and will give it another try in qualifying school this fall.
"This tour is kind of a stepping stone," Davis said. "But if I don't make the big tour next year, I'll be back. The money's great."
Tour regular Frank Conner leads the field with 71--138. He holds a one-stroke lead over first-round leader Paul Ogelsby, who shot a 73; Balen; Bob Tway, who had 70 today, and Terry Snodgrass, a former Southwest Conference champion, 69.
Bassler, a Mid Atlantic PGA club pro from Catonsville, Md., opened with a 75 and is five shots off the lead.
Veteran Cesar Sanudo had the day's best round with a 67. Tommy Aaron, 46, former tour player Mike Morley and Jim King all shot 69s, but no one else bettered par on the fast greens of Hillendale, made even tougher by a brisk breeze. Dave Canipe, Mike Smith and Jeff Thomsen are all at par 140.
Conner, Player and some of the others will be back on the regular PGA tour next week, but not before giving the Baltimore fans some rare thrills and the up-and-coming players some inspiration.
"This is very good for cities like Baltimore, which don't have regular tour stops," Conner said. "It's a great way for young players to learn how to play golf and also to make some money. Five years ago this would have been one of the richest tournaments on the PGA tour."