PGA professional Frank Rhoads, the teaching pro at TPC at Avenel, shot a 3-under-par 68 yesterday at the 6,897-yard, par-71 Westfields Golf Club in Clifton to earn top qualifier honors for the Toyota Invitational.

The 1999 Toyota Invitational is the final stop on the Toyota Invitational Tour, a Middle Atlantic mini-tour in its first year. At each of the 10 qualifying tournaments, three PGA professionals and two amateurs earn a spot in the invitational. The year-end tournament, with a purse of $100,000 and a winner's share of $50,000, will be held at Four Streams Golf Club in Beallsville, Md., Oct. 15-17.

Other qualifiers were Four Streams assistant professional Jack Skilling and River Creek assistant pro Adam Corson, who each shot 71, and local amateurs Kirk Lombardi (Norbeck) and Vance Welch (Pleasant Valley), who each shot 74.

"The key today was straight, strong play and making some key putts," Rhoads said. "This is great and we're all excited about playing for a $50,000 first."

Yesterday's qualifier was the fourth of 10 on the 1999 tour. Only PGA professionals in the Middle Atlantic, Philadelphia or Tri-State areas and top amateurs are eligible to participate. The top eight professionals at each qualifying tournament share a $2,000 purse.

Rhoads won $600 for finishing first. Everyone in the field earns qualifying points, and the top 12 professional and top six amateur point-winners by the end of the qualifying tournament schedule will earn spots in the 81-golfer Toyota field.

The mini-tour is slowly gaining a following. The first three qualifying tournaments were smaller than yesterday's field of 24 (18 pros and six amateurs).

"This is a great idea. It pits the best pros in the area against the best amateurs in the area on a great course," Corson said.