The Senior tour is the sweetest nut in golf, and the toughest to
crack. Should the system be changed to give more men an
opportunity to play? Harry Toscano, a 55-year-old veteran of the
regular and Senior tours, says yes, and in July he filed a
lawsuit in federal court in Sacramento alleging that the Senior
tour's eligibility policies are illegal.
Toscano argues that the current system is unfairly skewed toward
average players who made a lot of money on the regular Tour at
the expense of, among others, good players who didn't. He points
out, for example, that Andy North (the winner of two U.S. Opens)
won't be exempt for the Senior tour when he turns 50 in 2000
because, due to injuries, he has been unable to earn enough to
rank among the top 70 career money winners. Toscano also says
that the exempt policy doesn't fairly reward current playing
The Senior tour contends that the system exists for sound
business reasons. Among other things, the eligibility policy is
designed to bring the game's most recognized names before the
public because of their entertainment value. That means that
Johnny Miller shooting a 74 is more marketable than Hugh Baocchi
Toscano says that he would like to see Senior fields expanded to
144 players, with a cut to the low 70 and ties after 36 holes.
The Q school, meanwhile, would provide 50 players each year.
As for stars, Toscano believes they will emerge as a result of
performance. "There's a lot of talent out there," he says. "The
veterans know it, and they don't want to give anyone else equal
footing because that will cut into their winnings. They're being
self-serving. The only real stars who pull in people are Arnold
Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Chi Chi Rodriguez and Lee Trevino. After
that, what pulls in people is good play. The gallery doesn't
care who they're watching as long as they know they're watching
the best. A lot of these guys are legends in their own minds.
They think they made the tour. I believe they have it backward.
The tour made them. All I'm saying is, Let it make others."
The lawsuit has angered many Senior players. The prevalent view
is that no system has ever kept out a truly good player. Palmer
recently told Toscano, who has never won on the regular or the
Senior tour, that he was being unrealistic. "That's not what the
sponsors want," Palmer said. "Everyone can't play in the big
Although plenty of nonexempt players are hoping that the lawsuit
will improve their situations, others believe that Toscano is
out of line. "There wouldn't be a Senior tour without the guys
whom Harry is criticizing," says Fritz Gambetta, a regular at
Monday qualifiers. "I feel fortunate just to have the chance to
play next to these guys. If I play good enough, I'll do all
Toscano, who wants the case to go before a jury, realizes that
he will be too old to take advantage of a favorable ruling.
"This is not about me," he says. "This is about fairness, which
is what golf is supposed to be all about."
COLOR PHOTO: ANDY LYONS/ALLSPORT Some Seniors think Toscano is blowing smoke with his lawsuit against the tour. [Harry Toscano smoking cigar]