JOPLIN, Mo. - Loma Linda marks its 30th anniversary in 2008. It's throwing the birthday bash a year early, though.
The course, located west of Joplin off I-44 near the Missouri-Oklahoma state line, will host The Loma Linda Resort Classic presented by the Zimmer Radio Group, a new stop on the NGA Hooters Tour.
The tournament is the second of three stops through the tri-state area.
Last week was the Bentonville Open presented by Simmons Suites at Rogers, Ark., and following this week's stop, the NGA Tour returns to Miami for the fifth straight year for the Buffalo Run Casino Classic.
“The Hooters staff has been wonderful in working with us,” said Loma Linda tournament director David Barr.
And things haven't been cut-and-dried this week.
A torrential downpour left parts of Joplin under water.
“I have never seen anything like this in my life,” said Ryan Waters, the Hooters Tour regional tournament director. “There was literally a river on No. 9 that was draining into a lake. It stopped raining by noon and they had the course ready to play by 3 (p.m.).”
“The course has held up extremely well,” Barr said.
The only casualty was a pro-am scheduled for Monday morning, and its been pushed back to this coming Monday.
“That is the one good thing about having the two tournaments that close,” Waters said.
The schedule change won't affect the Buffalo Run Casino Classic - Monday is the tournament qualifier and a practice day.
The top four money winners have passed the Joplin and Miami events to participate in Nationwide Tour events.
But there are still plenty of the tour's top players on hand as part of the 167-man field.
Three winners from this season are entered - Brandon Brown, Rob Johnson and Michael Connell - and five of the top 10 money winners are entered.
Irishman Gareth Maybin, second at Bentonville last week, is first in the points and fifth in the money thus far on the season.
Others in the top 10 on hand will be Matt Every, former OU standout Martin Flores, Michael Connell and Brandon Brown, who rank sixth through ninth, respectively.
Among the locals entered are Joplin native Robert Russell, who was instrumental in getting the Buffalo Run Casino Classic set up. Russell also played a key role in getting the Loma Linda Resort Classic added to the Hooters' schedule this season.
Others entered are Cody Freeman of Afton, Lee Larimore of Joplin (who was a regular at the W.D. Jackson Invitational at Miami Golf & Country Club) and former Missouri Southern standout Tommy Clifford.
Barr promises a challenging layout for the players, who will be on Loma Linda's 6,628-yard, par 71 North course.
“The greens are fast and the rough is high,” Barr said. “They've redesigned