On the way to becoming a polished voice and respected critic as an NBC golf analyst, Gary Koch says his golf game paid the price.
A six-time winner on the PGA Tour, Koch was expected to be a quick star after joining the Champions Tour in 2003, but, instead, put most of his career focus on television work and now competes sparingly.
There has to be times, however, when the Tampa resident and former Florida Gator wonders what could have been accomplished on the senior tour.
Last weekend would be a good example.
Koch teamed with broadcast partner Roger Maltbie to compete in the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf in Savannah, Ga., winning the Raphael Division. It's an unofficial victory, but still satisfying.
The team was six shots back going into the second and final round, but posted a best-ball 60 for the win.
It continued very strong play this year in Koch's few appearances.
He tied for 12th at the recent Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am and tied for eighth at the ACE Group Classic in early February. Koch even held the lead in the latter on Sunday afternoon.
Nevertheless, Koch and Maltbie will remain in broadcast work.
"It's great fun for us to come and see a lot of guys we don't see or only see once a year," Koch said. "... And, as little golf as we play now, two days from the forward tees is about right."
That's where both now are more comfortable.
"We aren't used to a spot behind a table talking to reporters," Maltbie added. "Usually we hold the microphones out to players. 'Tiger, your thoughts?'"
The Florida State Golf Association will conduct 17 local qualifiers in the state for players hoping to advance to the 2008 U.S. Open Championship at Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego on June 12-15.
The first-round 18-hole qualifying events will be held Monday-May 19. Top finishers will advance to sectional qualifying at one of 13 sites June 2.
The United States Golf Association accepted 8,390 entries for the 2008 U.S. Open. Florida qualifying has drawn 1,200 entries.
Tampa Bay area dates and sites: Monday - Lone Palm, Lakeland; Wednesday - Innisbrook's Island Course, Palm Harbor; May 12 - Ritz-Carlton, Bradenton; May 12 - Avila, Tampa.
•The Florida Women's State Golf Association's 79th Amateur Match Play Championship will be played at Brooksville's Southern Hills Plantation on Monday-May 9.
The association's oldest event will feature 96 players, beginning with stroke competition, before 32 players begin match play.
Although Florida has long been recognized as a golf hotbed, the Florida Open - considered the state championship of golf - has labored as an overlooked event in comparison to other states.
That might be ready to change.
The Florida State Golf Association, the governing body of state amateur golf, this week announced the acquisition of the professional Florida Open and will begin conducting the event in 2009. There will not be a Florida Open this year.
"The FSGA will work very closely with the PGA Sections and the PGA members of Florida to develop a first-class championship to predominately include Florida Section Professionals, amateurs and some nonaffiliated professionals," said Jim Demick, FSGA executive director.
The Florida Open dates to 1942 with Lou Broward winning the first championship. The event has been a launching pad for players including Bob Murphy (1967), Gary Koch (1969), Bruce Fleisher (1980, 1987) and Bart Bryant (1988, 1994).
Deadline for entry into this year's U.S. Open closed this week with 8,390 hopefuls.
Some names are familiar - Norman, O'Meara, Weiskopf and Nelson.
In this case they are all sons of golfing fathers who are past stars, Gregory Norman (Greg), Shaun O'Meara (Mark), Eric Weiskopf (Tom) and Josh and Drew Nelson (Larry).
The number of entries was the lowest since 7,820 entries in 2003 for the U.S. Open at Olympia Fields outside Chicago.
The youngest entry is 12-year-old Rico Hoey of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. The oldest was 79-year-old Harris Moore Jr. of Los Angeles. There were two women who paid the $150 entry fee - Isabelle Beisiegel and Carmen Bandea, both of whom have tried before. Beisiegel, who plays sparingly on the LPGA Tour, also has tried PGA Tour qualifying school.
Local qualifying also attracted a few athletes noted for other sports: Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, former Grand Slam tennis champions Ivan Lendl and Michael Chang, retired NHL goalie Grant Fuhr, and former NFL quarterback Billy Joe Tolliver.
KOCH WONDERS WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN