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Bender has hill to climb to qualify for national tourney

PATTERSON, CALIF. - Black Rock Creek Golf Course head pro Jeff Bender has his work cut out for him at today's Western PGA Club Professional Championship.

Bender, one of 144 PGA club professionals attempting to earn a top 32 finish in order to move on to the national PGA club professional tournament, found himself tied for 107th place after Thursday's opening round. Only the 32 low scorers at the Western regional event qualify to advance to the national championship, slated for June 2005 in South Carolina.

With a 1:39 p.m. tee time today, at the Diablo Grande Resort in Patterson, Calif., Bender needs to move up to at least 70th place to make the cut for Saturday and Sunday's play at Western Regionals.

The Sunnyside golf course head club pro opened the Western championship tourney with a four-over 76. Bender shot a pair of 38's on the front and back nines at the California course on Thursday.

A total of 17 golfers, all of whom opened the four-day tournament Thursday with one-over 73's, were tied for 70th place honors. That put Bender three shots back of the cut line heading into Friday's round.

The first day leaders on Thursday were Matt Schalk of Boulder, Colo. and Tracy Stansberry of San Jose, Calif. Both men carded six-under 66's. Three golfers were one shot back with a 67, including Washington state's Matt Bunn, who hails from Colbert. Michael Combs of Kennewick opened the tournament by firing an even-par 72.

The Western regional competition is open only to PGA club pros from a 13-state area/

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