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Jeff Kolpack, Published June 29 2009

Ziegler making the most on the links

Larry Ziegler played in 450 career professional golf tournaments, making the money list in 341 of those. He won three titles and 42 times finished in the top 10.

Total career earnings: $726,197.

Translated to today’s figures, Ziegler could probably have flown his own plane to the Roger Maris Celebrity Golf Tournament, which started Sunday and ends today. Conversely, Stuart Appleby has played in 347 tournaments, won two of them and finished in the top 10 seven times. Total career earnings: almost $24 million,

“You don’t look at it that way,” Ziegler said. “What would Roger Maris be making if he played today? You had your time and you took advantage of it.”

Ziegler is taking advantage of life just before his 70th birthday. He plays when he wants to, he follows his NASCAR hobby when he wants to and plays in events like the Maris tournament when he wants to.

And he’ll always want to, he said, as long as the tournament keeps going.

Ziegler and Maris became friends in the 1970s in the circle of then-Kansas City Royals manager Whitey Herzog, a close friend of Maris. At one point, Maris convinced Herzog to let Ziegler coach third base during one game.

“Don’t give up your day job,” Ziegler said of the experience. “When you get down on the field and see how fast and how quick they are, it gives you a lot more perspective on how good they are.”

The “job” spawned a friendship between Ziegler and former Royals standout George Brett, who returned the sport switcheroo by caddying for Ziegler during a PGA tournament.

Ziegler said he’s retired from the Champions Tour. He played in five tournaments last year making the cut in all five with an average score of 74.5. But the thought of practicing and preparing just isn’t enticing anymore.

“I’m just not that competitive anymore,” he said.

So he won’t be part of the 3M Championship at the TPC Twin Cities in Blaine, Minn., July 10-12. If he did play, you could see him for free – the tournament is not charging for tickets.

“They’re doing everything they can to get the fans in,” Ziegler said.

It’s the economy, he said. Every pro tour is feeling it including the PGA and probably more so with the LPGA.

“Every sport, even NASCAR, is suffering,” he said. “It’s filtering down to everything.”

But not the Maris tournament, which continues to draw full fields for three separate tee times on Sunday and Monday.

“Roger and I played in a lot of pro-ams and had a great time,” Ziegler said. “That’s why I like coming here. I still stay in touch with the family.”

Inforum searchword: Roger Maris Golf

Jeff Kolpack can be heard on the WDAY Golf Show, 10 a.m. to noon on WDAY-AM (970). He can be reached at (701) 241-5546.

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found

at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia