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Allred debuts today as PGA Tour regular

A veteran of two decades, caddie Christy has high hopes for his new boss

Whom better to judge Jason Allred's aptitude for the PGA Tour than:

A man who has caddied on it for 20 years.

A man who counts four victories on his resume.

A man who, after all, is nicknamed The Judge.

Allred, the 24-year-old from Ashland, begins his career today in the Sony Open at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu, having earned his way through qualifying school.

— Dick Christy, a Duke graduate who served two years in the mid-1980s as a magistrate in his hometown of Asheville, N.C., will carry Allred's bag.

This is the most excited I've been since Bob Burns won Disney two years ago, says Christy, 46, referring to one of his victories. Jason has a lot of talent and he's a great kid.

I've been dealing mostly with guys who have been out here a while. Sometimes they get into ruts where they don't like doing this and that, but Jason loves everything. It's wonderful to see. He's like a kid in a candy store.

But can he compete?

He hits it so good and he can putt, says Christy. He can putt the eyes out. He'll be just fine.

Allred tees off at 3:06 p.m. PST on the No. — hole. His playing partners the first two days are D.A. Points, a Nationwide Tour graduate, and Toru Taniguchi of Japan. They start on the 10th hole at 10:41 a.m. PST Friday.

The tournament will be televised at 3:30 p.m. on ESPN.

While much attention will be on two-time defending champion Ernie Els and local sensation Michelle Wie, there is no shortage of excitement in the Allred camp.

Allred relaxed a bit over the holidays, then got back to diligent practice the past couple weeks and says he's picked up where I left off.

He arrived in Hawaii on Friday and has played Waialae each day since.

On Tuesday, his practice-round partners were none other than Tom Lehman, captain of the U.S. Ryder Cup team, and Aaron Baddeley, who lost the 2003 Sony in a playoff to Els.

Lehman, like Allred, lives in Scottsdale, Ariz., and the two had met before.

He's a great guy, says Allred. To ask him questions and hear the wisdom of a guy like that, who's been out there a long time, was really neat.

Allred found the course to his liking. Built in the 1920s, it's a traditional layout that doesn't feature dramatic hills and valleys. Wind, which reached gusts of 30 mph Tuesday, might be the greatest challenge.

The rough is pretty nasty, says Allred. It's deep Bermuda grass that's pretty thick. There are a lot of good holes, that's for sure, and long par 4s.

The course was toughened up after John Huston broke the 72-hole PGA Tour scoring record in 1998, a mark that had stood for 50 years. A couple of par 5s were turned into par 4s, leaving a par 70, and other tees were moved back, bringing original bunkering and hazards back into play, even with today's technology.

I really like the course, says Allred, a relatively long hitter.

Allred has competed in two other PGA events, twice missing the cut.

But a solid season on the Canadian Tour last year and his experience at Q-school have his confidence soaring.

It's still just golf, he says. It's a blast to be here. I love it out here. I feel very comfortable, like I belong. I won't try to do anything differently. I've been improving the last couple years, and I'm just going to do my thing and not worry about what other guys are doing.

He has a positive experience to draw on after coming through in a pressure-packed situation at Q-school with a 32 on the final nine. It moved him to 13th place out of 170 players.

That's got to stick in his mind, says Christy.

For his part, Christy, who hadn't worked for Allred before Q-school, wants to keep his boss on an even keel. The caddie has been to about 15 Sony Opens, he says, and can provide insight on holes and greens that might be beneficial.

But as much as anything, he offers support.

He has been impressed both by Allred's play and his approach.

When it came to putting, Christy remembers Allred's initial instructions at Q-school.

That first day, says Christy, he told me, 'Look at it, give me your opinion and know that you can't be wrong.' That takes all the pressure off when you've got that kind of attitude. Just give it your best shot, that's all you can do.

Allred rolled in his share of testy putts, such as 6-footers for par. He finished up with a memorable, 35-footer for birdie on the final hole that pushed him past a handful of players.

There are surprisingly few guys out here who can putt where they're looking, says Christy, and he can hit it where he's looking ' which comes from striking the ball solidly. He putts real well.

Christy's other career wins ' he counts Q-school and overseas tournaments ' were with Robin Freeman in 1994 qualifying; Bill Glasson in the 1989 Doral Open, which was the only time he looped for Glasson; and Bob Lohr in an international event about 15 years ago.

Among his top Sony finishes was a runner-up by Dick Zokol, who succumbed to a hot weekend by Lanny Wadkins in 1988, and a top-10 finish by Freeman in '94.

When it was suggested the nondescript pairings might ease the pressure to start out with, Allred said he hadn't given it any thought.

But he does look forward to the day he plays alongside the best.

Hopefully, it'll be this weekend, he says.

Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 776-4479, or e-mail