Weeding out the Stiffs

Even modest tests of players' skills would clear the deadwood from the fields
July 03, 1994

Besides holes in dikes, the Dutch may have their fingers on something big. There are, it seems, too many golfers and not enough golf courses in Holland, so golfers there must pass a skills test before they're allowed on a course.

Among other things, they must hit at least three of five balls out of a bunker; pass a written test on course etiquette; pass a driving test, which means they must hit four out of five tee shots reasonably straight and for a distance of at least 110 yards for women, 132 yards for men; and play three holes in less than 10 over par while being watched closely by a cranky examiner. Sounds like a cinch, but last year 22% of those tested failed.

This is a terrific idea, which needs to be brought here so that we can clear out some of the poor souls born without a Dixie bathroom cup of talent. Not that we won't be lenient too.

For instance, we would want American golfers to show only that they can lean over, pick up a ball and successfully put it in their pocket four times out of five. This way we won't have to wait 43 minutes while they plumb-bob a two-footer for an all-important 11.

We will ask only that professional golfers not play like diseased ferrets. That is why we are immediately revoking the golfing privileges of all three stooges in that horrid U.S. Open playoff on June 20 at Oakmont. Ernie Els, Colin Montgomerie and Loren Roberts combined were seven over par after two holes, breaking the record set by Jerry Lewis in The Caddy.

In soccer we will have empathy for the goalies. If a goalkeeper can stop a beach ball kicked from 50 yards away by a nun in full habit, he can stay. This, of course, leaves out the goalie for Colombia's drug-cartel-influenced World Cup team, Oscar Cordoba. Poor Cordoba allowed five goals in his team's two stunning World Cup losses, prompting his teammates to vote him Most Likely to Be Dredged out of the Bogotà River.

Tell us if we're being too stringent here, but NBA players should be able to make six out of 10 free throws, don't you think? Thus we have to pull the license of celebrated rookie Chris Webber of the Golden State Warriors, who at 53% was the worst foul-shooting star since Wilt. Coated in Skippy, caned intermittently and superglued to a Lazy Boy recliner, we could do better than 53%, for crying out loud.

As for three-point field goals, we'll ask only that a player at least be able to describe the sound a ball makes going in a basket. That would eliminate John Starks of the New York Knicks, who went a ghastly none for 11 in three-point tries in last week's Game 7 of the NBA Finals.

We will also have a team test for the NBA, whereby players will be left alone in a gym with the doors locked for one hour and asked to make three layups without bringing injury to themselves or the custodial staff. That will pretty much eliminate the rest of the Knicks, who never broke 100 points in the Finals and who turned basketball into a kind of complicated All-Star Wrestling. As a consolation prize each Knick will receive a can of Rustoleum for his hands.

Our boxing requirements, though modest, will perhaps be too much for some, such as Everett (Big Foot) Martin, who seems to have been renting himself out as a canvas taster to the nation's matchmakers. Big Foot has lost 13 of his last 14 bouts, including four by knockout. We'll put Big Foot in a living room with a pronounced draft. If he remains standing, he's legit.

Broadcasters will be forced to prove they can go more than 17 seconds without saying anything annoying. At the U.S. Open, ABC's Brent Musburger called Loren Roberts "Lorne Green." You like a cut three-iron here, Hop Sing? Musburger's co-anchor, Steve Melnyk, pointed out that each and every entrant was a "fine" player hitting "fine" golf shots. And ABC on-course reporter Bob (Rossie) Rosburg inspected 57 players' lies and allowed that the players had "absolutely no shot" all 57 times. Fifty-six of those shots ended up on the green. Your licenses, boys.

We will also be forced to suspend the playing license of a Mr. Michael Jordan of Birmingham. Our examiners have determined that Jordan can no more play baseball than deliver a moving Vivaldi concerto on the bassoon. Any other 31-year-old bush leaguer who had almost three times as many whiffs (69) as walks (26), while not even hitting his weight (.195) and owning a glove made mostly of Flubber, as Jordan did as of Sunday, would be working at Arby's by now.

Finally, for baseball umpires, our guidelines will be especially accommodating. An umpire's vision must be at least 20-400 or, failing that, adequate enough to look at a police lineup of Heather Locklear, Meat Loaf and a parking meter and successfully identify the one most likely to wear heels. That pretty much eliminates American League ump Gary Cederstrom, who didn't happen to notice that the Kansas City Royals' Greg Gagne was out by only a par-5 on a bunt attempt last Thursday, thus ruining the Oakland A's Bobby Witt's perfect game. The blind moron.

Not to worry, Mr. Cederstrom. We got you Rossie's old job.

ILLUSTRATIONEVANGELOS VIGLIS

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)