PUBLINX GETS A PRIVATE LOOK
There were the usual longshoremen, schoolteachers and factory
workers competing last week in the U.S. Amateur Public Links
Championship at Kearney Hill Golf Links in Lexington, Ky. More
and more, though, the Publinx is dominated by youngsters who,
while not exactly ringers, don't fit the traditional profile of
a public-course player.
Take this year's winner, 21-year-old Tim Clark, who defeated
Ryuji Imada 7 and 6 in the 36-hole final last Saturday. Clark, a
sophomore at North Carolina State, declared Raleigh, N.C., to be
his hometown even though he's a native of Umkomaas, South
Africa. Clark has lived in the U.S. only since enrolling at N.C.
State 18 months ago. The 20-year-old Imada, meanwhile, is from
Onomichi, Japan, but called Tampa home because that's where he
attended a golf school. He plans to attend Georgia on a golf
scholarship in the fall.
At least Clark and Imada grew up playing public courses. That
wasn't the case with several of last week's competitors,
including Trip Kuehne, who lost in the quarterfinals after
winning the medal portion of the championship with a
12-under-par 134 for 36 holes. Kuehne, whose father owns two
banks and an oil and gas company in Texas, grew up playing at
Stonebridge Country Club outside Dallas.
So why was Kuehne allowed to play in the Publinx? To be
eligible, a golfer must not have belonged to a private club
since Jan. 1 of the year of the tournament. Kuehne, 25, hasn't
been a member at Stonebridge since 1993, and for the Publinx he
listed his home course as the public club at Oklahoma State,
where he played on the golf team and last year was an assistant
coach while earning his M.B.A.
Clark won by playing the best golf of his life. He never trailed
in any of his six matches, and none of the first five went past
the 16th hole. The biggest perk for winning the Publinx, and the
main reason so many college-age golfers enter it, is an
invitation to the following year's Masters. Growing up, Clark
dreamed of playing in the Masters, and in April he attended a
practice round at Augusta.
Unfortunately, when Clark tees it up in Augusta next spring, his
parents probably won't be there to watch him. "They're not
wealthy people," he says, "and the round-trip plane tickets are
just too expensive."
BALKY PUTTER SINKS DAVIES
Laura Davies is usually an easygoing sort, but she wasn't
smiling after her one-over-par 72 in the third round of the JAL
Big Apple Classic. Davies signed a few autographs, tersely
answered some questions and dashed off to the locker room at
Wykagyl Country Club in New Rochelle, N.Y. "I've had rotten luck
lately," said Davies, who finished 11th at Wykagyl, eight shots
behind the winner, Michele Redman. "I can't sink any putts, and
I don't know why."
Davies should be concerned. Next week the LPGA will hold its
final major of 1997, the du Maurier Classic at Glen Abbey Golf
Club outside Toronto, and Davies is in the middle of her worst
season in years. So far she has missed the cut in a U.S. Open
for the first time, has won just one tournament (the Standard
Register Ping, in March) and is ninth on the money list. In the
three previous seasons, Davies had won 14 events worldwide
(including three majors), finished first and second (twice) on
the U.S. money list and taken home the LPGA's player of the year
Her work on the greens has been the problem this year. While
dropping to 53rd in the LPGA putting stats, she has tried eight
putters over the last three months. "Laura's not trusting her
line," says Helen Alfredsson, who finished 12th at Wykagyl. "She
becomes hesitant and misses the hole, and then her confidence is
Davies's confidence, however, should get a boost when she heads
to Toronto. Last year at the du Maurier she trailed Meg Mallon
by five entering the final round but shot 66 and won by two
strokes. "Laura's frustration is definitely affecting her game,"
says Barb Mucha, who tied for eighth in the Big Apple, "but
she's a fighter. She may be in a slump, but she's no quitter."
TROON'S POSTAGE STAMP SENDS THE PROS PACKING
The 128-yard, par-3 8th hole at Troon is the shortest hole on
any of the seven courses that hold the British Open, but it's
not the easiest. Known as the Postage Stamp, the 8th was the
eighth hardest hole last week, averaging 3.17 strokes. Tiger
Woods imploded there on Sunday by hitting a wedge shot into a
bunker, leaving his second in the trap and three-putting for a
Woods, however, left the hole feeling better than Englishman
Steven Bottomley did in either of the first two rounds. After
making a 7 there on Thursday, Bottomley found the heather behind
the green with his eight-iron tee shot on Friday. His next shot
screamed across the green and into a bunker. His third plugged
in the bunker's lip. His fourth went back into the heather. His
fifth and sixth stayed there, and on his seventh swing he sent
his ball back over the green and into the same bunker in which
he had plugged. He finally blasted onto the putting surface and
two-putted for a 10. "Then I realized," said Bottomley, who shot
79-81 and missed the cut, "that it was the end of my tournament."
CALLAWAY BUYS TOP PUTTER MAKER FOR $130 MILLION
Callaway Golf on Monday agreed to pay $130 million in cash for
putter maker Odyssey Sports, a division of U.S. Industries,
which also owns clubmaker Armour Golf. Last year Odyssey topped
all manufacturers in putter sales. Callaway was the leader in
irons and woods and controlled nearly 30% of the $1.6 billion
Monday's acquisition was the latest in a series of moves
designed to create what Callaway CEO Donald Dye calls the "total
Callaway Golf experience." Last year the maker of Big Bertha
hired Roger Cleveland from the company that bears his name to
create a line of wedges. Next year Callaway is expected to
introduce its first golf ball.
"The deal fits in perfectly with the company's master plan,"
says Scott Kramer, an industry analyst for Golf Pro magazine.
"If Callaway has its way, pretty soon it will have a stronghold
LOW AMATEUR EXPERIENCES A DIFFERENT KIND OF HIGH
Tiger Woods was about to be interviewed after the first round of
the British Open when he spotted a familiar face on a TV
monitor. "Is that Barclay Howard?" Woods asked. "I remember him
from the Walker Cup. How's he doing?"
Very well, it turns out. Howard, a recovering alcoholic playing
in his first Open, was the low amateur at Troon. He birdied four
of his first six holes and, after going out in 31, was one shot
off the lead. Howard, however, shot 39 on the next nine and 74,
76 and 73 in his next three rounds. His 293 tied him for 60th
with Jack Nicklaus.
Still, it was the week of a lifetime for a man who had once been
banned for a year from his own golf club, Cochrane Castle
outside Glasgow, for insulting a club official's daughter at a
social event while intoxicated. On another occasion, a drunken
Howard was given the heave-ho from a club dinner being held in
his honor. "I couldn't have one beer. I'd have 20," Howard says.
"I'd change from being a pleasant guy to an idiot."
Howard, 44, began attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings in
1991, and in 1993, after being laid off from his job at
Rolls-Royce, revived a golf career that had been highlighted by
spots on the Scottish national team in the late 1970s and early
'80s. Playing lots of golf--and staying sober--for two years, he
got his handicap down to plus three and earned a spot on the '95
Walker Cup team that defeated Woods's U.S. team, 14-10.
Next week Howard will play in the Walker Cup rematch at Quaker
Ridge in Scarsdale, N.Y., but it's unlikely he'll get the same
thrill that he experienced last week. "The silver medal [which
goes to the low amateur] is a bonus," Howard says. "Just being
around to take part in this event is something of a surprise."
DEPOSIT GUARANTY MIGHT MOVE TO OCTOBER DATES
Organizers of the Deposit Guaranty Classic in Mississippi
continue to seek the magic formula. After 26 years of staging
their tournament during the same week as the Masters, Deposit
Guaranty officials switched the dates three years ago to
mid-July, opposite the British Open. They also tried switching
courses, from Hattiesburg Country Club to the Jack Nicklaus-
designed Annandale Golf Club outside Jackson.
So far, the results have been mixed. Sponsorships and attendance
have climbed, but the tournament is still lost in the shadows of
a major, and the weather is a problem. This year's Deposit
Guaranty, for example, featured sweltering temperatures in the
mid-90s, which forced the grounds crew to spray the delicate
bentgrass greens to keep them from dying. The constant watering
turned the putting surfaces into wet carpets and had many
players shaking their heads over the inevitable depressions.
"It's tough to fix a ball mark that's four inches deep," said
Brandel Chamblee, after his second shot on the par-4 13th hole
on Thursday landed two feet behind the pin and became embedded
out of sight.
Long before Billy Ray Brown had rallied to win the event, and
the $180,000 first prize, executive director Robert Morgan was
talking about his hope of changing dates yet again, this time to
October. "It could happen as early as '98," Morgan said, "but I
would guess it might be more like '99." If at first you don't
THE SHAG BAG
Going into the '97 season, Nick Faldo had finished in the top 40
in 34 of his last 38 majors. After finishing 53rd at Troon,
Faldo has yet to crack the top 40 this year. He missed the cut
at the Masters and was 48th at the U.S. Open.... On Sunday at the
Gateway Classic, Clark Dennis became the second player in Nike
tour history to shoot a 60. He still finished third, with a
19-under-par 265, four shots behind the winner, Todd Gleaton.
The Nike (ne Hogan) tour was created to give young pros a place
to develop, but the seven-year-old circuit has morphed into a
safety net for middle-aged retreads not good enough to stick on
the PGA Tour. Of 17 Nike events this year, 13 have been won by
players 30 or older, and 10 of the winners are regular Tour
veterans. Because of players like 39-year-old Dave Rummells
(left), a journeyman pro who won the Nike Knoxville Open last
month, the average age of winners this year is higher on the
Nike tour than on the PGA and LPGA tours.
1997 TOURNAMENT WINNERS
AVG. AGE TOUR YOUNGEST WINNER OLDEST WINNER
52.8 Senior Gil Morgan (50) Bruce Crampton (61)
32.5 Nike Harrison Frazar (25) Dave Rummells (39)
31.9 PGA Tiger Woods (21) Greg Norman (41)
30.8 LPGA Karrie Webb (22) Betsy King (41)
The cuts made by Jack Nicklaus, who finished 60th in the British
Open, in the last nine Tour majors.