A health scare for Butch Harmon puts golf in perspective
Fifty years after Claude Harmon won the 12th Masters tournament,
his son Claude Jr., better known as Butch, holds a major title
of his own: Coach to defending Masters champ Tiger Woods. This
was to be a special week for 54-year-old Butch. After joining
Woods at Doral, where Tiger finished ninth, Harmon was going to
meet his younger brothers Bill, Dick and Craig at Augusta, scene
of their father's only professional victory. During this golden
anniversary year, the Harmon brothers would play Augusta
National together; it would be the first time Butch had played
"Change of plans," says Butch, who had two malignant moles
removed--from his back and right ear--on March 4. Las Vegas
surgeon Robert Strimling "got it all," Harmon says. "The cancer
was localized, but I'm still concerned. With cancer you worry
that it could come back."
Woods, too, was shaken. "It's a shock," he said, "but they got
it all out, so I'm O.K. with it."
Harmon was cleared to resume his teaching duties but cannot take
a full swing with 30 stitches in his shoulder. There are 18 more
stitches behind his ear. Family friends Bob Goalby and Jay Haas,
Goalby's nephew, helped arrange the Harmons' trip to Augusta and
will take Butch's place there. "I'm not going," he says. "It
would bother me too much to be there and not be able to play."
"Butch was in a lot of pain for a while, but he's optimistic,"
says Bill Harmon, who believes his brother's cancer was due to
years of exposure to the sun. As for this year's being the
anniversary of their father's Masters victory, Bill says, "We
just realized it ourselves. Suddenly it has a lot of meaning."
For now, though, all celebrations have been put on hold.
IPGA OR BUST
For a Good Tour, Call Collet
Joe Collet is either a flimflam man or a potential savior of
international golf. Collet, 49, is front man for the
International Professional Golfers' Association, which promises
millions of dollars in bonus money to Tour pros who sign up.
"Our $3 million bonus pool is set for 1998 and '99--and that's a
minimum," says Collet. Once a business manager for Seve
Ballesteros, Johnny Miller and other pros, he resurfaced with a
splash this year, announcing a new tour that would piggyback on
15 established events including next week's Bay Hill
Invitational. Players who do well in those tournaments and sign
a confidential membership agreement can tap into the bonus pool
and get invited to a lucrative postseason tournament, which
Collet calls the All-Star Game.
The IPGA looks good on paper, but is it as paper-thin as some of
its hype? Collet has said Larry Mize is a member of the IPGA
advisory board, but that comes as a surprise to Mize. Collet
claims that the IPGA has 100 or so active members, but he won't
name them. Nor will he identify the "commercial entity" backing
his project. His revolution seems to consist of "a lot of
questions but not many answers," Scott Simpson observes. Still,
Collet has gotten his creation onto golf's global radar screen,
and he has done it while working out of his home in Vienna,
where a phone machine sometimes asks callers to try again later:
"I'm taking the kids to school and running some errands."
Why should players join a renegade tour? "Because the climate is
right," Collet said last week. "Other sports have players'
associations. Golf needs one, too."
Does golf need bonus pools and all-star games? "The bonus pool
is just an attention getter--golfers love anything with dollar
signs on it," says Collet. His true goal, however, is creating a
tour run by the players themselves, "not suit-coated men around
a table." By 2000 such a co-op venture could keep the U.S. Tour
from attracting all the world's talent, he says. Prospering in
happy defiance of "pontification from Ponte Vedra Beach," it
could save the European tour from a "death spiral" while
preserving every pro's right to pursue huge bucks.
That's good enough for John Huston. Last week at Doral the
Tour's leading money winner told SI he had signed on the IPGA's
bottom line. "I sent in my registration money,"Huston said--a
sum Collet describes with typical candor as "more than $50,
closer to $100." Billy Mayfair and Jesper Parnevik were two
other signees. "Sounds like a good deal," said Parnevik.
There remains a good deal of confusion about the IPGA. European
agent Chubby Chandler, who reps Lee Westwood and Darren Clarke,
put a positive twist on matters, saying, "If this thing happens,
I won't deprive my players of a chance to make money."
Collet was pleased by what he heard from Doral. When reminded
that Nick Faldo, one of his prime targets, remains puzzled about
the IPGA, Collet had an answer ready. "They've got a free Sprint
line in those locker rooms in the U.S.," he said. "Pick up the
phone and call me, Nick. I'll tell you everything."
THE SHAG BAG
Pearly Gates: Callaway's new ads feature Microsoft's Bill Gates
musing on learning the game and falling for Big Bertha. "I love
a big idea," says Gates with a smile that must chill spines on
Capitol Hill, where he is seen as "a rapacious monopolist," in
the words of The New York Times, which monopolized the story
when Callaway gave it the scoop. Warren Buffett is said to be
Callaway's next TV pitchman, with Celine Dion waiting in the
Tip from Tiger: Fans grumbled when Tiger Woods hit three-iron
instead of driver at Doral's tight 10th hole. "That's why I'm
here and you're over there," he said.
He Wuz Robbed: A burglar stole a reported [pounds]250,000 in
jewels and valuables from the Surrey home of Colin Montgomerie.
The gent from Troon has posted a [pound]25,000 reward for info
leading to an arrest.
Past Bassmaster: Phil Blackmar's no longer basking in the glory
of being golf's bass king. His two-year reign ended when Mike
Standly won the 1998 Doral-Ryder Open bass tournament by landing
Up in Smoke: Hall of Famer Billy Casper (left) was introduced at
Doral as "the defending Havana Open champion." Close, but no
cigar. "It was the 1958 Havana Invitational, the last one.
Castro was up in the hills," Casper recalls, "and I played the
pro-am with a prominent, and very nervous, Cuban attorney. But
things worked out for us both: I won the tournament, and he
escaped to Switzerland."
Playing Monopoly: After federal judge Alicemarie Stotler lauded
Spalding's "innovative marketing" and ruled for the defendant in
Callaway Golf Co. v. Spalding Sports Worldwide, Inc., Spalding's
System C balls--made to be played with Callaway clubs--reached
golf shops at last. Among those waiting for them were Callaway
personnel. "This was a sneak attack by Spalding," says Callaway
spokesman Larry Dorman. "They did not make balls available to
us. Now we have them and can conduct our own tests." If Callaway
can show that the C balls fall short of Spalding's claims, they
could again ask the judge for relief. That puts the Carlsbadmen
in the odd position of hoping Big Bertha hits short, crooked
drives with a new ball.
Lost and Found: There's good news from Missouri. HALE IRWIN
FOUND--FATHER OF THE BRIDE & NURSE TO WIFE FOLLOWING SURGERY,
reads a message from Hale's wife, Sally. She faxed SI after we
wondered what had become of the Senior star, who has yet to win
in '98 but has clearly been busy. He walked daughter Becky down
the aisle in Hawaii on Jan. 10 and tended to Sally after her
CARTS ON TOUR
Firm Grip on the Steering Wheel
After finishing 67th at Doral, Ed Fiori announced his withdrawal
from this week's Honda Classic. "Man, I hurt," said Fiori, who
suffers from a decaying disk in his back and a chronic pinched
nerve in his foot. Then the 44-year-old Texan, known as the Grip
for the bizarre way he holds the club, made a more startling
announcement: He wants to ride a cart like Casey Martin. "Hell,
yes, I want a buggy," Fiori said. "It's a definite advantage. I
can't play because I can't walk." He has spoken to other players
about the matter, but gotten nowhere. "They're going to vote
down any extra carts," he said. Tour officials are no help,
either. "I asked, 'What can I do to get a cart?' They said, 'You
have to sue us.' I haven't decided to do that, but my lawyer
told me it's a case of win-win-win."
Fiori's finest hour came at Quad Cities in 1996, when he
outdueled Tiger Woods and others on Sunday, ending a 14-year
winless streak. Now his final days as a player may be at hand.
"I'd hate to quit for medical reasons," he says. "I have a
Terror at Two Feet
Adam probably had 'em. Old Tom Morris certainly did, and aging
Tom Watson caught a virulent strain that nearly killed his
career. Now scientists are seeking a cure for the yips.
"The question is, Does the jerk come first?" asks psychologist
Aynsley Smith of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., referring
not to the stricken golfer but to the last-second twitch that
sends putts off-line. "Or do negative thoughts come first and
cause the jerk?" She is the first prominent clinician to tackle
the problem since 1989, when a UCLA study funded in part by
yipee Mac O'Grady and entitled The Yips--A Focal Dystonia of
Golfers concluded that twitchy fingers are closely related to
age (older players yip more), occupation (typists and violinists
have similar troubles) and personality (obsessive thinkers tend
to yip). Now Smith and her research team have surveyed hundreds
of golfers in hopes of advancing science still further. They
plan to stage putting tournaments for human guinea pigs who will
wear electrodes on their hands.
Smith's colleague Sue Malo believes there is "an uncontrollable
physical force" that causes victims to stab in terror at
pressure putts. "We won't find a pill to cure the yips, but we
hope to develop a bona fide solution," says Malo.
Next week: NASA's new shank shield.
He Helps Make the LPGA A Toddlin' Tour
When Dale Eggeling won the Los Angeles Women's Championship in
February, she had help from Tony Verive, the official babysitter
of the LPGA tour. As director of the Smucker's Development
Center, Verive provides day care for tour kids, including Dustin
Eggeling, Dale's 10-year-old son. "Tony's a godsend," Eggeling
says. "I couldn't have played without this service." Of the 43
moms on the LPGA tour, four won a total of six titles last year
thanks in part to Verive and his assistant, Lisa Delosh, who use
churches, YMCAs and hotel rooms to oversee infants, toddlers and
even teens. Verive, 51, says business is baby-booming: When he
started in 1993, there were about a dozen kids to look after;
today there are 50. "We provide little golf clubs for them to
play with," says Verive, who admits that the tour's toddlers
would rather watch Barney.
Florida's Favorite Teen Bopper
Chris Couch was the media darling of the 1990 Honda Classic.
Couch was a 16-year-old high schooler when he qualified for the
tournament by shooting a six-under 65 at Carolina C.C. in
Margate, Fla. Forget Arnie's Army, Chris's Couch Potatoes had
eyes only for him. After shooting 82-77 at the TPC at Eagle
Trace that week to miss the cut by eight shots, Couch played at
Florida, where he was a two-time All-America. Today he plays the
Nike tour in relative obscurity. His best finish is a tie for
fourth at the 1997 South Carolina Classic, which paid $10,667
and accounted for nearly half his earnings last year. Couch, who
says he once shot a 59 in high school, is still notable for his
power--with an average drive of 293.5 yards, he trails only
Stiles Mitchell in driving distance on the swoosh tour.
What do these players have in common?
At ages 22 (Woods), 23 (Coughlan) and 24 (Cink), they are the
youngest players on the PGA Tour.