News & Notes

June 07, 1998

GOLFZILLA
For monster power, nothing beats a Jason Zuback drive

The unsuspecting ball, planted on a tee, has a moment to relax
before it is shocked, squashed oblong by the fastest club on
Earth. A second later the ball is a speck in the sky, 280 yards
away and still rising. "Not bad," says Jason Zuback, "but I
didn't get it all."

He is all about getting it all. Zuback, a 28-year-old pharmacist
from western Canada, is golf's biggest hitter. His 48-inch,
XXX-stiff shafts often snap at impact or even before impact. At
last year's North American Long Drive Championship in Mesquite,
Nev., he took a mighty whack that left him holding a decapitated
shaft, but the clubhead made contact and drove the ball 410
yards. He ultimately won the event and its $50,000 first prize
with a 412-yarder. Not bad, but 99 yards shy of his personal best.

A 5'10" weightlifter who graduated with honors from the
University of Alberta, Zuback spent four years manning pharmacy
counters in Drayton Valley, 400 miles north of the Montana
border. The pharm boy sometimes moonlighted as a golf shark. "I
had a friend who was long, too," he says. "We used to drive to
other towns for Texas scrambles and bet on ourselves in the
Calcuttas. Then we'd go out, drive the par-4s and take
everybody's money."

Zuback tried the Canadian tour, but lost out to the likes of Tim
Herron and Steve Stricker. Like a lot of longball kings, he is
spotty from 100 yards in. But eight years ago he flipped on the
TV and saw Frank Miller winning the North American Long Drive
title and a check for $18,000. "Big money," says Zuback,
recalling the days when his father, Gordon, won small-town
driving contests. "I marveled at my dad's drives, but he never
got much more than a bottle of rum for winning."

Jason has now powered his way to 31 longball titles including
the 1996 and '97 North American Championships, but he still
subscribes to The American Journal of Hospital Pharmacy. No
500-pound gorilla, he is a 215-pound student of his craft. "The
full swing is an athletic move. The legs are your stabilizers;
along with your hips, abs and back muscles, they drive the
swing," he says, explaining that his power derives less from
muscle than from "timing and centrifugal force." He often
generates enough force to split open the skin of his fingers--an
occupational hazard he repairs with Blue Glue, a surgical
adhesive he gets from pharmaceutical supply houses.

Despite his $50,000 payday last fall, he isn't rich. "I'm
approaching $100,000 a year from contests, but there's so much
travel that I burn up about $80,000 in expenses," says Zuback,
who netted more money at the Medicine World pharmacy. Yet he is
driven to explore the far reaches of his talent. "My clubhead
speed has been measured by laser at 156. That's about 25 miles
an hour faster than Tiger Woods's swing, but I'm always looking
for more," he says. He boosts his income with corporate outings
such as the Alberta Pharmaceutical Association convention, at
which he showed his old drugstore colleagues how to pop the pill
280-plus yards while sitting in a chair. Zuback also drives
balls through plywood planks. "You know what's tougher than
doing that trick? Learning it," he says. "If you don't knock it
through the wood, the ball comes back right at you."

An ad in Pinnacle's Drive Across America campaign has Zuback
smacking balls off the top of the Empire State Building. "Ah,
can't we shoot this in a studio?" asked the acrophobic star.
Making another commercial at a diner in Ohio, he hit balls at a
net designed to protect the customers, but his drives tore
through the net and suddenly the luncheon special was duck.

All summer 8,000 long hitters will vie for berths on the
shooting range at the Oct. 21-24 finals of the '98 Long Drive
Championship in Mesquite. The defending champ, who'll be
frontrunner for this year's $75,000 first prize, can't wait to
meet them. "When I'm pumped and the crowd is electrifying me, I
want to astound people," he says, "to show them how far a golf
ball can go."

THE SHAG BAG

Mattiace's Burden: Len Mattiace, a fan favorite since he fell
short at the Players Championship after hitting two balls into
the water at 17 with his family on hand, finished 31st at the
Memorial and spoke of his mother, whose lung cancer has not
responded to treatment. "She's worse. I wouldn't have played
this week, but I don't think she knows where I am," said
Mattiace, who planned to return to his parents' house in Ponte
Vedra Beach, Fla., after the tournament "and be with her for as
long as it takes."

Reveille for Arnie's Army: After Arnold Palmer (below) shot
81-76 in the first two rounds of last week's Pittsburgh Senior
Classic, his week got worse. Because he stood last in the
event's 77-man field, Palmer was assigned a 7:30 a.m. tee time
for Sunday. He objected to the early hour ("The fans can't get
to the tournament," Palmer said) and threatened to skip the
final round. In the end he relented, waking at 4 a.m. on Sunday
and helicoptering to the course, where he gamely shot 72 to
finish 67th, 25 shots behind winner Larry Nelson. "Now I'll go
home and take a nap before I play golf this afternoon," Palmer
said.

Mex and Rex: Lee Trevino, who wound up 22nd at Pittsburgh,
dismissed Palmer's lengthy slump. "All Arnie has to do," he
said, gesturing with an imaginary club, "is stand closer to the
ball." Has he told Palmer? "What? He's the King. I worship the
ground he walks on. You can't tell the King something like
that," said Trevino.

'Phite the Power: Tiger Woods says the USGA should crack down on
high-tech clubs. "The equipment has gotten out of hand. Guys who
aren't that strong are hitting the ball over 300 yards," Woods
complained last Friday. On Saturday, after launching one well
over 300 yards with a graphite-shafted Titleist 975D driver he
called "my new toy," he smiled and said, "I have to try to keep
up."

Double Eagle: Hootie and the Blowfish will open TigerJam, a June
8 benefit in Los Angeles for the Tiger Woods Foundation. "Then
Jay Leno comes on for a monologue. After that, it's Babyface and
his band, then Joe Walsh and Glenn Frey from the Eagles," says
Woods, delighted at the prospect of a two-eagle day.

Salty Pepper: LPGA officials went to extremes to complete last
week's Wegmans Rochester International, which Rosie Jones
finally won on Monday. They allowed Sunday's play to continue
despite a storm that toppled a tree near a group of players and
left Dottie Pepper, Helen Alfredsson and others fuming, "Blow
the f---ing horn!" Pepper said. "Get us off the course before
somebody's killed."

Payne Killer: Asked how his playing partner, Payne Stewart, made
a 10 on the par-3 12th hole on Sunday at the Memorial, Steve
Pate said, "A hell of a two-putt."

Touring
Styx 'n' Stones 'n' Flounders

Tibby Torhorst became a roadie when she lugged amps and did
other odd jobs during the 1988 Monsters of Rock tour. She has
worked for Styx, Metallica and Marilyn Manson, and now tours
with Peter Jacobsen, Mark Lye and Payne Stewart (the cardboard
guys, right to left below, with Torhorst), a.k.a. Jake Trout and
the Flounders. Golf's first roadie travels with the band and
sells Trout CDs and videos at PGA Tour stops. "I'm tired," she
says. "I have to get my rock-and-roll body up at 5 a.m. and open
our tent at 6. Rockers get up at noon." It is strange, she says,
to segue from Styx to golf sticks, from tours on which spikes
are for piercing players' noses to a Tour on which Justin
Leonard is thought to be phat. "The band isn't pierced at all,
as far as I can tell, and their merchandise is wholesome--not
like the Marilyn Manson tour, where our best-seller was a 'God
of F---' T-shirt," says Torhorst, 31, whose parents love her new
gig. "I spent years with bands like the Rolling Stones, but my
family didn't think I had a real job until I went to work for
Peter Jacobsen."

Money Game
Bullish on Unbearable Golf

On May 31, The New York Times reported a link between golf skill
and financial success. "Improving one's golf game, it turns out,
really is good for business," claimed The Times, which checked
out 51 CEOs and found that the lower their handicaps, the better
their companies' stocks perform. General Electric's John F.
Welch Jr., with a 3.8 handicap, Sprint's William T. Esrey
(10.1), IBM's Louis V. Gerstner Jr. (13.1) and others seem to
prove that talent in golf and in commerce go hand in hand. "But
not for me. I'm happy if I break 100," says Michael Magerman,
who was president of Odyssey Golf from 1990 to '97. "My work
gave me entree to a lot of high-level golf outings--prestigious
events, coveted tee times. The common view was that running a
golf business meant having a scratch handicap and playing six
times a week. I was the exception. I was out there three- or
four-jacking greens." Thanks to a no-competition clause in the
$130 million sale of his company to Callaway in 1997, Magerman
now gets paid not to work and has plenty of time for golf. "I'm
improving," he says. "My A game is now like other people's C
games."

Off Course
Going for a Drive with Dad

Author Michael Arkush pays tribute to pro golfers and their
fathers in Fairways and Dreams (Rutledge Hill Press, $18.95),
which has hit bookstores just in time for Father's Day. The book
includes interviews with Arnold Palmer, whose dad, Deacon, was
the greenkeeper at Latrobe (Pa.) Country Club; Judy Rankin, who
recalls hours of watching her father hit range balls at night
while the family waited; and British wisecracker David Feherty,
whose father, Billy, preached tolerance among Catholics and
Protestants during Northern Ireland's explosive political
troubles. "I wanted a cross section," says Arkush, whose
previous work includes unauthorized biographies of Rush Limbaugh
and Tim Allen and a tome on the USC-UCLA football wars. Arkush
triangulated the father-child-golf relations in the lives of 25
players. The result is a sentimental journey inside the ropes of
golfers' family ties.

Flashback
Life Begins at 39

In 1968 Arnold Palmer didn't exactly ride like the cavalry into
Sutton, Mass., for the inaugural Kemper Open. The 38-year-old
Palmer had missed the cut at the Masters, finished 59th at the
U.S. Open and been treated for a gimpy right hip. The leader of
golf's biggest army was in such a funk that some pundits said he
might retire. One birthday party and a week in Massachusetts
later, however, such talk was history. After celebrating his
39th birthday on the eve of the tournament, Palmer thrilled a
crowd of 39,300 by firing a final-round 67 to beat Bruce
Crampton and Art Wall by four shots. The first Kemper Open champ
snapped an eight-month winless streak with one of his patented
finishes, making an eagle and five birdies on Sunday to charge
from three strokes back. With the win he also became the first
player to eclipse $1 million in career earnings.

COLOR PHOTO: TODD KOROL LONG DISTANCE In one of his shows of force, Zuback makes confetti of a telephone book. [Jason Zuback hitting golf ball through telephone book] COLOR PHOTO: JACQUELINE DUVOISIN [Arnold Palmer] COLOR PHOTO: ROBERT BECK [Tibby Torhorst with cardboard cut-outs of Peter Jacobsen, Mark Lye and Payne Stewart]

Threesomes
What do these players have in common?

--Nick Faldo
--Curtis Strange
--Tom Watson

Faldo (1989-90 Masters), Strange ('88-89 U.S. Opens) and Watson
('82-83 British Opens) are the last three men to win a major
twice in a row.

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)