Golf's greats have designs on another sort of immortality
Like most fourth-graders, Tom Watson used to doodle and daydream
at his desk. "I sketched incredibly long par-4s, with everything
uphill," he says. "Come to think of it, they were like what
architects design today."
Watson's schoolboy fancies came to life in 1987, when he
collaborated on Spanish Bay at Pebble Beach, Calif. Two years
ago he designed the Tom Watson Golf Club in Miyazaki, Japan. He
is one of more than 40 current and former Tour golfers now
playing architect, from Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer to Nick
Faldo and Colin Montgomerie. Even D.A. Weibring has a design
firm. The player-designers, who charge from $200,000 to $2
million per layout, are gobbling up a growing slice of the
architectural pie, to the dismay of longtime designers like Ron
Fream. "Just because you can hit a four-iron stiff, that doesn't
mean you can create a course," says Fream.
In Pete Dye's view, attaching a golf star's name to a course is
often a matter of marketing. "Nobody thinks Arnold Palmer
invented Pennzoil," Dye says. "He endorses it. The golf
professionals endorse their courses, too." Lee Trevino, for
example, has leased his name to a design group. Among former
players only Nicklaus, Ben Crenshaw, Tom Weiskopf and a few
others have earned their stripes as designers.
The 134-member American Society of Golf Course Architects
screens its members for experience and training in landscaping,
horticulture and agronomy as well as course construction. Only
two players, Nicklaus and Mark McCumber, are ASGCA members. "My
brothers and I were building our first course when I got my Tour
card," says McCumber, the lone player-designer whose work as an
architect predates his pro playing career.
Weiskopf joined forces with Jay Morrish to build the esteemed
Troon and Troon North in Scottsdale, Ariz., as well as his own
favorite, Loch Lomond, the first course in Scotland designed by
an American. "All golfers are frustrated designers," says
Weiskopf. "Overall, I enjoy building courses more than I ever
liked playing." The 1973 British Open champ has learned to read
engineering plans with an expert's eye, and like many pros he
has a nearly photographic memory of courses he has played.
"That memory can be a plus or a minus," says Morrish, who has
worked with Nicklaus and Weiskopf. "Some players can only see
new situations in terms of holes they remember. That makes you
an excellent editor but not necessarily a good author."
Nicklaus, who is known for letting the bulldozers move tons of
earth before he does much of his work, has won raves for such
designs as Muirfield Village, Desert Mountain and Desert
Highlands. His stature as a golfer turned auteur is nothing new,
says designer Brian Silva. "Many early architects were playing
pros. Donald Ross was one of them, and we revere him like no
other architect," says Silva. Yet with exotic, temperamental
strains of bentgrass to deal with and EPA regulations affecting
every inch of fairway and green, course design is hardly the
game it was in Ross's era. "Golf professionals don't have the
technical background they need to solve all the problems they
run into," Dye says. "The ones who do good work either hire or
affiliate themselves with people who know the technical side."
Nicklaus employs several other ASGCA members. Weiskopf brought
engineer and agronomist David Porter onboard after splitting
with Morrish in 1993. Crenshaw works with Bill Coore, and Palmer
relies on Ed Seay.
Does that mean the stars are mere figureheads? Only if Ross was
a figurehead, too, for many of his courses were actually the
work of his underlings John McGovern and Walter Hatch. "Ross's
design in Whitinsville, Mass., is often called one of the best
nine-hole courses in the country," Silva says, "but people who
have been there forever will tell you that Hatch did it. Ross
never set foot on the place." --John F. Lauerman
Ely Callaway was talking about his company's popular ads, in
which celebs from Bill Gates to Alice Cooper wax romantic about
their Big Berthas. "Celine Dion's commercial was all her own
idea," he said of the Canadian belter, who is so serious about
golf that she recently bought her own course, La Mirage, outside
Montreal. Dion, who received the standard payment--options on
5,000 shares of Callaway stock--in lieu of her usual titanic
fee, even provided the spot's punch line, a riff on her megahit
love theme from Titanic. "With this," she says, getting torchy
with her Bertha, "I know my drive will go on and on."
Kevin Sorbo, TV's Hercules, wants an ad too. "Mine could say,
'Even Hercules hits it farther with a Big Bertha,'" he says.
Will it happen? "Nah," says Callaway. "We wouldn't want the USGA
to hear that."
The Shag Bag
Blackwolf Trudge: Players, fans and officials were aghast at
slow play during last week's Women's Open at Blackwolf Run in
Kohler, Wis. The USGA had hoped that rounds would last 4 1/2
hours, but the average was nearly an hour longer. "In general
the women are slower players than the men," said Tom Meeks, the
USGA's director of rules and competition. "Their routines are
really involved. They calculate yardage, take two or three
practice swings, line themselves up. The problem starts in
college, where they're not taught about pace of play." Lisa
Walters (below) was penalized two strokes for slow play--half an
hour after signing her scorecard--and called the penalty
"asinine...they never would have given Nancy Lopez two shots."
Maternity Address: Tammie Green, who tied for seventh, announced
at the Open that she had wed Kroger CEO Bill Parker (henceforth
known as golf's Green grocer) and is three months pregnant.
"I've heard that pregnancy makes you play better," said Green.
"Your center of gravity is lower, and you stay down through the
shot a little better."
Flag Day: How fearsome was Friday for the threesome of Jane
Geddes, Nancy Lopez and Meg Mallon? All three missed the cut.
All three waved white towels of surrender as they came up the
18th. And at the 14th hole, after all three hit the green in
regulation and Mallon quoted the LPGA slogan, "Hey, we can
play," all three broke up laughing.
Irwinnings: Bruce Summerhays won last week's State Farm Senior
Classic and took home $187,500. The bigger news from Columbia,
Md., was that with the $100,000 he won by tying for second, Hale
Irwin passed Greg Norman as golf's alltime leading money winner.
"There are a lot of players more deserving. Start with Sam
Snead, Ben Hogan and Jack Nicklaus," said Irwin, whose
$12,030,109 in earnings is more than Snead's, Hogan's and
Nicklaus's winnings combined.
Splashdown: Donnie Hammond made a run at the PGA Tour's first 59
since 1991 last Saturday at the Greater Hartford Open. Then,
faster than you can say Tin Cup, he rinsed a sleeve of balls at
the 17th hole and took a 10. Hammond settled for a 67 and
eventually finished 25th.
Aussie Meets Rossie: Ian-Baker Finch, who gave up competitive
golf two months ago, returns to the site of his 1991 British
Open victory next week as an ABC commentator. Baker-Finch has
signed a two-year deal to join Bob Rosburg and the rest of the
network's tour trackers.
The Wheel Deal: Fans bought 90,000 tickets to Friday's second
round at Hartford. Then Casey Martin missed the cut, and Fourth
of July attendance fizzled to 40,000, the event's worst Saturday
gate in five years.
Playing Golf Religiously
Every seven years at shrines all over Japan, members of the
Shinto religion pause to fulfill an ancient duty. They build a
house to give thanks for their ancestors' deliverance from a
centuries-old natural disaster. Whether that disaster was a
typhoon, an earthquake or a famine no one knows, but when it
ended 1,200 years ago, inhabitants of the village of Suma swore
to build a house every seven years to show their gratitude to
the gods. Over the centuries the ceremony evolved into
On-bashira-sai, the Log Festival.
This year at Suwako Country Club, where a small Shinto shrine
stands near the 4th tee, worshipers played nine holes in the
morning, stopping for prayer and sake before they teed off at
number 4. After lunch they dragged four 20-meter logs across the
course and raised them one by one, symbolically rebuilding the
gods' house. "It's hard work, and it can be dangerous," says
golf writer Duke Ishikawa. "Everybody has to buy life insurance,
just in case a log slips." The ceremony ends with a test of
fitness few American golfers could pass: The bravest men climb
60 feet to the top of the logs, where they enjoy a god's-eye
view of the course.
Miracle at Druids Glen
"I can't thank them enough. There wasn't much time left," said
David Carter, praising two Dublin lads who found his ball in
deep rough on the 16th hole at Druid's Glen Golf Course. With
the boys' help Carter, 26, forced a playoff with Colin
Montgomerie at last week's Irish Open, which he won after Monty
hit into the water on the first extra hole. Yet Carter also owed
his grand Sunday to two other rescuers--European tour golfers
Iain Pyman and Roger Wessels, who found him unconscious in his
hotel room on the eve of last year's Dubai Desert Classic.
During emergency brain surgery, doctors drilled a hole in
Carter's skull to relieve pressure caused by a water-slide
accident he'd had two weeks earlier. In less than two months
Carter finished second at the Cannes Open, and on Sunday in
Dublin he canned a 20-footer on the 18th to catch Montgomerie.
"I had short-term memory loss for about a year, and my memory's
still not brilliant," he said after the round, "but I'm lucky to
be here, and that's something I don't forget."
Pasadena Punch Bowl
Lift a glass and order up a cakeload of candles. Paul (Little
Poison) Runyan expects more than 100 guests at his house in
Pasadena, on July 12. The occasion: Runyan's 90th-birthday bash.
"It starts at four o'clock and ends around six or seven," says
the two-time Ryder Cupper who was the Tour's leading money
winner in 1934. Runyan was the PGA champion that year as well as
in '38, when he thumped Sam Snead 8 and 7 in the final. The 5'7"
short-game legend says he's feeling energized these days because
doctors recently replaced the batteries in his pacemaker. He
plays at least twice a week at Pasadena's Annandale Country
Club, shooting scores 10 or more strokes lower than his age. The
former pro at Sahalee Country Club, which will host August's PGA
Championship, played Sahalee last summer and shot 83. "I'm
always disappointed when I don't break 80," he says.
Twenty years ago at the Quad City Classic, Victor Regalado edged
Fred Marti by a stroke to win $30,000. It was mucho dinero for
Regalado, who billed himself as the only Mexican-born player on
the PGA Tour. A native of Tijuana, he was often compared with
Texas-born Lee Trevino. At the 1977 Crosby, Regalado told
reporters, "Trevino's not here, so I'm just trying to be low
Mexican." His first Tour triumph came at the '74 Pleasant Valley
Classic. Regalado's lone victory thereafter was at Quad City,
but for sentimental value the '78 tournament couldn't begin to
match the '75 Quad City, at which he met a volunteer worker who
became his wife. Still together after two decades, Vic and Carol
Regalado live in San Diego where Vic, who turned 50 on April 15,
is practicing for a run at the Senior tour. "I hope you'll see
me next year on TV," he says.
What do these players have in common?
They are the only men to win British Opens in three decades.