A teen barely old enough to drive cruised to victory at the U.S.
This is an article from the July 27, 1998 issue
Justin Rose and Matt Kuchar may be golf's whiz kids, but they
didn't win last week. Trevor Immelman did. Immelman, fresh out
of Hottentots-Holland High in Cape Town, South Africa, topped a
159-man field at the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship.
"This is huge for me, like a major," said Immelman, who won an
exemption to the 1999 Masters and major hugs from his mom.
The U.S. Public Links began in 1922, when 140 muni course
regulars knocked balls around Ottawa Park Golf Course in Toledo.
Almost half of them wore golf shoes. In later years the
championship of bartenders and firemen, butchers, bakers and
Greyhound takers became a proving ground for Tour players
including Billy Mayfair and Jodie Mudd, both of whom won the
event. It even achieved a Grand Slam of sorts, since future
winners of the Masters (George Archer), U.S. Open (Tommy Bolt,
Ed Furgol and Ken Venturi), British Open (Tony Lema) and PGA
(Dave Marr and Bobby Nichols) all played the Public Links. Yet
the Publinx gets hardly any pub even in its own neighborhood.
Gawkers last week preferred the nude beach below the bluffs at
Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif., to the action on the course.
Immelman went seven under par on the first 10 holes last
Thursday. He beat Andrew Komor 9 and 8--the biggest blowout
since 1954--to become Publinx entity No. 1. "I was familiar with
Torrey Pines," said the grim-faced 18-year-old, who finished
second to Kevin Stadler, son of Craig, in the '97 Junior World
tournament at the same course, "It seemed that this was meant to
Before Saturday's final against Auburn's Jason Dufner, Immelman
waited out a three-hour, 40-minute fog delay with his parents,
June and Johan. June used to do her son's driving for him. No
one under 18 can drive a car in South Africa, so June quit
working full-time three years ago to drive Trevor to lessons and
tournaments. The boy had taken up golf at age five and has been
coached by Robert Baker, who also works with Ernie Els and Mark
O'Meara. Immelman insists he won't join South Africa's national
hero on tour anytime soon. "When I'm good enough, and mentally
strong enough, I'll turn pro," he says.
Golf's latest teen bopper was good and strong on Saturday,
closing out Dufner 3 and 2. "You dream about something like
this," he said. "When it happens, you pinch yourself." His minor
major was no British Open, but it'll do in a pinch.
Gil Morgan's pro-am partner dazzled crowds at last week's
Ameritech Senior Open. Michael Jordan, who says he'll focus on
golf this fall if he retires from the NBA, outdrove Morgan on
the 1st hole, but his Bull-in-a-pro-shop short game left him
with a shaggy 45 at the turn. At the 15th tee, where he noted a
resemblance between his ball and Bulls G.M. Jerry Krause, he
slammed his drive into a bunker. "That's Jerry, all right," said
a glum Jordan.
Then the Air conditioning kicked in at muggy Kemper Lakes Golf
Club, near Chicago. Accustomed to making magic at crunch time,
Jordan finished birdie-birdie. When a reporter suggested that
his Airness had hit a lucky shot to set up one of the birds,
Jordan flashed his best gotcha grin and said, "You know, Utah is
saying the same thing."
Se Ri Pak has become such a presence on the women's tour that
the quiet please signs at last week's JAL Big Apple Classic in
New Rochelle, N.Y., included a message in Korean: "Please don't
move before players hit shots." So popular is Pak that one could
almost forget a certain Swede who ruled the tour back in 1997.
"Se Ri has gotten a lot of attention and she deserved it, but I
can play, too," said Annika Sorenstam on Sunday evening. "I
proved it here." She proved it by winning the Big Apple by eight
shots over Joan Pitcock and by at least 10 over everyone else,
including Pak, who was 23 back. In the process Sorenstam tied
Pak for the tour lead in wins, with three, grabbed the top spot
on the money list and notched her 15th career win, putting her
halfway to the Hall of Fame. Does anyone know how to say, "Outta
my way at the du Maurier" in Swedish?
THE SHAG BAG
Ole Miss Funkfest: A month after undergoing laser eye surgery
and then blowing a Sunday lead at the Kemper Open, Fred Funk
stayed on the beam at last week's Deposit Guaranty Classic in
Madison, Miss. "I was a nervous wreck before 13," he said of the
hole where he ran in a 30-foot birdie putt, "but I relaxed after
that." Funk won his fifth Tour title and $216,000.
Johnny on the Spot: Golf Channel commentator Doug Tewell took a
not-so-veiled shot at Johnny Miller after shooting a first-round
66 at the Deposit Guaranty. "I don't compare my game to the way
others play. I try not to put myself on a pedestal the way some
guys do," said Tewell, who fell to 14th on Sunday.
Great White Guppy: Twelve-year-old Gregory Norman (below, with
Papa Shark) shot 105-103 in last week's Junior Open Championship
in Formby, England. The shortest player in the field finished 25
shots behind playing partner Michael Watson, the 15-year-old son
of Tom, and 60 behind winner David Inglis. "He got into the
rough," said the Shark, "and at his age he doesn't have the
strength to get back out. Give him time, he'll be all right."
Pleasure and Pain: Last week at Pleasureland, an amusement park
near Royal Birkdale, Tom Lehman executed a handstand that wowed
his daughters but left golf's Kerri Strug unable to lift his
right arm. Lehman winced his way through two rounds and missed
the cut at the British Open.
No Doubt: Colin Montgomerie, another victim of the cut, blew up
at a BBC cameraman and at a spectator who addressed him by one
of his least favorite nicknames, Mrs. Doubtfire. The embattled
Scot may soon be dubbed Touchiest Player Never to Win a Major.
No Leeway: English fans know about Lee Westwood, but when U.S.
Open champ Lee Janzen entered the Birkdale locker room, an
attendant asked, "Are you a qualifier?" Janzen said, "I'm
exempt. Get used to my face. I'll be coming here for the next 10
Strapping Jock: Corey Nakatani is the John Daly of jockeys. At a
recent celebrity long-drive contest the 61-inch thoroughbred
rider, who weighs 111 pounds, clouted one 312 yards.
House of Payne: According to the annual Payne Stewart's Guide to
Golf, Stewart's mansion in Orlando features "walk-in closets the
size of living rooms," a foyer with a player piano, a putting
room carpeted with artificial turf, and big-screen TVs tuned
perpetually to the Golf Channel. Still, the magazine asserts
that Casa Stewart "is not pretentious" and "has a modicum of
Nice Ti: Greg Powers, 52, got a new hip after a near-fatal car
crash in 1992. "Other guys have titanium drivers. I've got a
titanium hip," says Powers, who challenged for the lead at the
Deposit Guaranty before fading to 64th place. No word on whether
the USGA will investigate the spring in his step.
PLEASE DON'T DENT THE HOLY GRAIL
The tale of the most cherished trophy in golf began when Young
Tom Morris needed a belt. Morris's third straight British Open
title, in 1870, gave him the right to keep the championship
belt, a band of crimson Moroccan leather with a silver buckle.
The belt cost about 30 guineas, a huge sum in those days, so the
golfers of Prestwick canceled the Open in 1871. "They were in a
panic," says Scottish golf historian Bobby Burnett, "so they
asked the members at St. Andrews and Mussleburgh to pitch in."
Thus began two traditions: the rotation of the Open among clubs
and the presentation of a sterling-silver wine pitcher--the
claret jug, made by Mackay Cunningham & Co. of Edinburgh--to the
Today a silver replica of the original goes home with the Open
champ for a year. In 1983 Tom Watson dropped the replica after
winning his fifth British Open. Back home in Kansas City a few
months later, Watson was swinging a two-iron in his study when
he knocked the jug off his desk. "Its lip was bent," he recalls,
"so I got out my vise grip, put some velvet over the lip and
bent it back." In 1996 the jug flew home with Tom Lehman to
Scottsdale, Ariz., and acquired a trophy wife. Lehman's
daughters, Rachael and Holly, got bored with their Barbies one
day. "They decided to play house," says Lehman's wife, Melissa.
"Tom's Ryder Cup trophy was the wife, and the claret jug was the
Last year Justin Leonard took the jug home to Dallas and let his
parents keep it in their house. "We didn't let it out much,"
Leonard said last week. Just before returning golf's grail to
its ancestral home, however, Leonard got some friends together
and put the jug to its original use. "We drank a couple of
toasts from it," says the noted neat freak, adding some good
news for Mark O'Meara. "But I made sure that it was clean when I
Leading the Magnetic Field
After John Huston broke the Tour scoring record at the Hawaiian
Open in February, a feat Huston credited in part to magnets in
his mattress cover and his shoes, Bill Roper's phone started
ringing. Roper is the president of Tectonic Magnets, whose
products many athletes believe can ease pain and aid
circulation. Last week, when Huston took the first-round lead at
the British Open, Roper's business picked up again. "We're
getting more publicity than a Fortune 500 company, and it's
free," he says. "The phones are coming off the wall." Roper may
soon be introducing new spokesjocks to join Senior golfers Bob
Murphy and Jim Colbert and Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino
on the roster of magnetic celebs. "Right now we're hustling to
fill an order from the Dallas Cowboys," says the magnet mogul.
"When John Huston does well, we do well."
THE BEL-AIR BOMBER
At the 1953 U.S. Public Links Championship in Seattle, Ted
Richards Jr. topped a field including future Tour players Rod
Funseth, Tony Lema and Doug Sanders. An Army Air Forces radio
operator and a top turret gunner in World War II, Richards had
been in a B-24 bomber that was hit during a raid over Iwo Jima.
"I almost fell out the bomb door," he says. Richards was awarded
a Purple Heart and returned to his native California. After his
victory at the '53 Publinx he won the Bel-Air Country Club
championship so often--18 times--that the trophy was renamed in
his honor. Today, when Sean Connery, Clint Eastwood, club champ
Jack Wagner of Melrose Place and other Hollywood types play
Bel-Air, they sometimes spot a sweet-swinging 75-year-old whose
story few of them know: former Tech Sergeant Richards.
What do these players have in common?
They are the only multiple winners of the U.S. Senior Open.
Barber won in 1982, '84 and '85; Player in '87 and '88; and
Nicklaus in '91 and '93.