New LPGA Commissioner
This is an article from the Feb. 15, 1999 issue
The resignation last week of LPGA commissioner Jim Ritts
surprised many but worried few. By an 11-0 vote the tour's board
of directors promptly replaced Ritts with his righthand man,
37-year-old Ty Votaw, who will take office in mid-March. "This
won't disrupt the LPGA at all," says Hall of Famer Pat Bradley.
"[Ty is] a businessman, but a friend too. That's half the battle."
Votaw is a capable insider who, as vice president of business
affairs, handled TV ad sales, tournament scheduling and sponsor
relations for Ritts. But Votaw is unproven as a leader.
Certainly his outlook has broadened since his days as a law
student at North Carolina. "He was very conservative," says
Michael Hauser, a sports and entertainment lawyer and one of
four former classmates who meet with Votaw every year. "If you
had asked us in 1984 who'd be in a leadership position for an
organization to promote women, Ty might not have been your first
choice. He wore a lot of brown because Ronald Reagan did."
Ritts, who leaves to become chief operating officer of Digital
Entertainment Network, a California corporation that plans to
deliver television-style programs over the Internet, was seen by
some as an ambitious outsider who treated the LPGA as a rung on
his career ladder. The caddies called him Jerry Springer because
of a physical resemblance. Some players called him Mr. Slick.
Few complained about his performance. In three years as
commissioner, Ritts, 45, boosted tournament purses 48.4%, added
seven tournaments and got TV exposure for a record 33 events, up
from 19 in '94. He also steered his ship around such dangerous
shoals as the lesbian issue (Muffin Spencer-Devlin came out with
dignity on his watch) and the fence-around-the-Hall-of-Fame
fiasco (players passed liberalized admission standards last week).
"I wasn't hired to be an agent of change," Votaw said last
Friday from his home office in Ridgefield, Conn. "The last three
years have seen the most dramatic growth in our history." In
other words look for a continuation of the policies of Ritts and
his predecessor, Charlie Mechem, who hired Votaw in 1991. "Not
to sound too Reaganesque," says Votaw, "but the question I ask
is, 'Are our players better off than they were in 1991?' The
answer is yes. Can we do better? Yes."
HAMMERIN' HANK PUNISHES PEBBLE
The longest hitter at last week's AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am was
U.S. Amateur champion Hank Kuehne, who was swinging from the
heels, and the white tees, all week.
"If they're going to put me up there, I figure I might as well
just go for it," said Kuehne, who reduced Pebble to a
pitch-and-putt and onlookers to giggles.
The 23-year-old drove it pin-high into the right bunker on the
303-yard, par-4 4th hole. Two holes later he reached the
487-yard, uphill par-5 6th hole with a driver and a seven-iron.
"We weren't even playing the same golf course," said Stuart
Appleby, who was playing in Kuehne's foursome. "I never saw him
all day. He was 30 yards ahead of me on the tee and then 70 yards
ahead in the fairway."
CALLING ALL 9-TO-5 PUTTERS
At the Glenlivet Office Putting Championship in Chicago, the
hazards are straight out of Staples--filing cabinets, waste
baskets, coatracks--and the best white-collar putter gets a trip
for four to Scotland to play St. Andrews, Troon and Carnoustie.
"It's tougher to putt in an office than it is on a green," says
tournament chairman Rick Miller, a 35-year-old vice president of
a sports marketing firm who founded the event last year.
The rules: 128 Windy City offices will put widgets on hold this
month as each crowns its own champion. On Feb. 25 those winners
will play in a match-play frenzy to crown the undisputed Ben
Crenshaw of the boardroom.
Putters will navigate three five-hole courses as they putt
toward standing glasses that serve as the holes, always mindful
that the ball breaks toward high-traffic doors and that hitting
it into the drink (the watercooler, in this case) or any other
office furniture incurs a one-shot penalty. Rules officials will
help all run smoothly--as will the sponsor's libations.
Mike Gillespie, an options specialist at Salomon Smith Barney,
won last year when his opponent pushed a potential match-winning
four-footer out-of-bounds. Gillespie won't defend this year
(he'll be sunning in Hawaii), but he did reveal his secret to
success: "I wasn't drinking the Scotch that much." --Gene Menez
Marlene Stewart Streit, Stouffville, Ont.
Stewart Streit, 64, won the senior division of the Doherty Match
Play Championship at Coral Ridge Country Club in Fort Lauderdale
for the fourth time. Also a four-time winner of the Doherty's
regular division, Stewart Streit has won national amateurs in
Australia, Canada (10 times), Great Britain and the U.S. (one
regular and two seniors).
Robb Bergeson, Billings, Mont.
Bergeson, a redshirt junior at Washington, led the Huskies to
victory in the 19-team Ping Arizona Intercollegiate at Raven
Golf Club in Sabino Springs. He won the individual title with a
four-under-par 209 (71-68-70), a shot better than Stanford's
Joel Kribel. With a nine-over 861 total, the Huskies finished
three strokes ahead of USC.
Bill Dent, Dunbar, W.Va.
Dent, 67, a retired accountant who took up golf in 1989, made
his eighth hole in one at the Coonskin Golf Course in
Charleston, W.Va. His latest ace came with a pitching wedge on
the 95-yard 1st hole at Coonskin, an 18-hole par-3 layout of
2,240 yards. Dent has aced holes number 1 (twice), 2, 4, 6, 7, 8
What do these tournaments have in common?
They're the three most recent rain-shortened events in which
Payne Stewart ended up second. The winners were Tom Kite, Greg
Norman and Ben Crenshaw, respectively.
Who would win a head-to-head match, played from the same tees,
between Laura Davies and Lee Trevino?
--Based on 1,034 responses to our informal survey
Next question: Do you know how the World Ranking is calculated?
To vote, go to www.cnnsi.com/golf.
This week's Buick Invitational is the last chance for players to
crack the top 64 in the World Ranking and qualify for the Feb.
24-28 World Match Play. At least two of the PGA Tour's top 14
money leaders will need high finishes to make the field at La
MONEY LIST WORLD RANK
David Duval 1 2
Jeff Sluman 2 33
Payne Stewart 3 17
Rocco Mediate 4 58
Justin Leonard 5 10
Steve Pate 6 61
Fred Funk 7 43
Frank Lickliter 8 87
John Huston 9 26
Tiger Woods 10 1
Davis Love III 11 4
Mark O'Meara 12 3
Jeff Maggert 13 25
Tommy Tolles 14 81