Se Ri's Sorrows
Yes, she was happy. Yes, her swing was fine. No, she was not
worried about her play. Se Ri Pak insisted that all this was
true even as her eyes welled with tears.
After a second-round 74 in last week's Standard Register Ping in
Phoenix, Pak signed her scorecard, then a dozen autographs.
"Good luck on Saturday and Sunday," said one well-intentioned
woman. Sorry, lady. With a two-day total of 148, last year's
LPGA rookie of the year missed the cut.
After a 1998 marked by stunning victories, followed by highly
public breakups with her manager, Steven Kil, and coach, David
Leadbetter, Pak was determined to make more time for herself
this year. In that, she has succeeded. After missing one cut in
27 starts in '98, she has missed three in seven tournaments this
season, depressing her income but freeing up her weekends.
What ails the erstwhile South Korean sensation? "Her swing is
fine," says her friend, chauffeur and caddie, the 6'5" Jeff
(Tree) Cable, swatting away the notion that Pak misses
Leadbetter. Others aren't so sure. "I don't know," says Annika
Sorenstam. "Whatever they were doing, it seemed to be working."
Pak's struggles come as no surprise to Sorenstam. Like Pak,
Sorenstam got her first career win in a major. Unlike Pak, she
says, "I did not have this huge sponsor putting all this
pressure on me. She's 21, and they treat her like a machine."
This is a dig at Samsung, which last season forced Pak to keep
an inhuman schedule of appearances. (Pak jumped to IMG in
January.) She rebelled by cutting back on practice time and
conditioning. She also began dating a student at Leadbetter's
Orlando academy, a fellow South Korean who has joined her on the
tour. It's been suggested by the South Korean media that this
has contributed to her slow start, a claim that infuriates Pak.
"What do they think? That when I play golf, I think about my
boyfriend? I have to have my life!"
"She works so hard," says Nancy Lopez, Pak's self-appointed den
mother on tour, "but [South Korean reporters] write negative
stuff because she doesn't shoot under par every day. Her parents
read it, get upset and call her."
Is Pak practicing as much as she used to? After Thursday's 74,
she spent an hour and 45 minutes on the range, but for an hour
of that time she was on a cell phone, talking to her father.
Friday, after missing the cut, Pak blinked back tears as she
spoke of her quest to find balance in her life. "I know in my
country, people are happy when I play good," she said. "I want
to make them happy, but I want to be happy, too." --Austin
TPC'S BALATA BOTTOM FEEDERS
When it comes to giving something back to the game, nothing can
top the pond surrounding the island green on the 17th hole at
the TPC at Sawgrass. Every year about 120,000 balls are
retrieved from the murky waters protecting the 132-yard par-3,
and almost all of them are cleaned and resold as driving-range
or experienced balls.
With golfers drowning an average of three balls apiece, the
supply of sunken treasure never ends. The treasure hunters,
however, aren't talking. Paul Kaneb, executive vice president of
Second Chance, the Port St. Lucie, Fla., company contracted to
retrieve the balls, declined to comment. Publicity, after all,
can prompt imitators.
We'll defer to Bobby Sowers, an 11-year Sawgrass employee who
cops to dunking a few on 17. Sowers says two scuba divers scour
the pond floor for two days every month. Their haul on March 2,
during the slow season: 10,000 balls. "Players think, Hell, I've
paid a lot of money to play [the green fee is $270.80]. This is
a famous hole," Sowers says. "One person may hit four, five, six
balls into the water."
The TPC gets a fee for balls retrieved, and alligators can take
an even bigger bite out of Kaneb's bottom line, but he'd be
smart to fear Titleist takers and Pinnacle pirates. He's got it
good. As long as Second Chance sells its balls near the 17th at
Sawgrass, a third chance can't be far behind. --Gene Menez
What do these players have in common?
They're the only multiple winners of the Players Championship.
Couples won in '84 and '96, Elkington in '91 and '97 and
Nicklaus in '74, '76 and '78.
Is the Hale Irwin-Gil Morgan era over on the Senior tour?
--Based on 404 responses to our informal survey
Next question: Did Tiger Woods make a mistake in firing his
caddie, Mike (Fluff) Cowan? To vote, go to www.cnnsi.com/golf.
Tim Herron's victory at Bay Hill was a rare example of a
first-round leader in a PGA Tour event going on to win. Seniors,
who usually play 25% fewer holes than their counterparts on the
regular Tour, are almost twice as likely to win when leading
after 18 holes. Here's how the first-round leaders have finished
on the three major U.S. tours since 1990.
Finish PGA LPGA Senior
1 9.7% 13.6% 17.2%
2-5 24.1% 28.9% 36.9%
6-10 14.9% 15.0% 20.0%
11-20 18.3% 18.7% 12.7%
21-30 11.3% 8.5% 8.3%
31-40 8.8% 6.5% 2.6%
41-50 4.9% 3.3% 1.1%
51-60 4.8% 2.4% .8%
61+ 2.7% 2.4% .4%
CUT .8% .7% NA
Ed Ervasti, London, Ont.
Ervasti, 85, has shot his age or better in 239 of his last 240
rounds, dating back to January 1998. During that span his low
scores were a 72, shot in September, and a 75, which he carded
on his 85th birthday (Jan. 13) at the Turtle Creek Club in
Tequesta, Fla. His high round was an 86 in February.
Jennifer Spurling, St. George's, Bermuda
Spurling, 18, won the 68th Bermuda Ladies Amateur Match Play
Championship at the Mid Ocean Club by beating Lela Stearns, 52,
of Smith Parish 8 and 7 in the 36-hole final. A senior at Saltus
Grammar School, Spurling will join the UNC-Wilmington Seahawks
golf team in the fall.
Luke Donald, Buckinghamshire, England
Donald, a sophomore at Northwestern, shot a three-under-par 213
to win the individual crown as well as lead the Wildcats to the
team title in the Aldila Collegiate Classic in Santee, Calif.
Donald, who has one other win and three seconds this season,
leads the nation with a 70.20 scoring average.