The Next Next Nicklaus
THUNDER FROM DOWN UNDER
Calling someone the next Jack Nicklaus can be fatal. Just ask
Bobby Clampett, the player of the year from BYU in 1979 and '80,
who went from next to vexed to has-been in no time. But in
February, after Gary Player had played two rounds with then
17-year-old Aaron Baddeley in the Greg Norman Holden
International in Sydney, Player couldn't contain himself. "The
best young player I ever saw was Jack Nicklaus," Player said. "I
think this young man [Baddeley]--and I don't say this
lightly--has the ability Jack Nicklaus had at the same age."
Baddeley has had success early. At 15, in the '97 Victorian
Open, he became the youngest player to make the cut in an
Australasian tour event. At 16 he was third in the World Boys
Championship. At 17 he lost on the 18th hole to James Oh in the
U.S. Junior final, then tied for ninth, with Shigeki Maruyama,
in the Norman International. But is Baddeley the next Nicklaus?
American fans can judge for themselves starting next week, when
Baddeley will begin a four-tournament tour of the States at the
U.S. Public Links Championship in Alton, Ill.
Baddeley was born in Lebanon, N.H., in 1981, while his father,
Ron, was the chief mechanic for race car driver Mario Andretti.
When Aaron was three, the family moved back to Australia, and
they now live in the Melbourne suburb of Wonga Park, where Ron
owns a car repair business.
Aaron, the oldest of three children, loved cricket but switched
sports when he was introduced to golf by his grandmothers at 13.
He lowered his handicap from 23 to six in less than a year and
won the club championship at Croydon, outside Melbourne, when he
Dale Lynch, Baddeley's coach, knows what the Next Nicklaus label
has done for Clampett, Gary Nicklaus and Hal Sutton, among
others. "I don't like making predictions," Lynch says, "and in
that regard, I'm not sure that Player's comments were helpful. A
lot of young people have been destroyed by comparisons with
The Baddeleys seem to know this as well. Aaron runs 15 miles a
day when he's not playing and has imposed an 8:30 p.m. curfew on
himself during tournaments, but his parents try to keep his
ambition in check. "We don't want Aaron to be a superstar
overnight," says Ron. "Early on he was so desperate to do so
well so quickly that we found he wasn't living a normal life. We
instituted Monday as a no-golf day--no practice, no rounds, no
hitting of any sort. No golf videos or golf magazines."
Aaron also sounds cautious. "I'll probably wait until I'm 19 or
20 to turn pro," he says.
After next week Baddeley will play in the Porter Cup, the
Western Amateur and the U.S. Amateur. He downplays the Next
Nicklaus tag, but it might already be too late. In Australia,
Aaron is called Jack.
LPGA STAR CUFFS COUGHIN' CADDIE
The 85[degree] heat wasn't the only thing that made LPGA Hall of
Famer Pat Bradley boil over last Friday at the Jamie Farr Kroger
Classic in Sylvania, Ohio. Bradley, after shooting a
four-over-par 75 to miss the cut, confronted Dale Jones, the
veteran caddie of playing partner Dale Eggling, grabbed him by
his shirt collar and accused him of coughing during her
backswing. "Don't ever do that again!" witnesses said Bradley
Bradley, who in March was named captain of the 2000 U.S. Solheim
Cup team, could not be reached by SI. Barb Trammel, the LPGA
director of operations, confirmed an altercation but declined to
speculate on the consequences. "The only thing I can tell you,"
she said, "is that the matter is being looked into and handled
internally and confidentially."
Record LPGA Playoff
SE RI SURVIVES A SIX-PAK
Kelli Kuehne obliterated the 35-mph speed limit racing back to
Highland Meadows Golf Club in Sylvania on Sunday for the record
six-player playoff in the Kroger Classic. Having finished her
round 2 1/2 hours earlier and thinking that her eight-under
total would fall short, Kuehne left the course for a bite to
eat. Big mistake.
While Kuehne was picking up takeout chicken at Boston Market,
leader Carin Koch was coming undone on the 18th hole. She made a
double-bogey 7 to fall back to eight under. Several players
still had a chance to win, but a playoff involving Kuehne looked
possible, if somebody could find her.
LPGA officials and Kuehne's caddie, Tracy Phillips, began
frantically dialing. Messages were left, but by the time Kuehne
finally noticed she had one on her cell phone, she and her
boyfriend, Jay Humphrey, were 12 miles from the course, on their
way to the hotel to chow down and then check out. She reversed
direction, heading for the course at 90 mph. "I let her do the
driving," said Humphrey. "I wasn't going to get the ticket."
Meanwhile, four other golfers who could have won with a birdie
on the par-5 18th came up short. Mardi Lunn, Sherri Steinhauer
and Karrie Webb all missed birdie putts before Se Ri Pak, in the
final group, two-putted from the fringe for par. Pak was playing
18 when Kuehne came roaring up to the club.
The first six-way playoff in LPGA history never got past the
first hole, the par-5 18th, which all of the players reached in
regulation. Pak, the defending champ, was closest to the pin at
12 feet, and she had to wait until all of the others had missed
their birdie tries to stroke hers.
Pak had missed a putt from about the same spot last year, when
she came within a stroke of breaking the LPGA's single-event
scoring record. "I remembered that it never broke," Pak said,
"so this time I played it inside the hole and hit it perfectly."
O'Connor's First Senior Win
A HAPPY DAY, A SAD MEMORY
Christy O'Connor Jr. spent more than 30 years on the European
tour trying to get out of the shadow of his legendary uncle,
Christy O'Connor Sr., and although he won an epic match over
Fred Couples in the '89 Ryder Cup, stiffing a two-iron on the
18th hole at the Belfry to help Europe keep the Cup, he never
quite made it.
The Senior tour, though, is about second chances, and at last
week's State Farm Senior Classic at Hobbit's Glen Golf Club in
Columbia, Md., O'Connor shot an 18-under 198, the lowest
three-round score in relation to par this year, to beat Bruce
Fleisher by one. But on Sunday evening it wasn't O'Connor's
uncle who was in his thoughts. It was his son, Daren, who was 17
when he was killed in a car crash last September. "A win is a
win to me, but I wanted to do it for him," said O'Connor. "I
think he helped me out there today. It's a very sad day and a
very happy day."
Before last week many U.S. fans didn't know Christy O'Connor
from Carroll O'Connor, but the Irishman could add some flavor to
the staid old Senior tour. Last Saturday, when temperatures
soared to near 100[degrees], O'Connor kept dipping his head into
the ice of the soft-drink containers on the tee boxes. When a
fan asked O'Connor how he was keeping cool, he said, "I'm
thinking about having a cold pint of lager after the round and
sitting down and singing some songs on the guitar." He also
promised to do a jig if he won, but after holding off Fleisher,
who narrowly missed chipping in for a tying eagle on the final
hole, O'Connor did neither. Instead, he broke down in tears.
"It's for him," he said. --Don Markus
What do these players have in common?
The three Spaniards have all won the Irish Open, Ballesteros in
1983 and '86, Olazabal in '90 and Garcia last week.
Is Jack Nicklaus a hypocrite for using a cart in a Senior tour
event after testifying against Casey Martin and cart use on the
--Based on 1,093 responses to our informal survey
Next question: Who do you think is the better pick to win next
week's British Open, Sergio Garcia or Tiger Woods? Vote at
Woods's victory at the Western Open bolstered his Tour lead for
best average finish in '99 but still left him far behind the
LPGA and Senior tour leaders in this statistical category. Here
are the players with the best average finish on the three major
STARTS AVG. FINISH
1. Karrie Webb 15 7.86
2. Juli Inkster 14 9.28
3. Hale Irwin 13 11.23
4. Gary McCord 7 11.86
5. Bruce Fleisher 16 12.38
6. Tom Jenkins 15 12.60
7. Tiger Woods 14 13.07
8. Meg Mallon 15 13.60
9. J.M. Canizares 17 14.18
10. A. Sorenstam 13 15.23
Breinnan Pirk, Madison, Wis.
Pirk, 22, won her second Madison Women's City title in the last
three years, by four strokes over runner-up Nicki Stricker,
whose husband, Steve, the PGA Tour player, caddied for her.
Pirk, a senior history major at Wisconsin, was a semifinalist at
the Wisconsin State Match Play last month.
Curtis Mitchell, Indianapolis
Curtis, 11, made his third hole in one in the last year at the
Legends of Indiana, with a nine-iron on the 132-yard 3rd hole of
the facility's main course. Mitchell's other two aces, each made
with a seven-iron, came on the 125-yard 6th hole of the Niblick
Course, a par-3 layout.
Edward Loar, Rockwall, Texas
Loar, who will be a senior at Oklahoma State, shot an
eight-under 272 to win the Sunnehanna Amateur by five strokes
over his teammate, junior Charles Howell. A second-team
All-America last season, Loar finished second behind Howell
among the Cowboys in stroke average, 71.56 to 71.96.
Submit Faces candidates to golfplus.cnnsi.com/faces.
Bagmen & Handles
When it comes to caddie nicknames, it's hard to top Sam (Killer)
Foy, who used to loop for Hale Irwin and fought Sugar Ray
Robinson--and lost. Or Tommy (Burnt Biscuits) Bennett, who toted
for Tiger Woods at the 1995 Masters and as a kid singed his hand
while trying to steal biscuits. Among today's regulars, Glen
Day's looper gets his tag from an old TV character. (Hint:
That's him on the left.) Here are a few of our favorites.
Anthony (Ant Man) Knight Robert Allenby
EXPLANATION As a boy, would wade into stinging nettles to fetch
Brian (Wedge) Alexander John Daly
[EXPLANATION] Spends days handing wedge to his long-hitting
Scott (Boz) Gneiser David Toms
[EXPLANATION] Looks like a smaller version of NFL bust Brian
John (Wheelbarrow) Sullivan Hale Irwin
[EXPLANATION] Is hauling away more money than most of his
Ron (Bambi) Levin Per-Ulrik Johansson
[EXPLANATION] Started caddying, for Roberto de Vicenzo, when he
Dave (Unabomber) McCloud Bob Gilder
[EXPLANATION] His huge shades recall artist's sketch of infamous
Jim (Bones) Mackay Phil Mickelson
[EXPLANATION] Knobby knees and elbows of 6'3" loop stand out
next to Lefty
Dave (Munster) Mince Glen Day
[EXPLANATION] Resembles TV character; says he had plugs removed
Steve (Asbestos) Duplantis Rich Beem
[EXPLANATION] Has a reputation for being late, but remarkably
Don (Super) Thom Notah Begay
[EXPLANATION] Was a superintendent of police in Canada