The Nike Tour's Rising Star
Matt Gogel is on the verge of a nervous breakthrough. Gogel, who
along with Sean Murphy shares the bittersweet record for career
victories on the Nike tour (six), has for two seasons been
perfectly positioned to crack the top 15 on the Nike's year-end
money list, thereby graduating to the PGA Tour. Each time
something has gone freakishly wrong.
This year, having won twice, Gogel is poised to become the only
man other than Chris Smith, in '97, to earn a battlefield
promotion. (Players who win three times in a season go to the
big Tour.) Failing that, Gogel, with $152,816, leads the money
list by $46,000 over No. 2 Matthew Goggin and is absolutely
certain to make the top 15. Really. "You can calculate what 15th
on the money list will be," says Gogel, a 28-year-old Kansan
with a self-taught swing. "I think the 15th guy this year will
make $135,000, maybe $140,000. I've already received a lot of
This kind of calculating got Gogel into trouble in '98. Heading
into the season-ending Tour Championship in Mobile, Ala., he was
12th on the money list. He had an $8,000 lead on No. 15, Murphy,
and thought he was home free. Then, the night before the
tournament, PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem added $50,000 to
the purse, making Gogel's calculations moot.
During the competition, the impossible happened. Gogel shot a
third-round 83 and tied for 42nd. Emlyn Aubrey, 13th on the
money list, and Murphy tied for seventh and fourth,
respectively, and passed Gogel. Bob Burns, No. 14, won the
tournament and vaulted to No. 1. The real killer: Jimmy Green,
No. 21, finished third and won $29,750, moving to 11th, bumping
Gogel to 16th. "I could have taken care of it myself by playing
better," Gogel says, "but some incredible things happened for me
to finish out of the top 15."
At least it was over quickly. On July 13, 1997, six days before
Gogel married Blair Lauritzen, he won the Nike Laurel Creek
Classic to move to fourth on that year's money list. He seemed a
lock for the Show, but over his next nine starts he missed seven
cuts, then tied for 35th at the Tour Championship. He finished
19th in earnings. "Obviously, I was panicking," Gogel says.
With that in mind, Gogel, whose only taste of the Tour has been
three U.S. Opens--his best finish was 51st at Shinnecock Hills
in '95--is not panicking this week. He's picnicking. He and
Blair, along with three other Nike players and their wives, have
repaired to a lake in Minnesota to boat and ski and fish. Gogel,
on pace to break Stewart Cink's single-season Nike earnings
record ($251,699), knows he can't afford to start pressing; nor
can he relax and think he has it made.
"If I get the battlefield promotion, I'll come back and play in
the Nike Tour Championship," he says, allowing his thoughts to
wander. "But that's hypothetical."
Franco Makes Some Friends
Carlos Franco's long journey from his home in Asuncion,
Paraguay, to Wisconsin for the Greater Milwaukee Open was worth
it on a couple of scores. For one, he won the tournament,
shooting a 20-under-par 264. For another, he made a couple of
friends for life. The 5,083-mile trip certainly ended better
than it began. Franco flew without incident to Chicago but upon
his arrival learned that his flight to Milwaukee had been
canceled. Most pros would have rented a limo for the 90-minute
drive north. Not Franco. He boarded a bus with 47 others.
Meanwhile, Kieran Docherty, his caddie, was forming a welcoming
committee. Docherty had met pen salesman Don Tendick on the
plane to Milwaukee and had hit it off so well that Docherty
spent Sunday night at Tendick's house. At 1 p.m. on Monday,
Docherty, Tendick and Tendick's 17-year-old son, Kyle, met
Franco as he stepped off the bus, and they all had lunch
together. That night the foursome went out to dinner, and Franco
asked Kyle to caddie in the pro-am.
Franco, Docherty and the Tendicks were inseparable. The player
and caddie shared meals with the family. Don and Kyle followed
Franco's every shot, and recruited Francophiles to
counterbalance the fans rooting for Madison's Jerry Kelly. Said
Tendick, who drove his new best amigos to the airport on Sunday
night, "I dragged as many people to the course as I could."
That's northern hospitality. --John O'Keefe
What do these players have in common?
They're the only players to win a British Open in three decades.
Player won in 1959, '68 and '74; Taylor in 1894, '95, 1900, '09
and '13; and Vardon in 1896, '98, '99, 1903, '11 and '14.
Who do you think is the better pick to win next week's British
Open, Sergio Garcia or Tiger Woods?
--Based on 1,503 responses to our informal survey
Next question: Should Fred Couples, Ben Crenshaw, John Daly,
Scott Hoch, Steve Jones and Tom Kite be fined or otherwise
penalized for pulling out of the British Open? Vote at
Gil Morgan, 52, had four wins on the Senior tour by this time
last season. This year he has none. What has gone wrong? Not
much, according to the statistics. Here are Morgan's numbers and
his rankings (in parentheses) for 1998 and this year.
Driving dist. 277.4 (8) 278.2 (3)
Driving acc. 74.3% (11) 74.5% (25)
Greens in reg. 73.5% (3) 70.5% (8)
Birdies per round 4.08 (3) 3.75 (5)
Putts per GIR 1.752 (5) 1.777 (13)
Putts per round 29.08 (15) 29.56 (42)
Scoring avg. 69.46 (2) 70.44 (4)
Birdie conv. 30.8% (7) 29.6% (8)
Wesley Pate, Pensacola, Fla.
Pate, 18, won the American Junior Golf Association's San Antonio
Shootout by a stroke over Hunter Mahan of McKinney, Texas. Pate,
whose father, Jerry, is the 1976 U.S. Open champion, won the
1998 Future Masters. He will attend Alabama on a golf
scholarship in the fall.
Paul Konerko, Chicago
Konerko, 23, a designated hitter for the Chicago White Sox, used
an eight-iron to ace the 162-yard 3rd hole at Olympia Fields
Country Club during the recent March of Dimes Celebrity Classic.
For the hole in one, Konerko, a 20 handicapper, won a seven-day
golf vacation for four to Ireland.
Ed Heimann, Cincinnati
Heimann, 61, a scratch golfer who has played in four U.S. Senior
Amateurs, won his 17th club championship at Hyde Park Golf and
Country Club. Heimann is the chairman of Hamilton Tailoring, the
clothing manufacturer that has made the green jackets for
Masters champs since 1969.
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