U.S. Amateur Public Links
This is an article from the July 26, 1999 issue
Blood is thicker than ink, so Hans Haas, working the main
scoreboard at the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship in
Alton, Ill., last week, dropped his markers and knocked off
early when his little brother, Hunter, was about to win the
tournament. "They can fire me if they want," Hans had said. "I'm
going to be there." True to his word, he hopped onto a golf cart
and raced to the 15th green at Spencer T. Olin Community Golf
For the record, your winner and the best golfer in the
nine-member Haas family of Fort Worth is 22-year-old Hunter
Jefferson Huck Finn Haas, the fifth of Jim and Karen's seven
children. (Jim wanted the name Huck Finn, Karen wanted Hunter
Jefferson, and they compromised.) Hunter needed no sleight of
hand from Hans, who recorded scores for Little Brother and
everybody else in the 156-player field, then blinked back tears
when Hunter thumped Michael Kirk 4 and 3 in the final. "It's the
greatest day in my life," Hans said as if he had won the title
himself. Then he turned to Hunter and said, "Way to go, brother."
For his victory Hunter received a place in the field at Augusta
for the 2000 Masters, but don't let that fool you. The Publinks,
as it is known, is the blue-jeans-and-T-shirt cousin of the
black tie U.S. Amateur. Open only to players who do not own a
private- club membership, the tournament seldom has recognizable
names in its field, though last week there was a Mickelson--not
Phil, but his younger brother, Tim. Since transferring last year
from Arizona State to Oregon State, Tim has shown he has the
game for the name, but in Alton he got eliminated in the round
of 16. Also in the field were Erik Compton, a 19-year-old with a
heart transplant, and Bryant Odom, a player with three kidneys
(two right, one left). Both lost in the second round of match
The second round also claimed Pete Meurer, a 42-year-old New
York City firefighter. He was most likely the only player to
have rescued a 400-pound pig--it had gotten caught in a fire in
a Chinese restaurant--but he wasn't the only Boomer to balance
out a field full of babies. There was 42-year-old amateur
stalwart Danny Green, a self-described "fat man trying to beat a
bunch of flat bellies."
In the end flat beat fat. None of the quarterfinalists were
older than 23, and four were teenagers. The youngest of these
was 17-year-old James Oh, a high school senior and the defending
U.S. Junior Amateur champion. Oh lost in the quarters to Kirk,
the No. 2 player for UNLV, who was vying to become the third
consecutive South African, after Tim Clark and Trevor Immelman,
to win the Public Links. Haas nixed that idea in the final, just
as he had dispatched Kirk's roommate for the week, UNLV teammate
Adam Scott, in the semifinals, thus preventing an all-Comfort
Inn (Room 111) title match.
Haas, who has completed his eligibility at Oklahoma but will
return next fall to get his sociology degree, was never in
danger of losing. After shooting 68-71 to make the match-play
portion of the tournament, he closed out his first five
opponents so quickly that he didn't see the 17th or 18th holes
until Saturday's 36-hole final. With uncanny accuracy from
inside 100 yards, Haas made 43 birdies and two eagles in his 143
Haas was followed by his parents, who drove 12 hours from Fort
Worth and have spawned almost enough players to form two
formidable foursomes. Holly, 32, coordinates the golf program
for the Boys and Girls Club of Coachella Valley, Calif.; Hud,
30, is a golf course superintendent in Fort Worth; Hans, 28, a
former player at Arkansas, is a scorekeeper for the USGA, PGA
and NCAA; Heather, 26, played for Ohio State and taught at Dave
Pelz's short-game school in Boca Raton, Fla.; Heidi, 21, is an
assistant pro at Oak Tree Golf Club in Edmond, Okla.; Hanni, 17,
plays for Paschal High; and of course there is Hunter, the 1998
Big 12 champion, who just enjoyed the most indelible victory of
his life. Father Jim, once a three handicapper, fills out the
Haas played 107 holes of match play last week and trailed on
only one of them. He won his first-round match 6 and 5, which
ended up tied for the largest winning margin of the tournament.
"I expect those things to happen," he says. "When they do, I
don't get overjoyous. Every time I tee it up, I expect to be up
there competing to win. If you don't feel that, why bother? Take
There was one drawback for Haas in the victory. To get his
invitation to the Masters, he must retain his amateur status. He
had anticipated turning pro right after the U.S. Amateur next
month so he could play for dough at the Oklahoma Open. As Hans
might say, lucky those plans weren't written in ink. --Gene Menez
JOHNSON'S HUSBAND TAKES HIS LIFE
Chris Johnson is one of the more private players on the LPGA
tour, but her second husband, whom she married in 1990, was more
mysterious still. Those who had met William K. Shearman
described him as the Marlboro Man (an acquaintance in Tucson), a
true-blooded Texan (Johnson's father, Bob) and your typical
redneck cowboy (Johnson's former caddie, Rob Caliolo).
Police say that at about 10:45 p.m. last Thursday in Willcox,
Ariz., 83 miles east of Tucson, Shearman knocked on the door at
lawyer John R. Evans III's home, pushed aside Evans's wife,
Shelley, when she opened it, and fatally shot Evans in the chest
as he was coming out of a bathroom. When Shelley Evans tried to
stop the gunman from leaving, she, too, was shot but barely
nicked in the hip by the bullet. Shearman then headed west on
Interstate 10, leading police at high speeds for 60 miles. The
pursuit ended just before midnight when the 42-year-old suspect
hit a guardrail and was found dead in his pickup truck with a
gunshot wound to his head.
Ruled a suicide, Shearman's death ended a chase in which he
fired several times at police (a bullet grazed a motorist coming
off an on-ramp on I-10) and reached speeds of 120 mph. Police
put down spikes in the road to flatten Shearman's tires, but he
continued to drive, on his rims, at 80 mph until crashing.
Police then fired a cannister of pepper spray inside the truck
before discovering he had killed himself. Deputy James Ogden
said that Shearman's truck was stocked with handguns, hunting
rifles and "a very large amount of ammunition," and that
Shearman's family and friends later said he "had made statements
that he was very upset with people who had done him wrong or
betrayed him or in some way had ruined his life."
Shearman was a mysterious figure who had been visible on the
LPGA tour until recent years, when he stopped appearing in
public after an unspecified horse-related injury. His
rehabilitation took much of Johnson's time and energy, but she
was coy about the exact nature of the injury. "To see him, you
wouldn't know anything is wrong," Johnson told SI last fall.
Shearman had been feuding with Evans for about 15 years,
according to Michael O'Connor, homicide supervisor for the Pima
County Sheriffs Department, but the reason for their
disagreement was not known as SI went to press on Monday.
Johnson has struggled in '99. After finishing fourth on the
money list in 1997 and 19th in '98, she is 58th on the '99 money
list, her best finish a tie for third at the Mercury
Titleholders Championship in May. She was not scheduled to play
in last week's JAL Big Apple Classic in New Rochelle, N.Y., but
was in New York City on golf business. O'Connor, who spoke with
Johnson on Friday, says she was told of Shearman's death by a
close family friend. Johnson released a statement through the
LPGA on Sunday asking for prayers for "the families involved in
the tragedy" but offering no additional information. She
withdrew from this week's Giant Eagle LPGA Classic in Warren,
Hot Club on Tour
LOOKS WEIRD, GOES STRAIGHT
When first-round leader Rodney Pampling toured Carnoustie in
even-par 71 last Thursday, he left the driver in the bag in
favor of the club that has made the biggest splash on the Tour
this year. It isn't an iron or a wood, but something in between,
a hybrid. It has 15-24 degrees of loft, a 40-inch-long shaft,
looks like a two-iron on steroids and performs like a fairway
According to the Darrell Survey, which keeps track of all the
equipment the pros use each week, 23 players packed one of the
so-called driving irons or special utility clubs at the British
Open last week, primarily the Taylor Made Rescue and PRGR Zoom.
The other models represented were manufactured by Ryobi, whose
club is simply known as the Ryobi; Bridgestone, which makes the
Club X; and Honma, whose gold- or silver-colored entry is called
the Big LB 210. "I can hit this club 230 yards high and land it
soft," says Brandel Chamblee, who plays PRGR. "Instant Jack
Nicklaus. It's like cheating."
Players such as Lee Janzen and Gary McCord regularly pack one of
the hybrids--McCord used the Rescue in overtime to reach a par-5
in two when he won the Toshiba Senior Classic in Newport Beach,
Calif., in March--but the club isn't a cure-all. Pampling was
still using his Rescue in the second round last Friday when he
shot 86 to miss the cut. --Gary Van Sickle
What do these players have in common?
They're the only players with at least 24 career victories on
the Senior tour. Trevino leads the list with 28, while Barber
and Irwin, who won last week's Ameritech Senior Open, have 24
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?
--Based on 1,179 responses to our informal survey.
Next question: Were the course conditions at Carnoustie unfair?
Vote at golfplus.cnnsi.com
Paul Lawrie came out of nowhere to claim the claret jug, but he
wasn't the lowest-ranked player to win a major since the start
of the World Ranking in 1986. Here are the 10 lowest-ranked
players and the majors they won.
PLAYER RANK TOURNAMENT
1 John Daly 168 '91 PGA
2 Paul Lawrie 159 '99 British
3 John Daly 109 '95 British
4 Steve Jones 100 '96 U.S. Open
5 Hale Irwin 90 '90 U.S. Open
6 Larry Nelson 84 '87 PGA
7 Jeff Sluman 71 '88 PGA
8 Wayne Grady 55 '90 PGA
9 Nick Faldo 46 '87 British
10 Mark Brooks 44 '96 PGA
Whitney Wade, Glasgow, Ky.
Whitney, 13, became the youngest winner in the 73-year history
of the Kentucky Women's Amateur by birdieing the second playoff
hole to beat Velvet Milkman, 34. Whitney, who will be a freshman
at Glasgow High, was runner-up in the state high school
tournament in the last two years.
Greg Sanders, Anchorage
Sanders, 35, a petroleum engineer for ARCO, won his second
Alaska Public Links title at Moose Run Golf Course in Anchorage.
A two handicapper who has played in one U.S. Mid-Amateur and two
U.S. Public Links championships, Sanders has won three of the
last four Alaska Petroleum Opens.
Adam Shanks, Johnson City, Tenn.
Shanks, 18, won the American Junior Golf Association's Bluegrass
Junior in Ashland, Ky., by birdieing the second hole of a
playoff against Peter Rivas of New Orleans. Shanks, winner of
the 1998 Vince Gill Tennessee PGA Junior Tournament of
Champions, will attend Austin Peay on a scholarship in the fall.
Submit Faces candidates to golfplus.cnnsi.com/faces.