Fame or Shame?
LPGA Must Decide on Blalock
Jane Blalock had 27 victories in her 18 years on the LPGA tour,
exactly fulfilling one of the criteria needed for an active
player to enter the tour's Hall of Fame. But Blalock, who
retired in 1986, falls into the veterans category, and until
recently she believed that she failed to meet all the
eligibility requirements for retired players. Specifically, she
had never won a major title, a Vare Trophy for best scoring
average or a player-of-the-year award. She preferred not to
believe that she would be kept out because of her role in the
darkest episode in LPGA history.
"It's almost a relief that I don't qualify," insists Blalock, 55,
who runs a golf-event management firm, the Jane Blalock Company,
in Boston. "What if every year my name came up and every year I
didn't make it? I'd be thinking, Is what happened the reason?"
"What happened" started on May 20, 1972, after the second round
of the Women's Bluegrass Invitational in Louisville, Ky. Blalock,
in her third year on tour, had already won twice that season and
was leading the money list. But that night the LPGA's executive
committee, which comprised five players--Linda Craft, Sharon
Miller, Judy Rankin, Cynthia Sullivan and Penny Zavichas--told
Blalock she had been observed incorrectly marking her ball on
several occasions. Blalock had never before been accused of
violating the rules. Despite denying the charges, she was
disqualified from the tournament.
January 29, 2001
Before her next event, on the advice of a friend, Blalock
apologized, saying, "If all these things you say are true, I
guess I've dug my own grave and I'll just have to live with it."
LPGA president Sullivan interpreted Blalock's comments as an
admission of guilt. When that view was reported to the players,
29 of them signed a petition calling for the LPGA to suspend
Blalock for the rest of the '72 season, which it did a few days
Blalock responded by bringing a $5 million antitrust suit against
the LPGA. She quickly won an injunction that allowed her to
continue to play, but Blalock was ostracized by her peers.
Finally, in '75, a judge found the LPGA in violation of antitrust
laws and a jury awarded Blalock $13,500 in damages and $90,000 in
legal fees. Blalock says she lost $40,000 on the case.
After the verdict, the LPGA hired a commissioner to deal with
controversies involving players. "The LPGA was wrong. You can't
have players ruling on other players," says Carol Mann, the
LPGA's president from 1974 to '75.
Blalock remains ambivalent about the outcome of the case,
regretting that the ruling was on antitrust issues, not on the
cheating allegations. "People will always wonder and have their
doubts," Blalock wrote in her '77 autobiography, The Guts to Win.
As for the Hall of Fame, when Blalock retired she was at least
three victories short of qualifying under the existing criteria.
"I resigned myself a long time ago that it was never going to
happen," she says. But does she belong? "Yes. Absolutely," she
Last year Rankin, who had one win fewer than Blalock, became the
first veteran inducted. The veterans committee is to meet this
spring to nominate a second candidate. That will likely be Donna
Caponi, who had 24 victories, including four majors.
Because of Blalock's self-imposed emotional distance from the
subject, she hadn't bothered to take a close look at the new
eligibility requirements. The rules don't say a veteran must have
won a major, the Vare Trophy or a player of the year. They say a
player should have done so. Now that she knows the actual
language, Blalock says, "I guess it opens a door. But who knows?"
Moreover, the criteria say a player should have had "an
extraordinary career which significantly impacted the growth of
the LPGA tour." On that basis alone, Jane Blalock belongs in the
LPGA Hall of Fame.
A Tale of Two 20-Year-Olds
Scott Tops Rose
If Justin Rose had need of perspective last week, he only had to
look beyond the wall of the Houghton Golf Club in Johannesburg.
As the Alfred Dunhill Championship unfolded, the city outside was
reeling from a high crime rate and an AIDS epidemic. Recently
traces of cholera had been discovered in the Jukskei River.
Rose is a good kid, though, plus he was born in this city. He
knows that bad times in golf are like good times anywhere else.
So when, with a gaggle of relatives looking on, he missed a
six-foot putt on the 72nd hole and handed what should've been his
first European tour win to Adam Scott of Australia, Rose merely
smiled and thanked everyone for coming. Could have been worse.
Nobody knows that better.
At 20 Rose is still rail thin and altar-boy polite, and his
smooth young face shows no signs of the journey he has been on
since finishing fourth in the 1998 British Open as an amateur.
That feat was followed by Rose's announcement the next day that
he was turning pro, an avalanche of hype and a run of 21
tournaments in which Rose failed to make a cut. England expected.
England was disappointed.
Rose, who has been to Q school three times, last week
rediscovered some of the zest that brought him to our attention.
During the third round he birdied six of the first nine holes to
mount a rare challenge. He finished at 17 under and earned the
right to go out last on Sunday, with the big boys. Well, with
Only two weeks older than Rose, Scott was the World Junior
champion in '97, leaving Nevada-Las Vegas during his sophomore
year. He made 11 starts on the European tour, finishing among the
top 10 four times and 12th on two other occasions.
Scott is coached by Butch Harmon, and his swing and length are
reminiscent of Harmon's most celebrated pupil, Tiger Woods.
Raised on Australia's Gold Coast, the leisure capital of a
leisure-oriented country, Scott still calls home every night to
assure his parents--who watched his win at the Dunhill on the
Internet--that he's safe and sound. Mom and Pop shouldn't worry.
Their kid is 20 going on 49.
Scott is imperturbable. In Australia last year he blew the
Victorian Open. Three up with four to play, he three-putted on
three of the last four holes and lost by two strokes. He decided
that wasn't going to happen again.
By the time Rose and Scott got to the par-5 18th on Sunday, they
were both at a tournament-record 20 under. An errant tee shot
landed Rose's ball in the sand. Scott hit his second to the right
of the green. Rose played out short, and his third from light
rough tickled the hole in a moment redolent of his fairy-tale
finish at the '98 Open, but this time it stayed out. Scott,
playing from closer in but with a downhill lie, also conjured a
lovely shot, leaving two putts from six feet of the hole to
So on a day of golf in the time of cholera, Rose tweaked his ball
two inches wide of the hole. "Read it all wrong," he said. Scott
moved like a light breeze across the green and knocked his home.
"Felt good," he said, "but I hope there's more. My goal this year
is top 10 in the Order of Merit. I think that's realistic."
And off they went, to East London 500 miles away for this week's
South African Open, to do more growing up in front of us. --Tom
Blue Coats Cut the King
Palmer vs. USGA
What began as a difference of opinion between Arnold Palmer and
the USGA about how most golfers really play the game escalated
into a full-blown feud last week when the USGA in effect fired
the King. Upset that Palmer endorsed a club, the Callaway ERC II
driver, that the USGA had found to be in violation of the Rules
of Golf, USGA officials retaliated by removing Palmer's name from
the association's 2001 yearbook and by taking his signature off
letters seeking new recruits.
USGA president Trey Holland dropped the bombshell at a Georgia
State Golf Association dinner last Saturday in Atlanta. In his
remarks to the assemblage, he said, "Don't worry, you won't see
his name in this year's USGA yearbook." He went on to say that
Palmer's position as the association's honorary chairman of the
members program, a position he has held since 1975, would not be
as high profile.
Palmer, who learned of the developments from a television report,
said he was disappointed that USGA officials had not first
personally contacted him, but had no further comment. His
longtime spokesman, Doc Giffin, said, "If they had felt that way,
they should have accepted his resignation when he offered it at
the start of this controversy."
Not coincidentally, the USGA had been blindsided by Palmer's
decision to star in Callaway's highly publicized launch of the
ERC II last October. Palmer signed a 12-year endorsement deal
with Callaway in June 2000, and not long after the USGA ruled
that the ERC II exceeds the limit on coefficient of restitution,
or springlike effect. In announcing his support of the club,
Palmer said that it should not be used in competition but
endorsed it for recreational use. The Royal & Ancient Golf Club
of St. Andrews, the governing body for golf everywhere but the
U.S. and Mexico, later decided not to test clubs for springlike
effect, so the ERC II and other so-called hot drivers are legal
in its jurisdiction.
Holland said the USGA limited the actions it took against Palmer
because to "publicly fire [Palmer] would not be good for the
game." Holland added, "If he [Palmer] were to say tomorrow, 'I've
considered all this and my position has changed,' then he might
get back in there."
Such a shift in positions is unlikely. "I'm not going to change,
and I am not going to back down," Palmer recently told the Golf
Cold logic will trump gooey sentiment when the Supreme Court
decides the Casey Martin case. Sorry, but I find absurd the
notion that a disabled person should be accommodated in pro
sports, the most Darwinian arena of all. If walking a golf
course for 72 holes doesn't require some degree of fitness, why
do we consider the U.S. Open wins of Ben Hogan and Ken Venturi
so heroic, and why are all those tour pros in the fitness trailer?
What do these golfers have in common?
They're the only players in the last 10 years to ace the 16th
hole at the TPC of Scottsdale, site of this week's Phoenix Open.
Delsing made his hole in one in 1991. Stricker and Woods made
theirs in '97.
How many majors will Tiger win this year?
--Based on 6,284 responses to our informal survey
Next question: Has the USGA been too heavy-handed in its
treatment of Arnold Palmer? Vote at golfplus.cnnsi.com.
Synonyms for: Volunteer Marshals
Arnie's Retired Army, Barneys, bedpan brigade, Bob's No-Hopers,
chad counters, deputy dogs, Dunderbirds, gashouse gang, gestapo,
Jello time!, Pa Kettles, pantloads, Polident police, the
Dependables, toy cops, where's my cream corn?
Having Tiger Woods in your field is a surefire way to goose the
gate: Woods was center stage for three of the top five attended
events in 2000. However, the biggest crowds on Tour last season
were at the Phoenix Open, which was Tigerless. Here are the five
Tour events with the best four-day attendance last year.