The End Of an Era
This is an article from the Aug. 20, 2001 issue
The 38th Walker Cup will be remembered for the obvious: The U.S.
lost again. For the first time in amateur golf's version of the
Ryder Cup, Great Britain and Ireland retained the cup by winning
15-9 at Ocean Forest Golf Club in Sea Island, Ga. Given the
Americans' 31-6-1 record in the biennial series, that makes the
Great Britain and Ireland victory the historical equivalent of
Navy beating Notre Dame in football twice in a row. The truth
is, Great Britain and Ireland fields a superior team these days.
That was made clear on Sunday when the U.S. won only one of the
final eight singles matches.
The significance of this Walker Cup is less obvious: The 38th
playing may have been the last to include real amateurs on the
American side. We're not talking about college kids. To them,
amateur golf is almost an inconvenience. Northwestern's Luke
Donald and Georgia Tech's Bryce Molder, for instance, turned pro
at the conclusion of the Walker Cup, not even waiting to play in
next week's U.S. Amateur because they have sponsor's exemptions
into the concurrent PGA Tour stop, the Reno-Tahoe Open.
The real amateurs are guys like John Harris, 49, who learned to
play on a nine-hole course with sand greens in the small
Minnesota town of Roseau, 10 miles from the Canadian border.
Harris tried pro hockey for a year before settling into a routine
of winters in the insurance business and summers on the golf
Joining Harris on the 10-man U.S. team were two other veteran
amateurs, David Eger, also 49, and Danny Green, 44. Eger has
worked for the USGA and the PGA Tour, still lives in Ponte Vedra
Beach, Fla., and knows everybody in golf. He lists his
occupation as golf course architect. Green, a retired insurance
salesman and the 1999 Mid-Am champ from Jackson, Tenn., is
self-taught. He went to Tennessee-Martin on a tennis scholarship
but switched to golf when he discovered that he had the golden
touch in money matches. Eger and Green both briefly played the
Tour in the '70s before rejoining the amateur ranks.
Eger, Green and Harris, a combined 1-6-1 in Sea Island, could
agree on this: Ocean Forest wasn't their finest hour. In the
wake of the loss, the USGA will probably rethink its practice of
sprinkling in a few mid-ams among the collegians on Walker Cup
teams. The strength of the Great Britain and Ireland team was
its youth, and the fortysomethings are a luxury that the U.S.
can no longer afford. Great Britain and Ireland had only two
players over 23--Gary Wolstenholme, 40, and Nigel Edwards, 33.
"There are always 10 college players who are better than the
best mid-amateurs," Eger says. "I'm just glad I was selected."
Playing in his fourth Walker Cup, Harris brought a 6-0 singles
mark to Sea Island but lost twice in that format and once in
foursomes. "I didn't pull my weight," Harris said.
On Saturday, Eger and Molder settled for a halve when Eger
cold-topped an approach shot from a dicey lie on the final hole,
moving his ball a mere 10 yards. On Sunday morning, though, Eger
and Molder cruised to a 7-and-6 victory over Steven O'Hara and
Marc Warren. "I tried to stay out of David's way," Molder said.
"He was outstanding."
Unfortunately Eger would sit out the final singles matches that
afternoon. Eger, who played in only the two four-ball sessions,
had suggested the strategy, and Danny Yates, the first U.S.
captain to lose two Walker Cups, agreed. "It was a mistake,"
Yates said later.
Green, playing in his first Walker Cup, went 0 for 3. On Sunday
he was in the last match on the course, which he conceded after
topping his third shot, a 40-yard pitch, into a greenside bunker
at 18. "I didn't win a point and we lost," Green said. "They may
never put me on another team."
Secret to Senior Success
Something That Money Can't Buy
While playing the final round of the Bruno's Memorial Classic
this April, Hale Irwin walked off the 18th green at Greystone
Golf and Country Club in Birmingham, looked at a portion of the
enormous crowd of 35,000 fans and said to tournament director
Gene Hallman, "My God, this is like Woodstock." Said Hallman, "I
hope you weren't there, too."
Wildly successful tournaments such as the Bruno's--my pick as
the best stop on the Senior tour (chart, right)--last week's 3M
Championship in Blaine, Minn., and this week's Novell Utah
Showdown in Park City belie reports of the tour's demise, and
they have one thing in common: a tournament director who knows
how to attract a good field. That doesn't mean throwing dollars
at the players. "When we started, in 1992, some of the big names
still needed the money," Hallman says. "Now even the middle-tier
Instead, the players come for the perks. At the Bruno's, players
are offered free laundry and a prescription service, and a barber
is on duty in the locker room. Contestants are even provided
preaddressed, stamped envelopes for thank-you notes to their
pro-am partners. "We try to make it easy," Hallman says.
The 3M Championship, at the new TPC of the Twin Cities, is run by
Hollis Cavner, a 45-year-old whose company, ProLinks Sports, also
operates Senior stops in Lutz, Fla. (Verizon Classic), Concord,
Mass. (FleetBoston Classic), West Des Moines, Iowa (Allianz
Championship) and San Antonio (SBC Championship). He fills the 3M
week with fun activities, like a fishing tournament in which the
golfers are given helpful hints by anglers from the Minnesota
Pro/Am Bass Tour. Last year Cavner gave each player a fly rod and
reel so the golfer would be ready in two weeks when the tour
stopped near one of the world's best trout streams, in the
Getting on the wives' good side can also be critical to a
tournament's success. The Verizon Classic sends spouses to a spa.
The Bruno's has wives' luncheons with speakers that have included
Barbara Bush, Kate Jackson and Wynonna Judd. The Toshiba Classic
is blessed with a fashion mall next door. "If you make sure the
wives have a great time, the players will come back," Cavner
says. Hallman remembers asking Leonard Thompson earlier this year
if he planned to come to the Bruno's. "My wife's coming,"
Thompson said, "so I guess I might as well too."
What do these players have in common?
They're the only golfers to win a major held at the Atlanta
Athletic Club. Pate took the 1976 U.S. Open, Nelson the '81 PGA
and King the '90 U.S. Women's Open.
Who should be selected as the captain of the 2003 U.S. Ryder Cup
Paul Azinger 23%
Mark O'Meara 47%
Corey Pavin 7%
Hal Sutton 23%
--Based on 3,782 responses to our informal survey
Next question: Should Curtis Strange make his captain's picks
the 11th and 12th players in the Ryder Cup standings or choose
regardless of rank? Vote at golfplus.cnnsi.com.
Tiger Woods has won only one major in 2001, but he still tops
the Tour in earnings, just as he did last season, when he was
the PGA Player of the Year. Here are the players of the year who
fell the farthest in earnings the year after winning the award,
which was instituted in 1948.
Player of Year Wins Majors $ Rank
Ken Venturi 1964 3 1 6th
1965 0 0 220th
Nick Faldo 1990 2 2 37th
1991 0 0 117th
Dick Mayer 1957 2 1 1st
1958 0 0 56th
Bob Tway 1986 4 1 2nd
1987 0 0 45th
M. O'Meara 1998 2 2 7th
1999 0 0 45th
Unlike after the 1989 Ryder Cup, a second consecutive U.S. loss
in the Walker Cup won't get Americans all worked up. U.S. fans
have cared about amateur golf only twice--in the '20s, when
Bobby Jones played, and in the '90s, before Tiger Woods turned
pro. It's all about Tiger now, so until he's reinstated as an
amateur...hey, is that skateboarding on the Deuce?
Laura Coble, AUGUSTA
Coble, 37, became the first two-time winner of the Georgia
Women's Match Play, defeating Kathi Eutzler, 24, of Atlanta 2
and 1. The Georgia women's player of the year for the last three
years, Coble missed the cut at the U.S. Open. She received a
sponsor's exemption into the Sept. 20-23 LPGA event in Augusta.
Lance Goodson, HOOVER, ALA.
Jessica Lovell, HOOVER, ALA.
Lance, a senior at Hoover High, and Jessica, a sophomore, won
individual titles and led the Buccaneers' teams to state
championships at Capitol Hill Golf Course in Prattville. Lance
took the Class 6A crown with a tournament-record three-under-par
141 (70-71) to win by a stroke, while his team won the title for
the third year in a row, shooting a 10-over 586 to prevail by
two shots. The girls' team won by 41 strokes with a 62-over 494
as Jessica shot a three-over 147 (71-76), the second-lowest
score by a girl in the event's history, to win by two strokes.
She won all three tournaments her team entered and was the
medalist in each of the Buccaneers' 10 dual matches.
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