The Disney Golf Classic is one of the most fun-filled events on
the PGA Tour except, perhaps, for the harried working fathers
chaperoning their kids across the Magic Kingdom while trying to
earn a living on the side. "It's tough for the dads, because the
kids don't realize their dads are here to play golf, and they
don't really care," says Tom Pernice's ex-wife, Sydney, who
traveled to the tournament to spend time with the couple's
This is an article from the Oct. 28, 2002 issue
Played on a pair of absurdly easy resort courses for one of the
smallest purses of the year ($3.7 million), nevertheless the
Disney is a mandatory stop for players with families. Says Jay
Haas, "Every year my wife tells me, 'We don't know if you plan to
play or not, but the kids and I are going!'"
Jim Furyk had skipped the tournament every year since his rookie
season, in 1994, but he came this time, along with his wife,
Tabitha, and their four-month-old daughter, Caleigh. "My wife
told me I'd better start getting used to playing here," he says.
Disney week is all about taking a break from the routine. It's
one tournament in which winning and losing are not the only
things that matter. "We run around all week and try not to let
the golf get in the way of having a good time," says Tom Lehman,
who at last year's Disney got a pie in the face courtesy of Duffy
Waldorf during an appearance at Slime Time Live, a Nickelodeon
game show based in Orlando.
That kind of thing just seems to happen at the Disney, where
there's amusement for kids of all ages. Last week the tournament
that really mattered was the one for Tour players' kids,
featuring candy at the bottom of one of the cups and relaxed
rules that allowed kids to throw their golf balls during the
round. On the same day Cinderella appeared at a birthday party
for one of the Tour's little princesses, and a clutch of
Australian players and their wives convened for an adults-only
party heavy on fine wine and childish behavior. It was the kind
of week during which homework assignments were faxed from
California and Tour players competed in hula-hoop contests. Along
the way a little golf was played too, especially by winner Bob
Burns, who found time to shoot 25 under and beat Tiger Woods by
two strokes for his first career Tour win. What follows is a
guided tour of a dizzying Disney week.
It could only happen at the Magic Kingdom: Lehman's
salt-and-pepper ponytail is blowing in the breeze. Tuesday
afternoon the balding veteran sported a gag baseball cap with a
faux-ponytail peeking out the back, a get-up he bought at last
year's Disney. Lehman, Waldorf, Fred Couples and their families--a
sprawling group that includes nine kids, ages six to 12--spent the
day goofing off at Disney World. Between munching on mini corn
dogs for lunch at Tomorrowland's Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe and
Lehman's providing double-decker piggyback rides across
Frontierland at day's end, the gang piled onto every ride in
sight. Space Mountain was the consensus favorite, though Couples
gave the nod to the new Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin.
"Space Mountain is too much for my back," he complained.
All the fun can be wearying. The Waldorfs have come en masse to
Disney every year since the early 1990s, but in 2000 they split
the brood, with wife Vicky taking Shea, now 10, and Kelli, 8, to
Hawaii while Duffy chaperoned Tyler, 12, and Justin, 6, in
Orlando. That year Waldorf went on to win the tournament. "It
must have been a little more calm for him," says Vicky.
Balancing the demands of work and play is not unique to the dads.
While the Lehman kids had the week off from school thanks to a
fall break, the Waldorf clan was ditching class at the Highland
Hall school in Northridge, Calif. Tyler and Shea had to lug with
them a week's worth of schoolwork (plus confirmation studies for
their church), while Kelli arranged to get assignments faxed over
by her teacher. "I did some homework on the airplane, and I do a
little at night," Tyler said when quizzed.
Asked to confirm her son's study habits, Vicky couldn't contain a
laugh. "The only work Tyler did last night," she said, "was
staying up late and switching between Monday Night Football and
the baseball playoffs."
The first hint that Wednesday afternoon's Father-Child tournament
would be a little more relaxed than the Disney Golf Classic was
Jerry Kelly's legs. The Tour veteran showed off his gams in a
pair of shorts and sandals at Oak Trail golf course, where the
six-hole, alternate-shot event was convened with a few cool
wrinkles: Kids three and under were allowed to pick up the ball
and throw it one time per hole without penalty, while four- to
six-year-olds got two free throws per round. Not that the kids
really cared about the competition. Far more exciting was the
19th hole, with its Mickey-shaped, candy-filled cup. A handful of
the veteran kids raced straight to the hole upon arriving at the
A few of the more focused dads talked about emulating John
Huston's double-dip of 1998: In addition to taking the Disney
Classic, Huston won the Father-Child with his daughter, Jessica.
Poor Hal Sutton never had a prayer of duplicating that feat. He
spent Wednesday afternoon scurrying around after his adorable
daughters--three-year-old twins, Sadie and Sara, and five-year-old
Samantha--trying to keep track of their wayward shots, their
scattered clubs and their escalating scores as the little pixies
hit out of turn and indiscriminately picked up each other's balls
and heaved them with delight. "This is exciting for me because
they get to share a little of what I like to do," Sutton said
before being interrupted by Sara's crashing a golf cart into
playing partner Stewart Cink's cart. "And I get to see them enjoy
what I like to do," he continued after order was restored.
That kind of perspective-altering experience might explain why
Orlando resident Mike Hulbert, 44, came to play last week. Mired
in a four-year slump, Hulbert couldn't sneak into the field of
the Disney proper, but he and his son Justin took the boys'
seven-to-nine division in the Father-Child. It was the elder
Hulbert's first victory since the 1991 Anheuser-Busch Golf
Nobody was in danger of starving at Thursday night's family
cookout, held at the Fantasia Gardens miniature golf course. The
spread included baby back ribs, grilled mahimahi and New York
strip steak, as well as a cornucopia of side dishes. The kids'
table was even more impressive: potato chips, tater tots, hot
dogs and hamburgers. Best of all was the Dirt Dessert: an
amorphous pile of chocolate pudding, whipped cream, and crumbled
Oreos, all of it wiggling with gummy worms.
While Goofy was on hand to meet the guests at the door, and a
game room featured pool, Ping-Pong and free arcade games, the
real highlight was the grown-ups' hula-hoop contest. Stewart
Cink's wife, Lisa, shook off the defending champion, Chris
DiMarco's wife, Amy, to win the wives' division. The husbands
were represented by Cink, DiMarco, Sutton, Esteban Toledo, David
Toms and Jesper Parnevik. (Sutton limbered up for the competition
by doing a spastic boogie to the strains of Who Let the Dogs
Out.) A surprisingly supple DiMarco easily dispatched the
competition, but in the battle-of-the-sexes final, Lisa Cink
clobbered him to the hoots and hollers of the assembled masses.
"Next year we'll win," Amy DiMarco said. "I'm going to make sure
To get to Stuart Appleby's house from Disney World, it's
necessary to drive past Phillips High, the school that Ty Tryon
attends; then alongside the Bay Hill Club, where Arnold Palmer
makes his home just off the tennis courts; and finally through
the gilded gates of Isleworth, the waterfront community that many
of the Tour's rich and famous call home. Once on the property, a
couple of quick rights deposit you onto Appleby's street, where
his 7,000-square-foot McMansion sits next door to the compound of
Tracy Stewart, Payne's widow, which looks to be twice the size,
On Friday night Appleby threw his third annual cookout for the
assembled Australians at the Disney. (Appleby was not only the
host but was also the low Aussie at the time, having fired a
65-67 to tie for fifth place, five strokes back of the midway
leader, DiMarco.) Among the two dozen guests were Stephen Allan,
Robert Allenby, Geoff Ogilvy and Craig Parry. Ian Baker-Finch was
on hand to provide commentary. Allenby's shirt conveyed the
general vibe of the evening: a loud floral print decorated the
front, while the back was adorned by an anatomically correct
image of a naked woman, a lurid refashioning of one of Gauguin's
The evening began with a favorite Australian beer, Victoria
Bitter, with its VB logo, which the Aussies insist stands for
vitamin B. The brew was just a warmup. Ogilvy, rakishly unshaven
and carefree, thanks to his having missed the cut, was looking
forward to plumbing Appleby's much-discussed wine collection.
"Last year's effort was pretty spectacular," he said of the
vintage bottles served at the 2001 gathering, "but we're
expecting this year to be even better. I think he's got a couple
of bottles of 1964 Grange in the house somewhere. That stuff goes
for about $2,000 or $3,000 a bottle."
In due time dinner was convened in the expansive dining room, and
six bottles of 1993 Penfolds Cabernet Sauvignon were promptly
drained. Allenby disappeared into his best friend's wine room and
returned with a '92 Henschke called Hill of Grace. There was,
however, a little trouble popping the cork. Appleby insisted that
it was not ready to be served, and he then fetched a handheld
laser thermometer to prove the point. Before long Allan, Allenby,
Appleby, Ogilvy and Baker-Finch were giddily grabbing the gadget
and pointing it at each other, illuminating each others'
foreheads with red dots and pronouncing one another "cold fish,"
"hothead" and the like.
As the evening wore on and glasses were drained and refilled (and
drained and refilled), Allenby in particular became ever more
antic. (Of course, he too had missed the cut.) At one point he
sneaked off to the wine room and returned with a 12-year-old
Grange. Cozying up to Appleby, who was now rinsing plates in the
sink, Allenby begged for permission to decant it. But Appleby
wouldn't have it. "It's not ready," he declared. "In fact, the
book says you're not supposed to drink it till 2030." Aping an
aggrieved child, Allenby stamped his foot and shouted, "You and
your f------ book!"
Eventually he shuffled off to put the bottle back in the wine
room. Thus ensuring there will be something to drink next year.
Makinley Gay, whose father, Brian, is a four-year Tour veteran,
turned three years old on Sept. 27, but at about the same time
the Aussie barbecue was commencing, a birthday party was being
thrown for her at Disney's Polynesian Resort. This one, her
mother, Kimberly, said, was "for Makinley's Tour friends." The
progeny of Woody Austin, Pat Bates, Steve Flesch, Glenn Hnatiuk,
Jesper Parnevik and Sutton--more than a dozen kids in all--turned
out, a testament, in part, to the enduring drawing power of
Cinderella, who was the party's headliner. Last year Makinley's
birthday party starred Minnie Mouse, but that didn't work out so
well. "Makinley wouldn't get close to her," says Brian, who
arrived at this year's party fresh from a second straight 66,
which left him tied for fifth. "It was a little too much."
Moments after sweeping into the party in a puffy, powder-blue
dress with detailed silver inlays, Cinderella enveloped Makinley
in her arms and began cooing about glass slippers, pumpkins
turning into carriages, and other such matters. Unfortunately,
Makinley was too cowed to speak. Samantha Sutton, a poised
five-year-old, finally broke the awkward silence by blurting, "We
saw your castle today!" A lengthy discussion ensued.
After pictures were taken and an enormous, castle-shaped cake was
cut, it was time for Cinderella to hop into her carriage and
leave. Before departing she signed autographs for the kids. The
birthday girl's card was inscribed to Princess Makinley.
On Sunday the focus finally turned to golf. Woods made things
interesting with a final-round 63, but in the end the tournament
was decided by two players who represented the opposite extremes
of the Disney experience.
Finishing second, a stroke back, was DiMarco, an Orlando resident
who spent the week chaperoning his two kids and a small army of
their friends, besides entertaining two dozen relatives and even
more family friends. Having opened with a tournament record 127
(64-63), DiMarco, predictably, ran out of gas on the weekend,
going 69-68. This opened the door for Burns, 34, who has been on
and off the Tour since 1994, never finishing better than 101st on
the money list. The 1998 Buy.com leading money winner shot a
flawless 65 to earn his first victory in the big leagues.
Life has been pretty sweet for Burns of late; on Sept. 7 he
married the former Jayme Bender. They met 12 years ago at
Valencia (Calif.) Country Club, where Burns worked in the pro
shop, and Jayme's parents were members. Last week the newlyweds
shunned the Magic Kingdom in favor of a nearby Marriott, and they
spent a grand total of an hour and a half at the amusement parks,
taking a quick spin around the EPCOT Center on Wednesday
afternoon. "We don't have kids yet," Jayme said on Sunday
evening, "so it was just another tournament to us." Except, that
is, for the part about the $666,000 winner's check.
Whether Burns will get to defend his title remains to be seen.
The tournament does not have a sponsor for next year, and despite
noises last week about an impending announcement, tournament
director Kevin Weickel said, "It has not yet been determined
whether there will be a Disney in 2003."
All this adds a little more poignancy to Burns's next career
goal. "Jayme and I are trying to start a family," he says. Burns
knows how much fun others in the field had while he was hitting
range balls and focusing on his game. "They were having a blast,"
he says. "I'm really looking forward to experiencing all that
aren't all that matters.
what I like to do," said Sutton, "and I get to see them enjoy