The Week

October 28, 2002

Wonder Years
Still relentless at 57, Hale Irwin is redefining Senior tour stardom

Hale Irwin is the greatest player in Senior tour history. That's
not news. But this year Irwin has added another honorific: the
greatest senior Senior of all time. At the age of 57 Irwin has
won four times in 2002, and he will be the leading money winner
(for the third time) and have the lowest scoring average (for the
fourth time in seven years). The voting for player of the year
should have all the suspense of an Iraqi election.

Irwin is doing what nobody his age has ever done. Peter Thomson
was 56 when he was the leading money winner in 1985--a nice
accomplishment, sure, but back in those early days of the tour
the talent pool was thinner than Miller Barber's hair. The only
other player older than 53 to lead the money list was Jim
Colbert, who in '96, at the age of 55, successfully defended his
title by finishing a scant $12,000 ahead of Irwin, who played in
nine fewer events. (Colbert has finished better than 19th in
earnings only once in the ensuing six seasons.)

"People always say you have a four- or five-year window on the
Senior tour," says Jim Thorpe. "Hale has proven that to be wrong.
He gives us hope. I'm 53, and now I think my best years are yet
to come."

Irwin is beating steep odds. Before this season, 88% of Senior
tournament winners were 55 or younger. "I've played some of the
best golf of my entire career as I've gotten older," Irwin says.
"Go figure that."

We did, and the numbers are staggering. Irwin has won $16.8
million as a Senior and, combined with his PGA Tour winnings, has
$22.7 million in career earnings, second only to Tiger Woods.
Since '96 Woods has 34 victories--the same number as Irwin. At
this week's Senior Tour Championship at Gaillardia Golf and
Country Club in Oklahoma City, Irwin can become the first Senior
to rack up $3 million in a season if he finishes fourth or
better. Irwin leads the tour in birdies per round (4.46) and
putts per greens hit in regulation (1.71). "He's got the perfect
game for this tour--down the middle, great inside of 150 yards,
and he will not miss putts," says Gary McCord, who lost the
Turtle Bay Championship to Irwin in a playoff three weeks ago.

Irwin has also picked up an additional 17 yards since joining the
tour in 1995. "Isn't technology wonderful?" he jokes. It's more
than that. Irwin has hit the gym with a fervor in recent years.
"I do a lot of work behind the scenes," he says. "I've made no
bones about it--a lot of Seniors are too lazy or unwilling or too
undisciplined to do the things that will make them better. Hence,
those of us who try can push our noses in front."

Irwin's competitive drive is legendary. In his quest to reclaim
the money title, he played the RJR Championship last month rather
than attend his induction into the sports hall of fame at
Colorado, where he was an all-conference defensive back in
football as well as a star golfer. Though Irwin appreciated the
honor, he is still seeking a similar respect in pro golf circles.
Despite having three U.S. Opens among his 20 regular Tour
victories, he is rarely mentioned among the last century's
greatest players. "As good as Hale was, he was never Number 1 on
the PGA Tour," says fellow Senior Roger Maltbie. "He can be
Number 1 in this arena; he enjoys it, and he's not ready to let
it go."

Who's going to dethrone Irwin? Turning 50 over the next two years
are, among others, Craig Stadler, Jerry Pate, Jay Haas and Peter
Jacobsen, none of whom seem to concern the Senior tour's most
relentless star. "I know I can compete at my age now as
effectively as any 50-year-old," Irwin says. "Can I do it at 58
or 60 or 65? I don't know. But I don't accept the notion that I
can't compete."
--Gary Van Sickle

TRUST ME

Tiger Woods has never had more juice than he does in this bear
market. While rumors fly that he will host his own Tour event in
2003, this week's Buick Challenge becomes the latest established
tournament to bite the dust. The common thread among the
extinct? Tiger rarely played there. trust me

O.B.

Following the first round of the Senior tour's SBC Championship
last week in San Antonio, PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem
dropped a couple of bombshells at a closed-door meeting with the
players. The Commish said he wants to change the name of the
over-50 circuit to the Champions tour, as well as ban carts
during competition. Both initiatives would take effect next year
if they are approved by the Tour policy board. Rebranding the
Senior tour is not expected to generate much resistance. "We all
understand a lot of sponsors see a negative connotation in the
word senior," says Lanny Wadkins, who was there for Finchem's
presentation. Idling the carts will be more controversial and
could pit the tour's able-bodied against the over-the-hill.
"Personally, I prefer to walk," says Wadkins. "I've noticed Tom
Kite and Tom Watson do too. But a lot of guys out here, because
of age or injury, probably couldn't play without a cart."

Charles Howell has finally found the right wheels to complement
his flashy wardrobe. The second-year pro roared into the Disney
Classic in a bright-yellow Hummer H2.

In other news from the parking lot, 18-year-old Ty Tryon has
ditched his Lexus sedan and is now rolling a Cadillac Escalade
with $35,000 in custom work, including oversized chrome rims and
an eardrum-shattering sound system.

University of Florida superfan Chris DiMarco toted a Miami
Hurricanes headcover throughout the Disney, having lost a bet on
the Florida-Miami football game with Briny Baird, a Hurricanes
enthusiast.

Ben Crenshaw, a Friend of George who has enjoyed a number of
slumber parties in the White House's Lincoln bedroom, sported an
unusual logo on his hat at last week's SBC Championship--the
eagle emblem of the Central Intelligence Agency. Upon being
interrogated, Crenshaw was typically cryptic, saying that he was
showing support for the President and the CIA and "thankfully
they're on the same side." Said Crenshaw's caddie, Linn
Strickler, "You won't believe the number of people who asked
what country club that was."

Wonder why Robert Allenby accepted an invitation to the 12-man
Nedbank Challenge in Sun City, South Africa instead of trying to
become the first player in 97 years to win three straight
Australian PGA Championships? Last-place money in Sun City is
$151,484, or $52,331 more than the first-place dough for the
Australian PGA.

THE POLL
VOTE AT GOLFONLINE.COM

THIS WEEK: Should the Senior tour ban golf carts next year?

LAST POLL: Did captain Curtis Strange's singles lineup cost the
U.S. the Ryder Cup?

No........59% Yes........41%
--Based on 9,044 responses to our informal survey.

Charting the First Wave

The LPGA visits South Korea this week, for the Sports Today CJ
Nine Bridges Classic, which is only fair, since there are
currently six Koreans among the tour's top 34 money winners, and
seven more who call the LPGA home. Here is a who's who of the
changing face of the LPGA, but keeping track of the Koreans will
get more difficult in 2003, as nine more made it through Q school
this fall.

HEE-WON HAN

Nickname
Long Legs

Age
24

Resides
Seoul

LPGA Wins
0

2002 Money List
13th

Driving Avg. (rank)
241.7 yards (129)

Scouting Report
Solid all around, strong long irons

Headcover
TaylorMade

Favorite TV Show
Sex and the City

Golf Idol
Liselotte Neumann

English
D

Noteworthy
2001 rookie of the year despite having to Monday-qualify for seven tournaments

JEONG JANG

Nickname
JJ

Age
22

Resides
Los Angeles

LPGA Wins
0

2002 Money List
34th

Driving Avg. (rank)
245.7 yards (102

Scouting Report
Deadeye putter, but erratic off the tee

Headcover
Tweety Bird

Favorite TV Show
Friends

Golf Idol
Nancy Lopez

English
D

Noteworthy
Generously listed as 5'2", she's the shortest player on tour

MI HYUN KIM

Nickname
Peanut or Kimmie

Age
25

Resides
Seoul

LPGA Wins
5

2002 Money List
4th

Driving Avg. (rank)
244.6 yards (109)

Scouting Report
Daly-esque backswing, creative wedge game

Headcover
Hello Kitty

Favorite TV Show
Dilbert

Golf Idol
Phil Mickelson

English
B+

Noteworthy
Recently traded her nine- and 11-woods for four- and five-irons

SE RI PAK

Nickname
Princess

Age
25

Resides
Orlando

LPGA Wins
16 (four majors

2002 Money List
2nd

Driving Avg. (rank)
261.5 yards (14)

Scouting Report
Great ball striker, very streaky putter

Headcover
TaylorMade

Favorite TV Show
Jerry Springer

Golf Idol
English
Nancy Lopez

Noteworthy
Her surname is really Park, but after passport mishap she stuck with Pak

GLORIA PARK

Nickname
Koala

Age
22

Resides
Sydney

LPGA Wins
2

2002 Money List
23rd

Driving Avg. (rank)
243.7 yards (117)

Scouting Report
Lacks length, but extremely accurate

Headcover
Bugs Bunny

Favorite TV Show
Friends

Golf Idol
Beth Daniel

English
C

Noteworthy
Beat Han in a playoff at this year's Big Apple Classic

GRACE PARK

Nickname
Scooter

Age
23

Resides
Phoenix

LPGA Wins
2

2002 Money List
11th

Driving Avg. (rank)
264.8 yards (6)

Scouting Report
Long hitter is short on heart

Headcover
Popeye

Favorite TV Show
Charmed

Golf Idol
none

English
A

Noteworthy
Wants to return to Korea someday to raise a family

COLOR PHOTO: FRED VUICH MONEY PLAYERIrwin can become the Senior circuit's first $3 million man by finishing in the top four at this week's Tour Championship. COLOR PHOTO: DARREN CARROLL (HOWELL) HUMMING ALONG Howell showed off a new ride at the Disney. COLOR PHOTO: STUART RAMSON/AP COLOR PHOTO: BRAD C. BOWER/AP COLOR PHOTO: JOHN SOMMERS II/REUTERS COLOR PHOTO: JIM GUND COLOR PHOTO: JIM YOUNG/REUTERS COLOR PHOTO: STEVE MITCHELL/AP

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