Sidestepping the potential for damaged feelings, the long finger of recrimination and the baleful glare—all traditional millstones of mixed team competition—Larry Rinker chose his sister, Laurie, as his partner in the J.C. Penney Classic last week. What a pick.
The serene Rinkers—he's 28, a guitar player and the one with the longer hair, she's 23 and has a degree in finance from the University of Florida—birdied six of the last 13 holes on Sunday and won the tournament by two strokes, shooting 66-68-67-66—267, 21 under par over the north course at the Bardmoor Country Club in Largo, Fla. They picked up $60,000 apiece and crushed golf's theory of genetic engineering, which says that if you pair stars like Nancy Lopez and Curtis Strange and their combined record money winnings of $958,793, you ought to produce a runaway victory.
Lopez, who is four months pregnant and "grossing out on French fries," and Strange could do no better than third, a stroke behind Team Smolder, the excitable duo of Lori Garbacz and Craig Stadler.
Being partners for a week, especially in a game with a hole-by-hole scorecard, is a tricky business involving compatibility and patience. Both players tee off on every hole, then play the other's ball for the second shot. The player who has not made the better second shot plays his or her partner's ball for the third shot and they alternate to finish out the hole. It's a somewhat confusing format, one that can be more than a little trying.
Some players manage it better than others. The enduring powerhouses like Lopez-Strange and Beth Daniel-Tom Kite seem to get along fine, finishing near the lead almost every year. The other golfers switch rather than fight. From last year's tournament, only three pairings in the collective bottom 20—Lauri Peterson-Joey Sindelar, Betsy King-Ed Fiori and Judy Clark Dickinson-Gary Koch—survived the bad times.
Andy Bean, the self-described "ol' country boy," has had his share of partners and then some. Li'l Andy likes to read the putts for his "wimmin." Once, after his partner missed a putt. Bean yelled in exasperation, "Were you trying to hit the ball there?" No, cooed she, it was just that she had not believed his counsel. "Well, from now on, you read your own [deleted] putts," Bean grumbled, stomping off.
In 1983 and '84, Bean played with Japan's Ayako Okamoto. The two were a good match, cynics claimed, because Okamoto could not understand what he was saying. "She understood," Bean insisted. "Last year, just kidding, I told her if she didn't play better, I'd kick her [deleted]. She knew exactly what I was saying." Anyway, Okamoto had a back injury—or was it a migraine headache—and did not enter this year.
Instead, Bean's Daisy Mae was Amy Benz, a 23-year-old Floridian who seemed perfect, and not only for her initials. "This girl sure can putt," enthused Bean. She also did not protest on the 14th hole Friday when Bean drove the green with his ball, then refused even to play her meager-by-comparison drive, despite the possibility he could have holed the shot from the fairway. A.B. told A.B.: "Hell, girl, if I'm gonna drive the green, you're gonna putt." And forget about the concept of equality. Bean and Benz actually paired well, finishing tied for fourth with Al Geiberger and Patty Sheehan.
Then there was the volatile pairing of Stadler and Garbacz, the Walrus and Our Miss Bleep. Stadler has uprooted a few cubic yards of turf after the occasional bad shot, and Garbacz reddened the ears of the nation earlier this season, and drew the stiffest fine in LPGA history, $3,500, after she yelled at a television cameraman who was following her step-by-step down the fairway: "Get that camera out of my bleeping face."
Stadler and Garbacz were captured in perfect form in a two-photo color sequence in the St. Petersburg Times Friday morning. The first photo showed Stadler chipping from the edge of a sand trap while Garbacz stood behind him with a worried look on her face. In the next picture, Stadler, after flubbing the shot, was swinging at the ground in anger while Garbacz had turned away, probably to avoid braining him, as she was holding her putter up in the air like a hatchet. Still, they overcame such minor displeasures to finish in second place for the second year in a row, with scores of 69, 69, 66 and 65. Golf, like love, is grand.
Ken Green and Sally Quinlan shot a 65 the first day to move in front by one stroke, but the Rinkers had a 68 in a stiff breeze Friday and moved into the halfway lead at 134, 10 under, with Mark McCumber and Chris Johnson limping along a stroke behind.
Johnson twisted her left knee during Thursday's round and spent much of the rest of the week walking backward, which seemed to take the pressure off the injury. As she backed along, blithely ignoring Satchel Paige's advice, McCumber kept her aimed correctly, helping her avoid obstacles such as sprinkler heads.
But by Sunday the knee was hurting no matter which way Johnson walked. She and McCumber, a stroke behind the Rinkers to start the day, put no early pressure on the leaders, and coming home the Family Rinker—brother Lee was caddying for Laurie—cranked out birdies as if they were using a mimeograph machine.
Last year the Rinkers tied for 10th in their first get-together at the Mixed Team. Before they won last week, Laurie said, "It's neat to play with your brother, but not so great as everyone thinks. If another team plays badly, they just have to see each other on the golf course. But when it's your brother you have to see him at Christmas." After Bardmoor, it won't be coal they'll find in their stockings, that's for sure.
Expectant mom Lopez latched on to third.
Bean's putter got a softer touch than his partner did.