OPEN AND SHUT
The struggle for golf's U.S. Open ended last month when Tom Watson's putt stopped three inches short on the 18th, but the struggle over the tournament's host, San Francisco's staid Olympic Club, was just heating up. The publicity generated by the Open brought to light the fact that none of the club's approximately 8,000 members is black or female.
What's more, it turns out that three of the holes—13, 14 and 15—on the Lakeside Golf Course (one of Olympic's two courses and the one on which the Open was played) are on property owned by the city of San Francisco and leased to the club. City attorney Louise Renne threatened legal action to take back the land if the club did not alter its membership policy. "We're going to tell the Olympic Club to change its policy or start playing on a 15-hole golf course instead of an 18-hole course," said Renne, whose husband, Paul, is a member of the club.
Olympic president Scott Loring reacted to the threat by saying, "We have other property out there where we can reconfigure the course. I'm sure no one wants to do it, but it's an option." Loring also said, "There's nothing in our bylaws that restricts based on race, creed or color."
The initial hostilities have since subsided, and Renne and club officials are now holding talks in hope of resolving the matter out of court. In the meantime, Renne is running for mayor, and one of her slogans is: "She's not one of the Boys."
The Baseball Writers Association of America, the organization that handles the game's major awards, deserves some applause all its own. Last week at the All-Star Game, the writers voted overwhelmingly to name the Rookie of the Year awards after Jackie Robinson. This gesture, first proposed at the 1986 winter meetings, is a meaningful way to honor the man who broke baseball's color line 40 years ago, when he was the very first Rookie of the Year.
The sports match of the year will take place Saturday in Chicago. Heavyweight contender Henry Tillman, a gold medalist in the 1984 Olympics and the last man to beat Mike Tyson, will face...Gina Hemphill, granddaughter of Jesse Owens, in an exchange of vows, not blows. The two met at the Games in Los Angeles—Gina carried the torch in the opening ceremonies—and they started to date a year later. Hemphill, whom Tillman describes as "a knockout," worked as a production assistant on The Oprah Winfrey Show, and Winfrey will give a reading at the wedding.
Attending the groom will be five other professional boxers: best man Calvin Meeks and ushers Mark Breland, Paul Gonzales, Frank Tate and Evander Holyfield. Boxing fans will recall that Holyfield was the better man in his WBA junior heavyweight title fight with Tillman in February, knocking out his good friend in the seventh round. As a result, Holyfield was able to tell Tillman, "You better not have that wedding without me in it." With all the pugilists on hand, Hemphill says, "We don't expect any guests to step out of line."
There is already considerable excitement about the future progeny of Tillman and Hemphill, what with gold medal genes on both sides. The 6'3" Tillman kiddingly says, "We're both pretty tall—I'd like to have a basketball team." Taking 'em one at a time, the 5'10" Hemphill says, "We'll probably have a girl astronaut."
On a more serious note, Hemphill says her grandmother, Ruth Owens, gave her some advice: "She told me that it's a different world being married to an athlete. There are great times, but there are losses and loneliness. She also said she never finished a meal in a restaurant without someone coming up to the table."
Tillman professes not to be nervous about the wedding—a walk down the aisle quite different from the ones he usually makes. "Maybe it hasn't hit me yet," he says.
A JOLLY BAD SHOW
ABC's two-day telecast of the British Open may have been the worst coverage ever of a major golf event. We're not just talking about the glitches that rendered course reporters Ed Sneed and Bob Rosburg virtually useless or the technical difficulties that sometimes turned a color picture to black-and-white and once left Al Trautwig with a dead mike as he was about to interview Craig Stadler. We're willing to forget such inane comments as Jim McKay's "He doesn't know quite how important it is yet," as soon-to-be champion Nick Faldo bent over his putt for par on Muirfield's 18th hole. We aren't even quibbling with the overabundance of features, some of which were downright silly.
No, what was inexcusable was ABC's failure to report the events taking place on the course. In the early going on Saturday, the camera hopped around like a jackrabbit. There was Graham Marsh, in contention, slashing out of very deep rough at 18, but then we never saw Marsh again. Tom Watson, very much in the hunt and a five-time winner of the event, was on the 11th hole when the telecast began on Saturday but was not shown until he hit his second shot on 18. Repeatedly throughout the weekend, ABC commentators seemed as confused as we were.
The most horrendous gaffe came late in Sunday's telecast when leader Paul Azinger was playing the 17th hole. While we knew he was on 17, ABC showed the crowd in the bleachers at 18 and switched to the leader board for what seemed like minutes. Suddenly, there was Azinger again, hitting out of a fairway bunker on his way to a disastrous bogey. That and another bogey at 18 cost him the championship. Not only did we not see Azinger's bad drive, but no announcer, not even Rosburg, who was following Azinger, told us he was in trouble.
ABC spokesmen have said that its coverage of the British Open is dependent upon the BBC feed. This may be true, but ABC has long prided itself as being the "leader in sports television." At Muirfield, ABC missed the cut.
When Gifford Nielsen, the former Houston Oilers quarterback who's now a sportscaster at KHOU-TV in Houston, was emceeing a local sports luncheon recently, he introduced pro wrestling promoter Paul Boesch and joked, "It's all acting, right?" Boesch then offered to demonstrate a couple of wrestling holds on Nielsen. "No way," said the backpedaling Nielsen. "I'm just starting to recover from my years with the Oilers."
"So are we," said Boesch.
TRACK'S LONGEST-RUNNING WIN STREAK
Even before Edwin Moses lost seven weeks ago, the longest single-event winning streak in men's track belonged to a 27-year-old South African middle-distance runner named Johan Fourie, who is unbeaten in 121 consecutive 1,500-meter races dating back to 1979. The catch, of course, is that because South Africa is an international sporting pariah, Fourie's times are not recognized by track's governing body. His 3:33.87 in the 1,500, his 3:50.82 in the mile and his 4:57.54 in the 2,000 meters place him in the top five in the world this year in those events.
Fourie, an Afrikaner from Pretoria and a lieutenant in the South African police, did have one season of overseas track experience in 1985, when he was in Switzerland on a student fellowship—a way around the political obstacles. So, included in his winning streak are nine races against such runners as Swiss champion Pierre Dèlèze, who has twice beaten Sebastian Coe, and Peter Wirz, Switzerland's European indoor champion and Olympic finalist in the 1,500.
Unless Fourie moves to another country, or the international sports community lifts its ban on South Africa, or his country changes its apartheid policies, he remains little more than a rumor in the track world. "A world record has always been my ambition," Fourie says. "It's been very frustrating, especially over the past two years when I know that I'm pushing to my peak." As for South Africa's racial policies, Fourie says, "No country is perfect. You might be interested to know that my sport is totally integrated. I train with black runners. They are my friends. That's my answer."
Lacking any real competition at home, Fourie relies on his own computer-programmed training regimen to keep him in shape. Still, a computer is hardly as challenging as Said Aouita, for instance, or Steve Cram. "Athletes are not fools," Fourie says. "They know that the times I put up are genuine times. In their hearts and minds, they know that I'm here and that I'm capable of beating them. It isn't my fault that as a South African I'm not allowed to compete."
Afrikaner Fourie races virtually alone.
THEY SAID IT
•Carlton Fisk, Chicago White Sox catcher, on his team's recent ban on beer in the clubhouse: "Let's face it, pizza and a Sprite after games just don't get it."
•Ralph Kiner, the New York Mets broadcaster noted for his malapropisms, greeting his viewers on June 21: "Today is Father's Day, so everyone out there, happy birthday."