A Brand-new Bag
Former University of Arizona golfer Robert Gamez won the 1990 Northern Telecom Open in his first official Tour start and became that season's Rookie of the Year, but he has failed to live up to his prodigious talent. Now he is shedding his flashy Las Vegas image. "He's going to bed early," says his father, Tony, who has traveled with Robert the last two weeks. "We've been sitting up playing cards together every night. And he works harder now. He putts and goes to the range, which he didn't used to do much."
Other Gamez changes:
•New clubs—irons and woods by Head, including a big-headed driver that Gamez claims he can hit 30 yards farther.
•New caddie—former LPGA caddy Donna Early, replacing Gamez's brother Randy.
•New girlfriend—Machala Mandolfo, 26, who was working at the bar cart on the hole where Gamez made a hole in one at a Las Vegas charity event last August.
•New temperament—"I'm trying to be more patient," Gamez said in Tucson, where he finished tied for seventh, having shot 66 in the first and last rounds. "If I make a bogey, I throw the ball into the bushes or a garbage can. It keeps me from hurting a garbage can with my putter."
Gamez has pummeled a wastebasket or three since his two-victory rookie year. Winless since, he was 70th on the money list last year with three top-10 finishes. "He realizes now he's got to put some hours in to get something out of it," his father says.
Birds of a Feather
When Hawaiian Open champ Brett Ogle was paired with former President Gerald Ford for last week's pro-am at Tucson National, tournament officials decided they should brief the eccentric Australian on protocol. And with good reason. "Brett is so egalitarian, he'd probably say, 'Hi, Gerry,' " said Australian Associated Press writer Andrew Both. The officials also advised Ogle not to turn his back on the 80-year-old Ford, who has been known to bean spectators with errant drives. This caution was taken despite the fact that, as PGA Tour spokesman Chuck Adams said, "if Ford hit Brett in the head, it probably wouldn't do any damage."
Ogle's noodle and Ford's dignity survived the round, more or less. Some initial daffiness came at the first tee, where the two players showed up in identical blue and white striped shirts. "Unbelievable," said the 29-year-old Ogle. "I must have 40 shirts in my dresser." Later, while standing in a trap in front of the 10th green, Ford addressed David Sanders, an Arizona Daily Star photographer who was standing on the opposite side of green. "Better move, son," Ford told Sanders before skulling the ball clear across the green to where Sanders had been standing. "Just throw it back," a chagrined Ford told another member of the gallery.
Still, the skinny pro praised Ford's game. "He doesn't hit it far, but he creams it," said Ogle. And although the insouciant Aussie ducked questions about politics, he did pose one about his partner. "Was he a good president?" Ogle inquired.
The Long Road Home
United Airlines Flight 130, the red-eye from Honolulu, was on its approach to Los Angeles International Airport in the predawn darkness on Jan. 17 when passengers looking out the windows suddenly saw blue flashes from failing electrical transformers. Then the city disappeared. An alarmed Laura Flannery turned to her husband, second-year Tour pro John Flannery. "John, did you see that?" she said with a gasp. "There are no more lights in Los Angeles."
The airplane, carrying more than 50 Tour players and their families back to the mainland from the Hawaiian Open, landed a few minutes later on a runway lit with emergency lights. Flight 130 then sat on the tarmac for 20 minutes before the captain came on the intercom. "Sorry for the delay," he said to the passengers, "but Los Angeles has just had a major earthquake, and we're trying to find our terminal." The aircraft finally reached its gate—with the aid of a flashlight aimed out the cockpit window.
In the blacked-out terminal, an airline employee led passengers down corridors made hazardous by fallen ceiling tiles, dangling electrical lines and dripping fire sprinklers. Most of the Tour contingent waited for daylight and a charter to Tucson, but the Flannerys, who live in Palm Springs, got their bags and bolted for the Santa Monica Freeway.
"There was dust everywhere, rubble in the streets," Flannery recalls. "There were these weird, wispy clouds hanging right above the ground. It was eerie." And dangerous. The Flannerys were halfway up the freeway on-ramp at La Cienega and Fairfax when they were flagged down by a police officer who told them the road was closed. Flannery, who knows L.A. from his student days at USC, turned around and drove to the San Diego Freeway. This time, drivers backing down an on-ramp warned him that a towering overpass had collapsed. He headed for the Pacific Coast Highway. "People were driving 40 [mph] through signals that weren't lit," he said. "That's why I wanted onto the freeways."
The Pacific Coast Highway proved to be the Flannerys' salvation. "Five freeways later, we were home," he says.
The rest of the Tour group spent three hours at LAX, which vibrated through numerous aftershocks. "Once it got light, they inspected the runway and let us board the plane," says Tour scorekeeper Irv Batten. "Were we ever glad to get on that baby!"
An Open Door
Babe Didrickson Zaharias, the only woman ever to play in a PGA Tour event, competed in the 1945 Tucson Open, finishing 42nd in a field of 47. An amateur at the time, she shot rounds of 74-81 and missed the cut.
Women, you may be surprised to learn, are eligible to play the PGA Tour. Betsy King or Brandie Burton, for instance, must make it through the Q school—admittedly no easy task. (No woman has tried.) Or a woman can gain entry into a tournament field by way of a sponsor's exemption, although that has never happened, either.
For a professional athlete with a completely torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, Mark Calcavecchia doesn't seem worried. In fact, he surprised a lot of people by playing in the Northern Telecom Open, where he shot 73-70-143 to miss the 36-hole cut by one.
Calcavecchia sustained that injury, and tore some cartilage, when he fell while skiing in December. In Tucson last week he often had to walk sideways—particularly in the second round along the steep inclines of TPC-style Starr Pass—but Calcavecchia was happy with the way he hit the ball, and he looked forward to playing this week in Phoenix, where he won in 1989 and 1992.
"The knee doesn't bother my game at all," the 33-year-old Calcavecchia maintained. "It's solid on my backswing, and I'm not restricting my move through the ball. Maybe it's a little goofy on fairway bunker shots and really severe sidehill lies, but overall it held up better than I thought it would."
Immediately after he tore his ACL—a career-threatening injury in most sports—it was assumed Calcavecchia would miss most of the 1994 season and that surgery would be inevitable. But the 1989 British Open champion was relieved to find that the strong lateral pressure on the right knee created in the golf swing did not cause him pain, even though the simple act of walking did. Calcavecchia consulted three doctors, and each gave him clearance to play provided he would commit to a program of rehabilitation. Since then, Calcavecchia, determined to play hurt rather than go under the knife, has worked religiously with Chicago Cub trainer Brett Fisher.
"If I have the ligament fixed, that's at least six months off, and I'm not going to do that if I don't have to," Calcavecchia says. "I might get the cartilage fixed after the next couple of weeks or wait until after the Masters [he is in the final year of an automatic five-year exemption at Augusta for his 1989 British Open win]. It all depends on whether I can keep it strong."
Gamez is giving his game a face-lift this season, from clubs to caddie.
The irrepressible Zaharias is the only woman ever to play in a PGA Tour event, the '45 Tucson Open.
Mayfair (below) tied Springer...but his Sun Devils got burned.
A Wildcat Waltz
In an unofficial Battle of the Alumni last week in Tucson, former hometown Arizona Wildcat players beat erstwhile Arizona State Sun Devils and a lone ex-Artichoke of Scottsdale Community College by a landslide. The victory came despite the fact that the Sun Devils have won five Pac-10 men's titles since 1979 to Arizona's two. The Wildcats were NCAA champs in '92, but the Sun Devils were too, in '90, and the Arizona State alums are looking for revenge at this week's Phoenix Open.