Chi Chi II?
THE SEARCH for an heir to Chi Chi Rodriguez as Puerto Rico's golf hero might be over. That golfer could be Wilfredo Morales, the swarthy, 210-pound, 16-year-old son of a pro-shop attendant from the lower-middle-class neighborhood of Mameyal in Dorado. Last week Morales distinguished himself as the youngest player in World Cup history. Playing as an amateur, he shot a three-over-par 71-74-72-74—291 on the East Course at the Hyatt Dorado Beach.
Representing the host country, Morales and 48-year-old Manuel Camacho had the honor of being paired in the opening round with defending champions Fred Couples and Davis Love III. The kid shot one-under-par 71, nearly holing out a sand wedge for eagle at the par-4 6th. Love was impressed with Morales's game and his guts. "At 16 he gets thrown into a tournament with the biggest-name guys in the event, and he comes out and shoots under par," Love said after the round. "That showed me a lot."
"I know now that I have the game to play with these guys," Morales said. "I just need to practice more. The players are good everywhere."
A senior at Josè S. Alegria High School, Morales won the Puerto Rico Junior Amateur Championship at 15 and advanced to the round of 16 of the 1994 U.S. Junior Amateur before losing to Mauricio Mu‚Äö√†√∂¬¨¬±iz, another Puerto Rican, who is a freshman on the Georgia Tech golf team. Morales hopes to attend college Stateside next fall on a golf scholarship, and he has already talked to the coaches at Minnesota, North Carolina and Georgia Tech.
"The guy may be 16, but his mind isn't. It's 21 or 22," says Camacho, who was playing in his fourth World Cup. "I think he's got a good future coming up. Wilfredo doesn't back up. He fights."
To get to the 40th World Cup, the Malaysian team of Marimuthu Ramayah and Paraihsany Gunasegaran flew from Singapore to Hong Kong to Los Angeles to Miami, and finally to San Juan. For one of them at least, the jet lag was worthwhile. After three rounds Ramayah was at 17 under, in second place, three strokes behind Fred Couples in the competition for the International Trophy and the $100,000 check presented to the tournament's medalist. Gunasegaran, meanwhile, stood 17 strokes behind Couples.
Born in Kuala Lumpur and now a resident of Perak in northern Malaysia's mining region, the 39-year-old Ramayah is no stranger to international competition. In 1980 he won the Ferdinand Marcos Invitational, defeating a field that included Bernhard Langer, Sandy Lyle, Jerry Pate and Gary Player. Earlier this year he won the Rolex Masters in Singapore by beating former PGA Tour player Tim Norris in a sudden-death playoff.
Ramayah arrived in Puerto Rico struggling to find a putting stroke that would work on the perplexing grain of Bermuda-grass greens. In the Singapore Open two weeks earlier he had hit 34 of 36 greens in regulation, but shot 76-72 to miss the cut by two strokes. On the putting green at Dorado Beach early last week he tried the reverse-handed grip he had seen Couples use. With it Ramayah shot 66-64 and then, while paired with Couples on Saturday, 69. On Sunday he fell back to sixth place with a 74, which still left him ahead of such international stars as Langer, Jesper Parnevik and Ian Woosnam.
"It didn't surprise me that I played well. It surprised me that I putted so well," Ramayah said. "I haven't putted well for eight years."
The PGA Tour might be the best place to gain wordwide golf fame, but for male fortune hunters, Japan is the place to play (page G12). This year Jumbo Ozaki has earned more money on the Japanese men's tour than anybody has ever made in a season on any circuit. With four events to play on both Japanese circuits, here are the figures for the top earners on the world's biggest tours in the past season.
Wacky facts from the world of golf.
•John Cook and Bo Derek were childhood friends in Rolling Hills, Calif.
•Lon Hinkle is a fifth cousin, once removed, of Abraham Lincoln.
•Bobby Locke won the 1948 Chicago Victory National Golf Championship by 16 strokes.
•Fulton Allem once came upon very fresh lion kill (an impala buck) on a golf course in South Africa.
•Pat Bradley and Debbie Massey are both former ski instructors.
•To train Tommy Nakajima to play in the rain, his father used to squirt him in the face with a hose while young Tommy hit golf balls.
•An average 150-pound male who walks and pulls golf clubs while playing 18 holes will burn about 1,060 calories.
•Deane Beman is the only man ever to become the commissioner of the major U.S. sport he played.