A STAR-CROSSED OPEN
NBC, whose careful nurturing of the USGA led last October to a
five-year extension of its contract to televise the
association's championships, may have damaged the relationship
by signing Kevin Costner to do the narration for the opening
segment of this Saturday's Open telecast. Some USGA officials
feel that by linking the Open to the prerelease hype surrounding
Tin Cup, the heavily promoted, R-rated movie featuring Costner
as a golfer trying to win the event, NBC has tainted the
national championship with commercialism. But what they really
find distressing is that the network can unilaterally make
decisions that imply that the USGA is a partner in such a
promotion. "We don't sign off on everything they do," admits
USGA executive director David Fay.
Others feel that using a movie star like Costner as a spokesman
for golf is great for the game, and that all the hand-wringing
makes the USGA look like a bunch of stuffed shirts. "I'd be
willing to bet that Kevin's celebrity will do nothing but bring
more awareness to the public," says Gary Foster, one of the
producers of Tin Cup. "We're not a comedy spoof like Happy
Gilmore. If this is a signal to me, it's that NBC thinks Kevin
is a legitimate spokesman for this sport."
Of course, anything might be better than listening to Dick
Enberg overstate the obvious in one of his gushy lead-ins.
There is no simple explanation for the transformation of
38-year-old Andrew Morse from nonentity to world's hottest pro
golfer. Going into last week, Morse had won four consecutive
tournaments on the Hooters tour, which is the equivalent of
Double A baseball. First came a victory in Natchez, Miss., then
two in Louisiana, in Monroe and Bastrop, and finally a win in
Rantoul, Ill. He continued his run at U.S. Open qualifying at
Exmoor Golf Club, near Chicago, where he was the medalist. His
three-under-par 141 there made him 71 under for his last 290
holes. And while his Hooters streak finally came to an end on
Sunday--he tied for seventh in the Heller Ford Classic in El
Paso, Ill.--Morse thinks he could be a factor at Oakland Hills.
"This'll be my first Open," Morse says, "and I'm looking forward
to a good showing. Maybe I'll even threaten to win it."
Considering how far he has come, Morse can be excused for
dreaming the impossible dream. After growing up playing public
courses in the Boston area, Morse got a partial scholarship to
North Carolina but lasted only three months there. He worked as
a dishwasher and as the manager of a car wash before realizing
he could make more money hustling golf.
As his game improved, Morse's horizons expanded. Only bad luck
prevented him from winning the 1983 Massachusetts Open--he
mismarked his ball on the final green--and he won back-to-back
New England Opens in 1986 and '87. Following a sweep of the
Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire opens in 1989, Morse
struck out for the Hogan (now Nike) tour, traveling from one
Monday qualifier to the next with his wife, Sue, in a motor
home. He earned his Hogan card in 1991 but lost it in 1993
before Patti McGowan, an instructor from the David Leadbetter
school, remade his swing. Morse then began playing the Hooters
tour full time. His game came together late last year after a
friend suggested he read Michael Murphy's mind-over-matter
treatise, Golf in the Kingdom. Morse won a Hooters event the
next week, then another before the season ended, and his good
play carried over into 1996.
"The easiest thing would've been to quit," he says, looking back
on the lean years. Now he's thinking big and beyond the Open.
Morse intends to enter Tour qualifying school this fall.
JUST LIKE A WOMAN
Great Britain's Ladies Golf Union has closed a gender loophole
by requiring that all contestants in the Aug. 15-18 Women's
British Open be "females at birth."
The Daily Telegraph of London reported that the clause was added
to prevent Helen Talmage, the club champion at the Lodge Golf
Club in Derbyshire and a scratch player, from entering. Talmage,
a machine operator, allegedly had a sex-change operation at 19.
"This kind of thing is more prevalent these days, and something
needed to be done," said Elaine Mackie, the administrator of the
Ladies Golf Union. "To ignore it would be unfair to other
Such restrictions are nothing new in the U.S. The USGA banned
transsexuals in 1989, two years after Charlotte Wood of
Beaumont, Texas, who had undergone a sex-change operation in the
early '80s, reached the semifinal round of the U.S. Women's
Mid-Amateur. The LPGA also banned transsexuals shortly thereafter.
COLOR PHOTO: BUCK MILLERHoping to capitalize on a hot streak, Sue and Andrew Morse are focused on the Open and beyond. [Sue Morse and Andrew Morse]