A NEW KING OF THE LEFTIES
Kirk Smith can't really claim to be the world's best lefthanded
golfer--Phil Mickelson would surely object--but Smith was low
southpaw during the 62nd National Association of Left-handed
Golfers championship last week at Las Vegas's Paiute Resort.
Smith, a 47-year-old dentist with a scratch handicap from
Everett, Wash., beat the 1996 champion, Jim Wheatley of Geneva,
Ill., with a birdie on the fourth hole of sudden death. The
players had tied at nine-over-par 297 after four rounds.
While Smith and Wheatley were tearing up Paiute (Wheatley shot a
tournament-low 69 in the second round), the event's 286 other
players, including five women, grouped into 17 flights, had
varying degrees of success. George Price, a 68-year-old
mortician from San Francisco who claims to have learned a lot
about golf from Dwight Eisenhower when he served as a young man
under the general, played despite a broken finger on his left
hand. "It's tough to play with one hand," said Price, who opened
with a 113 and closed with a 92, despite a splint on his busted
digit. "I would never have tried to play if it hadn't been a
lefty tournament. I've made a lot of good friends at this event,
and it's too much fun to let a broken finger stop me."
Travis Scott, the executive secretary of the Carolinas chapter
of the association, was an accomplished righthanded player who
took lessons lefthanded just so he could travel with friends to
Monterrey, Calif., for the 1963 championship. "Lefties hit from
the right side of the ball," insists Scott, who finished third
in the senior second flight.
Merle Hogan, the oldest player in the field at 89, braved the
112[degree] heat and 40-mph wind gusts to shoot rounds of 104,
105, 114 and 115. "I just plain ran out of gas," said Hogan, who
celebrated his birthday on the day of the final round.
The most ambitious of the association's 5,000 members, including
Smith, will travel to Launceston Country Club in the Australian
state of Tasmania for the biennial World Lefthanded Golf
Tournament in October 1998. Not only will they be hitting from
the wrong side, but they'll be down under as well. "We're golf's
true minority," says Scott.
GOLF'S GREAT LITTLE MAN JUMPS BACK INTO ACTION
In 1954 Bob Toski won four Tour events and was the leading money
winner with what was then a record $65,820, but he was obsessed
with another number. "I weighed 118 pounds," says the 5'8"
Toski. "I was the lightest player in the history of the Tour.
Remember Charles Atlas and the kid that used to get sand kicked
in his face? The 118-pound weakling? Well, I didn't want people
to think that was me, so I always said I weighed 127 pounds."
After Toski's final win in '54, at the World Championship of
Golf at Tam O'Shanter in Niles, Ill., Lew Worsham and Clayton
Heafner greeted Toski at the shower and marched him to a scale,
thus ending the ruse.
Although Toski never won another Tour event, he will always be
remembered as golf's great little man. Last week at Olympia
Fields outside Chicago, Toski added another line to his resume.
At 70 years, nine months and eight days, he became the oldest
player to compete in the U.S. Senior Open.
At 135 pounds Toski is still trim, and his technically superior
swing has weathered the years beautifully. He shot a pair of 76s
at Olympia Fields, missing the cut by a stroke. Not bad for a
guy who hadn't played in a Senior Open since 1987, hasn't played
the Senior tour regularly for a decade and played only one
Senior event all of last year. "Aw, I didn't come here just to
play. I came to make the cut," Toski said after the second round.
Through the years Toski has gained widespread recognition as one
of golf's top teachers. Earlier this year his own stroke began
to meet his exacting standards, and on a lark he entered the
Senior Open qualifier near his home in Boca Raton, Fla. To his
surprise, he shot 71 and was the medalist.
Though Toski didn't duplicate that success at Olympia Fields
("It was a question of nerves," he says), he did make an
impression with his ball striking. For the week he averaged
254.8 yards per drive, including a 275-yard bomb on Friday. How
does he do it? "I have to leap off my feet," says Toski. "Sam
Snead said I ought to get a two-stroke penalty for high jumping
every time I hit it."
BUSINESS AS USUAL AT HONG KONG GOLF CLUB
While Hong Kong prepared to make the transition from British to
Chinese rule on Tuesday, Iain Roberts got ready for another
routine day at fabled Hong Kong Golf Club, where he is the head
professional. Roberts says the club has needed to make only two
modest alterations to prepare for the takeover. "A year ago we
deleted Royal from our name and got a new logo without the royal
seal," he says. "Otherwise, there have been no changes--nothing.
The membership has stayed consistent, and everybody is still
Founded in 1889 by a small band of British colonists, the club
featured Hong Kong's first golf course. (Currently there are
three other clubs.) Today there are 63 holes on two sites and
6,000 members--mostly wealthy businessmen. The club has been
gradually integrating since 1900, and more than 90% of the
members are Chinese.
Roberts, a native of London, has worked at the club since 1994
and has no plans to leave. "The game has exploded over here," he
says. "There has never been a better time to be a golfer in Hong
WALLY JOYNER'S THE NEW ACE OF THE PADRES
"Do me a favor, just keep this quiet," San Diego Padres manager
Bruce Bochy told his first baseman, Wally Joyner, last Friday
after granting Joyner permission to play the North Course at Los
Angeles Country Club. The Padres were opening a three-game
series against the Dodgers that night, and Bochy didn't want his
other players to know that he was waiving a team rule
prohibiting golf on game days.
Joyner, however, couldn't stay mum about his round. At the
228-yard par-3 11th hole, Joyner, a seven handicapper, sank his
three-iron tee shot for the first hole in one of his life. He
didn't see his ball go in and found out that he'd made the ace
only after his playing partner, Padres catcher John Flaherty,
looked in the hole. Flaherty hadn't asked Bochy for a special
dispensation, but he wasn't about to let the fear of a fine keep
him from spreading the news about Joyner's feat.
After the Padres' 7-5 win that night--Joyner had a double and an
RBI, Flaherty went 2 for 5--word of Joyner's ace was the talk of
the locker room. "My only punishment was a warning," says Bochy.
"I told Wally, 'If we do this again, please, no more holes in
THE SHAG BAG
It took a course-record 64 from Michelle McGann in the final
round to cool off Annika Sorenstam at the ShopRite Classic in
Somers Point, N.J. McGann, who jumped to fourth on the LPGA
money list with her second victory this year, finished three
shots ahead of Sorenstam, a four-time winner in '97, with a
tournament-record score of 201, 12 under par, at the Greate Bay
Resort & Country Club....Tiger Woods received treatments from
the Orlando Magic training staff last week for a slight pull in
a shoulder muscle. "It's nothing too bad," says Woods, who was
scheduled to compete in this week's Western Open outside
Chicago....The 2005 Ryder Cup is expected to be awarded to
Ireland. The match, the first ever on Irish soil, will probably
be held at K Club, a new resort an hour outside of Dublin whose
7,159-yard course was designed by Arnold Palmer....Of the eight
players selected for the U.S. team, which hopes to regain the
Walker Cup next month, only two--Jerry Courville Jr. and John
Harris--have played in the event....Bruce Zabriski, 39, an
assistant pro at Westchester Country Club in Rye, N.Y., won the
PGA Club Pro championship. The top 25 finishers in the
tournament, which was held at Pinehurst No. 8, earned spots in
the Aug. 14-17 PGA Championship at Winged Foot. Last year only
three of the 25 club pros made the cut at the PGA....As of
Monday, 49 of the top 50 players on the World Ranking had
entered the July 17-20 British Open at Troon. Japan's Jumbo
Ozaki, ranked eighth, has yet to commit.
COLOR PHOTO: GREG CAVA Portsiders of all ages, sexes, sizes and swings played in the national championship. [Several left-handed golfers at driving range]
COLOR PHOTO: ROBERT BECK [Annika Sorenstam playing golf]
PLAYING FOR HISTORY
Annika Sorenstam (left) will leap into very rare air if she wins
next week's U.S. Open, at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club outside
Portland. In addition to being the first woman with three
straight Open titles, Sorenstam would also become only the 13th
player to have won a USGA championship in three or more
consecutive years. Below are the 12 golfers who've accomplished
PLAYER YEARS CHAMPIONSHIPS
Bobby Jones 8 '23 Open, '24 Amateur, '25 Amateur,
'26 Open, '27 Amateur, '28 Amateur,
'29 Open, '30 Amateur and '30 Open
Tiger Woods 6 '91, '92 and '93 Junior, '94, '95 and
Carolyn Cudone 5 '68, '69, '70, '71 and '72 Senior
Willie Anderson 3 '03, '04 and '05 Open
Lori Castillo 3 '78 Girls' Junior, '79 and '80 Women's
Beatrix Hoyt 3 1896, '97 and '98 Women's Amateur
Juli Inkster 3 '80, '81 and '82 Women's Amateur
Carl F. Kauffmann 3 '27, '28 and '29 Public Links
Kelli Kuehne 3 '94 Girls' Junior, '95 and '96 Women's
Hollis Stacy 3 '69, '70 and '71 Girls' Junior
Virginia Van Wie 3 '32, '33 and '34 Women's Amateur
Glenna Collett Vare 3 '28, '29 and '30 Women's Amateur
The times that Annika Sorenstam, the runner-up at last week's
ShopRite Classic, has finished in the top three in her 13 LPGA
starts this season.