Rookie Caroline Blaylock drives the ball a mile but has trouble
making a dollar
They call her Mighty Mouse. Caroline Blaylock, a rookie who
stands 5'7" and weighs 125 pounds, leads the LPGA in driving
distance with a 267-yard average--almost eight yards better than
anyone else--without really trying. "I'm longer than the stats
show because I rarely hit driver on the measuring holes," says
the 25-year-old from Cartersville, Ga., who hits her three-wood
about 245. In winning last month's LPGA long-drive contest,
Blaylock used her driver to unleash pokes of 317 and 322 yards.
At Furman in 1994 the three-time All-America hit a 337-yarder,
topping the runner-up by 47 yards, to win one of her three
straight NCAA long-drive titles.
"I can't explain where my power comes from," says Blaylock,
whose frame resembles Annika Sorenstam's more than John Daly's,
"but it probably started with the circus." When she was a kid
watching trapeze artists climb ropes in the big top, she bet her
mom a banana split that she could do the same. It took four
weeks of biceps-busting practice, but young Caroline won her
just dessert. She went on to star as a swimmer and basketball
player at Darlington High in Rome, Ga., but never quit building
upper-body strength by climbing rope. "It was my hobby," she
says. "There wasn't much else to do in my little town."
She has yet to climb high in the pro ranks. In 12 LPGA
tournaments she has earned only $17,832. The tour's top driver
ranks 180th in driving accuracy and 170th in putting. "I found
out fast that they don't pay for how far you hit it," says
Blaylock, who would gladly jump through flaming hoops if it
would help her make a few putts.
MARK ON THE BALL
Asked who might be the longest hitter in golf, Billy Andrade
picks a man known for hitting balls 140 yards. "Mark McGwire is
as long as Tiger Woods," Andrade says of his occasional pro-am
partner, "and that's with no attention to his equipment. What
would he do with a driver he could really hit?" The golfer met
the St. Louis Cardinals basher a decade ago when they were
partners at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. "He drove it
to places that would make your head spin," says Andrade, who has
also witnessed several driving-range sessions reminiscent of
McGwire's batting-practice power shows. "After he got warmed up,
got a good sweat going, he started hitting balls over the fence
at the end of the range. Everyone oohed and aahed."
McGwire played golf at Damien High in Claremont, Calif. "Loved
it," says the slugger, who has a bulging disk in his back that
limits his golf. "Sometimes I play in the winter with my son,
Matt, but that's about it these days." How far does he hit his
drives? "Mid-300s," he says modestly. "But golf's much harder
than baseball. I admire guys who make a living at it."
"I equate Mac with Freddie Couples. They both just love to play,"
Andrade says. "When you're a superstar, though, you have to deal
with the media, with everything outside the game, and neither of
them likes that." As he approaches Roger Maris's home run
record, McGwire may pine for the comparative solitude of
ANOTHER ACE AMATEUR
Wearing his trusty Tiger Woods T-shirt, five-year-old Matthew
Stuart played golf with his dad last week. On the 7th hole at
Fox Ridge Country Club in Vincennes, Ind., the kindergartner
stepped up to the ladies' tee, pulled a Scooby-Doo headcover off
his 34-inch driver and knocked his tee shot 86 yards into the
cup. "It wasn't a line drive. Matthew hit a nice arching shot
that bounced once and rolled in," says his dad, Troy, a
purchasing manager for a furniture company. Golf has been part
of the boy's life since infancy, when Troy would take Matthew
and his diaper bag to the course with him. After graduating to a
golf bag filled with a set of cut-down clubs, Matthew started
playing this year. The nine-hole round that featured his ace was
his fourth outing. He shot 65.
"The bar was empty, so he didn't have to buy drinks," says Troy,
who raised a beer to toast the first hole-in-one he'd seen in 15
years of golf. Matthew wanted to celebrate with a meal of crab
legs, but the grocery was out of them, and he settled for a
Tigerish champion's dinner of macaroni and a cheeseburger. The
player who's believed to be the youngest ever to make an ace
reaped one other reward, too. "My friends think I'm cool now,"
he says. --Tom Hanson
It had to be the belt. Leigh Anne Hardin, unstoppable all week,
started Sunday's final of the U.S. Girls' Junior without her
lucky Mickey Mouse belt around her waist. She promptly
double-bogeyed the 1st hole. Hardin, 16, had used discipline and
wizardly woods to reach the match-play final with historic
dispatch, closing out all her foes in 16 holes or less, but the
basketball star from Martinsville (Ind.) High, John Wooden's old
school, was soon 2 down in the final against Brittany Straza,
and needed a belt. "I was nervous, but once I settled down and
got my Mickey Mouse belt on, everything was O.K.," she said.
Girl power was on the other side. Straza, 17, who was 40 to 50
yards longer off the tee, spent the day hitting mid-iron
approach shots while Hardin used lofted woods. Yet Straza had an
ongoing tiff with her three-footer-phobic putter, while Hardin
kept slapping seven- and nine-woods and two-putting the greens
at storied Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa. On the 18th hole
Hardin rolled in an eight-footer that put her in the record book
with Mickey Wright, Nancy Lopez, Amy Alcott, Michelle McGann and
other Girls' Junior champs. That's when Hardin surprised fans
and opponents who admired her steely nerves by bursting into
tears and thanking her lucky star: Mickey. Here's hoping that
girl golf's latest champion lives happily ever after.
THE SHAG BAG
Lost Ball: An Elmwood (N.Y.) Country Club caddie sued actor
Michael Douglas for $155 million last week, charging that
Douglas hit him in the groin with a wild tee shot last October.
Caddie James Parker, who says he suffered a ruptured testicle,
claims that as he writhed in pain, Douglas "stuffed a small sum
of money" into his pocket, then muttered disparaging comments
about Parker, who is black. Douglas's publicist released a
statement from the actor calling the charges "completely false"
and denying that Douglas had hit the ball or made any
LPGA Blue: Before turning pro, '98 du Maurier Classic champ
Brandie Burton contemplated trading her sticks for a nightstick.
"I'm still an avid viewer of Cops," says Burton, who came in
18th behind winner Meg Mallon at last week's Star Bank Classic,
"and I ride along with the officers when I'm home in California."
Appleby's Return: Stuart Appleby, whose wife died in a traffic
accident last month, is expected to play in the PGA. Some
players and caddies at the Buick Open wore black ribbons on
their caps in tribute to Renay Appleby.
Polland under Siege: Seven days after beating Northern Ireland's
Eddie Polland in a sudden-death playoff at the Schroder Senior
Masters, 61-year-old Brian Huggett of Wales doubled Polland's
trouble. At last week's Senior British Open in Portrush,
Northern Ireland, Huggett parred the first extra hole to earn
60,000 [pounds] and leave Polland suddenly dead again.
Head-on Collision: Australia's Stephen Allan survived a
triple-bogey 6 at the 13th hole on Sunday to win the German
Open. Allan had been noted for his trouble holding a lead. Of a
final-round 81 earlier this season at Cannes, he said, "My head
came off." Despite the triple, though, Allan shot a closing 69
to edge Mark Roe, Steve Webster and Ignacio Garrido, who had
blown a three-shot lead.
Freak Weather: The temperature in hell dipped below zero last
week. Neither Hale Irwin nor Gil Morgan won the Burnet Senior
Classic at Coon Rapids, Minn. Leonard Thompson nipped Isao Aoki
in sudden death to gain his first Senior title and $225,000, or
$1,679 per swing. Irwin tied for third, a shot back, and Morgan
settled for 11th.
Kiwi Owie: On July 25 Frank Nobilo wed his longtime girlfriend,
Selena Syer, in a secret ceremony in the Bahamas. Ernie Els
served as best man. A few days later the New Zealander was
beaned by a golf ball at the club where he practices. "The ball
hit me just above the left eye," says Nobilo, who needed 30
stitches to close the wound. "I could have lost the eye, and
that would have been the end of my career." He isn't sure
whether he'll play in this week's PGA. "After the excitement of
getting married, this is the last thing I needed," he says, "but
I suppose I'm lucky that the ball didn't hit me any lower."
A Quick Summer Trip to the Beach
With its freaky weather and three host courses, the AT&T Pebble
Beach National Pro-Am annually toes the line between Monterey
and disarray. On Sunday more than 100 golfers will fly 900 miles
from the state of Washington and the PGA Championship to finish
the '98 AT&T, which was suspended on Feb. 1 after two rounds due
to horrid weather. Soon after the PGA ends, a United Airlines
737 chartered by the Monterey Peninsula Golf Foundation will fly
the pros, their families and caddies from Seattle-Tacoma Airport
to Monterey Peninsula Airport. The Foundation is considering
reserving the plane's eight first-class seats for former AT&T
champs, which could pose a problem on Monday evening, when the
charter leaves for Denver and next week's Sprint International:
If there's a new winner on board, which former champ will give
up his seat for him?
GOLF ROYALTY REDUX
In her last round as an amateur, Louise Suggs beat Jean Donald
to win the 1948 Women's British Amateur at Royal Lytham and St.
Annes. For Suggs, who will turn 75 on Sept. 7, the tournament
capped a month-long visit that began in London, a city still
scarred by World War II. She took a train to Royal Birkdale to
play for a victorious U.S. team in the Curtis Cup, then
proceeded to Lytham, where a crusty caddie laid down the law for
the 24-year-old American. "If I'm your caddie, you'll do what I
tell you," he said. Suggs replied that in golf, saying what to
do is easier than doing it. This week she returns to Lytham as
guest of honor at the Women's British Open. "I'm thrilled to be
going back," says the Hall of Famer, who won 50 LPGA tournaments
in her career, "and after the tournament I'll go down to London
as a typical tourist. Do you think they'll let me into
COLOR PHOTO: JOHN F. GRIESHOP STRONG-ARM TACTICS With muscles built by climbing rope, Blaylock averages 267 yards. [Caroline Blaylock] COLOR PHOTO: SCOTT K. BROWN MICKEY WON Hardin gave the Girls' Junior a Disney ending. [Leigh Anne Hardin]
What do these players have in common?
They are the only players among the Tour's top 10 money winners
who haven't won a tournament this year.
With whom would you most like to play golf?
Michael Jordan 26%
Tiger Woods 17%
Se Ri Pak 15%
Arnold Palmer 11.1%
Bill Clinton 10.8%
Fuzzy Zoeller 8%
--Based on 13,085 responses to our informal survey
Next question: Which young player--Jenny Chuasiriporn, Matt
Kuchar or Justin Rose--will be the best pro? To answer, go to
The average winning score in the PGA Championship since 1993,
12.4 under par, matches the Masters for the lowest such figure
among the majors. (The British Open winner has averaged eight
under, and the U.S. Open champ 2.2 under.) Here are the players
with the lowest PGA averages since '93 and their best career
AVG. SCORE TOP FINISH
Justin Leonard 68.92 2nd, '97
Steve Elkington 69.45 1st, '95
Greg Norman 69.6 2nd, '86 and '93
Nick Price 69.8 1st, '92 and '94
Jim Furyk 69.83 6th, '97
Brad Faxon 70.33 5th, '95
Phil Mickelson 70.39 3rd, '94
Lee Janzen 70.45 4th, '97
Jay Haas 70.5 5th, '82
Davis Love III 70.5 1st, '97
C. Montgomerie 70.5 2nd, '95 and '97
Rookie of the year points earned by Se Ri Pak in 1998. Lisa
Hackney, last year's top rookie, finished with 800 points.