NORTH OF NORTHWEST
The Greater Vancouver Open gives the Tour a new direction
In its dress rehearsal for the big time, the Greater Vancouver
Open hit every mark. British Columbia--the Pacific Northwest,
Americans kept calling the place, though it is Canada's
southwestern corner--was the setting for a drama featuring superb
scenery by Mother Nature and outlandish costumes by Payne
Stewart. The end was a standing ovation and a case of Chamblee.
Played on the same week as the star-jammed World Series of Golf,
the three-year-old GVO has been summer stock going up against
Broadway. Even now, it may be best known as the scene of John
Daly's latest meltdown. Still, Vancouver's mountains and
sailboat-dotted waterways captivated many players. "That's the
most bridges I ever drove across to go to dinner," said Paul
Stankowski. Paul Devenport of New Zealand said, "Vancouver
reminds me of home. Are there any sheep here?" The region's wild
and woolly embrace of pro golf, first felt at August's PGA in
Redmond, Wash., keeps warming up. We Like to Party is a Vancouver
motto, and the party will go full tilt in 1999, when the GVO gets
the Sept. 2-5 time slot to itself. Fuzzy Zoeller, calling the
region gorgeous, told Vancouverites, "You're on the list now,
"It's what I've been telling people: Vancouver is the most
beautiful city in the world," said Peter Jacobsen, who lives in
Portland. "Seattle is second, and Portland's third. We've had a
lot of good golf around here lately, and people are starting to
sit up and take notice."
Northview Golf and Country Club was noticeably cruel to the
plaid-knickered Stewart. With 22 runner-up finishes under his
belt, including a tearjerker at this year's U.S. Open, Stewart
always seems primed for defeat. He was tied with Brandel Chamblee
coming down the stretch on Sunday but missed a four-foot putt at
14, then bogeyed the 18th, where Chamblee rolled home a 36-foot
birdie putt for $360,000 and the first victory of his nine-year
Tour career. "Best putt I ever hit," the jubilant Texan called
it. "You work all your life to get to where you feel you can
trust your swing and your game. Today it happened, and I kept
telling myself to enjoy it."
Chamblee wasn't the only bubbly one in Canada's Pacific
Southwest. "This is the perfect golfing atmosphere," said
Stankowski, who finished 11th. "I'll be back, and I'll tell other
players to come."
Stewart Cink was bolder. "I'll tell Tiger," he said.
STATE OF THE UNION
A small band of rebels has fired the first shot in what could
become a war between the PGA Tour and its players. Mark Brooks,
Danny Edwards and Larry Rinker, three veteran pros who complain
that the Tour is secretive about its finances, have launched a
union they call the Tour Players Association. A pair of
exploratory meetings during the Sprint International drew about
two dozen pros who share the concerns of the TPA Three.
Players have long sought more clout. The Tour is a nonstock
organization ostensibly run in the interest of its players, but
its decision-making body, the nine-man policy board, includes
just four touring pros. Typical of the golfers' gripes is the
fuss over last month's long-delayed AT&T Pebble Beach National
Pro-Am. Tour regulations state that no tournament can end more
than two days after its scheduled finish, but the policy board
made an exception for Pebble--a move that annoyed board member Tom
Lehman. "What does that tell you?" asks pro Patrick Burke. "If a
member of the policy board is pissed, who did they consult?"
Executives at Tour headquarters in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., are
known for their imperious approach to hot-button issues. They
took a public relations beating while losing a high-profile court
case against Casey Martin, then risked another black eye by
appealing the decision. They oppose paying a stipend of $2,000 to
players who miss cuts, an idea that Lehman and many other pros
favor. Some players also think the growing Tour bureaucracy
perpetuates itself at their expense. Commissioner Tim Finchem,
his fellow administrators and even office staffers are vested in
the Tour's pension plan after five years on the job, while
players must earn their way in. The golfers aren't fully vested
until they make 75 cuts.
"The union is a great idea," says Burke. "It's not a lynch mob.
We just want more of a voice. As it is, you stand up at a
players' meeting to ask the Tour brass a question, and you hear,
'We'll get back to you.' But they never do."
THE SHAG BAG
MENTALIST: As SI predicted in June, Mark James (below) was named
Europe's 1999 Ryder Cup captain last week. The 44-year-old James,
who was fined for skipping meetings and refusing to wear the team
uniform at the '79 Ryder Cup, swore in those days that he would
never head the team. "I said you would have to be mental to want
the job," he said last week, "but that's what 20 years on the
tour will do to you."
HOME TEAM: Rosie Jones had all the symptoms: insomnia, loss of
appetite, a tight stomach. She stood 11th in Solheim Cup
qualifying points--one spot shy of automatic selection--after
missing the cut at last week's State Farm Rail Classic in
Springfield, Ill. Jones was suffering from pre-Solheim syndrome,
an epidemic that hit Springfield as Judy Rankin pondered her two
captain's selections for the U.S. team. "It was an awful week,
the worst of my life," said the 38-year-old veteran, who hoisted
a beer after Rankin took the conservative route and made Jones
and No. 12 Sherri Steinhauer her captain's picks. They'll join
Donna Andrews, Brandie Burton, Tammie Green, Pat Hurst, Juli
Inkster, Chris Johnson, Betsy King, Meg Mallon, Dottie Pepper
and Kelly Robbins against Europe on Sept. 18-20 at Muirfield
Village in Dublin, Ohio.
BAD SWING THOUGHT: President Clinton planned a Sept. 5 round of
golf in Ballybunion, Ireland, where a hair salon called Monica's
displayed its name in large letters. In honor of his visit the
place has temporarily become a gift store named The President's
DALY AFFIRMATION: "I asked John Daly point-blank about the
Dunhill Cup," Mark O'Meara says of the Oct. 8-11 team event at
St. Andrews in which Daly, O'Meara and Tiger Woods are to
represent the U.S. "I said, 'John, Tiger and I want to know if
you're going to play. If you do, we need you to give 110
percent. I can't have you giving up on me.' He told me he feels
like he owns that course."
HERO TIME: How did Joe Inman know he was doing well at last
week's BankBoston Senior Classic, where he tied for third behind
winner Hale Irwin? On Friday, Inman's daughter Katherine, 11,
hugged him and said, "Daddy, you're beating Hale Irwin!"
SIZZLING REENTRY: Last month Se Ri Pak withdrew from the Rail
Classic. She reconsidered when Nancy Lopez told her the Rail was
the last event of the Lincoln Mercury Bonus Series. By finishing
10th behind winner Pearl Sinn, Pak won the Series and a $100,000
bonus. Sinn, who had earned $67,787 in the past three seasons
after a 1994 auto accident, took home $105,000. "I said I'd
retire if I ever won," said Sinn. "Now that it has happened, I
think I'll have a change of heart."
Not even Hurricane Bonnie could rain on Bob LeComte's parade.
LeComte is executive director of the Aug. 31-Sept. 4 DuPont World
Amateur Handicap Championship, an annual march of nearly 5,000
players from more than 30 countries over 46 courses in Myrtle
Beach, S.C. LeComte lost one of his courses when Bonnie tore it
up. "It's sunny and warm now, though," he says. "We're ready to
go." Founded in 1984, the DuPont--sometimes called the Everyman
Open--is a four-round medal-play event for anyone with a
verifiable handicap and the $410 entry fee. Champions have had
handicaps ranging from three to 35. The bogeyman in such a
format, of course, is the sandbagger. Tournament officials spend
much of their time phoning the home clubs of contestants who turn
in suspicious scores. "We keep an eye on players who would take
the gentlemanliness out of the game," says LeComte, his eye as
calm and unforgiving as a hurricane's.
EARNING HIS STRIPES
When Tiger Woods turned pro on Aug. 29, 1996, Justin Leonard
guessed that Woods wouldn't earn enough by year's end to avoid a
trip to Q school. "It'll be very difficult for Tiger," Leonard
said. What wasn't difficult was finding the rookie that week at
the Greater Milwaukee Open. Throngs of Tiger trackers tailed
Woods as he finished 60th to win $2,544 in his pro debut. On
Sunday he holed a six-iron at the 188-yard 14th hole for the
ninth ace of his life. An 11th-place showing the next week at the
Canadian Open, a fifth at Quad City and a third at the B.C. Open
vaulted him to 128th on the money list. Then, after a week's
Tiger pause, he lived up to his hype by winning his first Tour
title, at Las Vegas, where he beat Davis Love III in a playoff.
Afterward the runner-up pronounced a new Tour consensus on Woods.
"Everybody better watch out," said Love. "Tiger is going to be a
Do you believe President Clinton has broken 80, as he claims?
--Based on 3,658 responses to our informal survey
Next question: Should touring pros join the Tour Players
Association in order to gain control of the Tour? To answer, go
COLOR PHOTO: RICH FRISHMAN [Vancouver skyline and waterfront]
COLOR PHOTO: RICH FRISHMAN Ringleader Rinker's for player power. [Larry Rinker]
COLOR PHOTO: MATTHEW HARRIS [Mark James]
Among the bonuses Hank Kuehne will receive for winning the U.S.
Amateur are invitations to next year's Masters and U.S. and
British Opens. Yet only Tiger Woods, the Amateur champion from
1994 to '96, went on to a top 10 finish in a major, and Woods's
victory in the '97 Masters came only after he turned pro. Here is
how U.S. Amateur winners have performed in the majors in the past
PLAYER MASTERS U.S. BRITISH
'97 Matt Kuchar 21st 14th CUT
'96 Tiger Woods 1st 19th 24th
'95 Tiger Woods CUT 82nd 22nd
'94 Tiger Woods 41st WD 68th
'93 John Harris 50th CUT CUT
'92 Justin Leonard CUT 68th CUT
'91 Mitch Voges CUT CUT CUT
'90 Phil Mickelson 46th 55th 73rd
'89 Chris Patton 39th CUT CUT
'88 Eric Meeks CUT CUT CUT
Average number of dollars earned by six-time winner Hale Irwin in
his 16 Senior tour starts this year.
What do these players have in common?