Deborah Couples's Suicide
Everyone remembers Deborah Couples's entrance onto the golf
scene. It came at the 1983 Kemper Open, seconds after her
husband, Fred, had won his first Tour event. Deborah, wearing a
cowboy hat and a blue minidress, raced across the green, jumped
into his arms and wrapped her legs around his waist. Her exit
last week, eight years after her divorce from Fred, was less
public. According to the Los Angeles City Coroner's office, on
May 26 Deborah jumped to her death from the roof of the Kresge
Chapel of the Claremont (Calif.) School of Theology. The
coroner's office ruled it a suicide.
Two hours before Deborah's death Joyce Donchess drove from her
home in Laguna Beach to visit Deborah in her Corona Del Mar
house. Couples and Donchess, both 48, had grown up together in
San Marino and were best friends. "I knew Deborah was suicidal,"
says Donchess, a family therapist, who filed a missing-person
report with the Newport Beach police the moment Couples left the
house, which is 45 miles from Kresge Chapel. "I was pleading with
her not to leave."
Donchess says that Couples had never fully recovered from back
and neck injuries suffered in a car accident a decade before and
was in constant pain. Her condition was recently exacerbated by
two other auto accidents and a parasitic infection that went
undiagnosed for months. "It got to the point where Deborah
couldn't eat or sleep," says Donchess. "She felt that she'd never
be well again, and her depression overwhelmed her. This is so
tragic because Deborah loved life."
After her divorce Couples pursued an acting career and landed
small roles in movies, including a part in the yet to be released
Venus and the Half Shell. Except for the Christmas cards she sent
every year, Deborah had lost contact with her Tour friends, who
last saw her at the Oct. 29, 1999, funeral for Payne Stewart in
Orlando. Paul Azinger spoke with Deborah that day. "She said she
was teaching Sunday school," says Azinger. "She was really happy.
Now all of a sudden--boom!" (Last week Fred Couples declined
Deborah Couples loved the limelight as much as Fred hated it.
They met as students at Houston in 1979 and were married a year
later. Deborah stood out in Fred's galleries because of her wild
outfits, but her high profile caused friction between her and
Fred. As he was closing in on his second victory, at the '84
Players Championship, he found her in the gallery and said, "In
case I win, don't jump on me again."
By the time Fred won his only major, the '92 Masters, their
marriage was crumbling. The relationship reached its nadir at the
'92 British Open. Deborah came alone to Muirfield in Scotland,
arriving a day before the tournament. Fred missed the cut and
immediately left for home--without his wife. That night she was
dancing on a tabletop in a North Berwick pub when Billy Ray
Brown, a Tour player and a friend of Fred's, intervened. The
Coupleses' divorce was finalized in October 1993. Deborah
remained single, while Fred remarried, to Thais Bren, in
During and after her marriage to Couples, Deborah was passionate
about polo and became a proficient player. Tony Coppola, owner of
Tackeria, an equestrian-equipment chain with two stores in
Wellington, Fla., taught her how to play the game. "She was the
life of the party," he says. The party ended tragically.
NCAA: Upset City
Gilliam, Gators Run Roughshod
Nick Gilliam had made barely a blip on college golf's radar
screen. He was 74th in one national ranking, had the fifth-best
scoring average on his Florida team and had never won a college
tournament. So when Gilliam took the NCAA individual title last
week at Duke, his victory was almost as big a surprise as that of
the underdog Gators in the team championship. "I knew I was
capable of playing like this, only it had never happened before,"
said Gilliam, a 6'5", 207-pound senior who shot a 12-under 276
and was the only player to shoot four rounds under par.
Gilliam, 22, was born in Green Bay and as a high school junior
moved to Gainesville to live with his uncle, Dudley Birder, so he
could play golf year-round. Gilliam accepted a college
scholarship to North Carolina but missed his girlfriend, Erin
Gallagher, so much that he often made the eight-hour drive to
Gainesville on weekends. (The couple plan to marry on Sept. 1.)
After only a semester at North Carolina, Gilliam transferred to
Florida. "I was more than happy to have him," Buddy Alexander,
Florida's coach, joked after the Gators had won their first
national title since 1993 and their fourth overall.
The victory was sentimental for Alexander, whose team had been
ranked as low as 24th and was sixth heading into the finals. The
Gators finished 18 strokes ahead of runner-up Clemson.
Alexander's father, Skip, played for Duke from 1938 to '41 and
then professionally, despite spending four years in the Army
during World War II. Skip made the '49 Ryder Cup team, but he
shattered his left ankle and sustained severe burns in a plane
crash a year later. After recovering, he earned a spot at the
'51 Ryder Cup. He died in 1997 and is buried in Durham, two
miles from the Duke course. Says Buddy, "There's no place I'd
rather have won."
COLOR PHOTO: DARREN CARROLL
There's no better place for a pro to wait out a rain delay than
the locker room at Muirfield Village, site of the Memorial. The
spread includes shrimp the size of lobsters, crab claws, filet
mignon and every conceivable type of candy and chip. There is
also a masseuse, exercise equipment, fireplaces, big-screen TVs
and ceiling-to-floor windows overlooking the 1st and 10th tees
that offer great views of the next approaching thunderstorm.
What do these players have in common?
They're the only Australians to win a USGA title. Graham took
the 1981 U.S. Open, Stephenson the '83 Women's Open, Travis the
Amateur in 1900, '01 and '03, and Webb the Women's Open in 2000
Does Greg Norman deserve a special exemption into the U.S. Open?
--Based on 3,709 responses to our informal survey
Next question: Is walking an integral part of golf? Vote at
U.S. courses that have never hosted a major but should: Bandon
Dunes, Cypress Point, Muirfield Village, National Golf Links,
Pine Valley, Prairie Dunes, Seminole, Sand Hills, The Golf Club,
During last year's British Open on ABC, Tiger Woods was
on-screen more (35% of the time) than all other players combined
(34%). Here's the airtime CBS gave Tiger, his fellow pros and
other aspects of the coverage at this year's Masters and Memorial.
Woods 32% 29%
Other players 36% 45%
Course analysis, ball flight and scenics 17% 20%
Announcers, leader boards and replays 15% 6%
Source: Sponsorship Research Intl.
Casey and His Cart
Last week the Supreme Court ended Casey Martin's 3 1/2-year
crusade against the Tour by ruling that he has a legal right to
ride a cart during Tour events. In a 7-2 vote, the justices
decided that a federal disability-bias law, the Americans with
Disabilities Act, requires the Tour to waive its requirement
that players walk the course. Here are the winners and losers in
Martin v. PGA Tour.
He's got a ticket to ride and can finally focus on his game
He lost his suit versus the USGA, but now he could get his own
A win, finally, after three key Supreme Court defeats
Nike chief knows how to pick 'em. Early benefactor reaps the
Since Casey initiated his suit, course designers have been paying
heed to ADA guidelines
Casey's lead lawyer is in the money! Even better, Tour foots the
Greater Cleveland Open
Be at Quail Hollow Country Club next week or be square
Wasted precious time dealing with distractions
Wasted millions proving "Anything's possible" slogan nothing but
Warn of dire consequences, then say, "It's not personal"
The guys who lost the square grooves case get battered by Casey
Testifies against Martin, then rides (but not always on the 1st
and 18th holes)
With friends like this.... Casey's college roomie wants it both
The next rider
Martin never ripped foes. Next rider has tough act to follow