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Norman Peeved as Shinnecock Fans Turn Into Shark Hunters

June 15, 1986|RANDY HARVEY | Times Staff Writer

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. — This quaint, oceanside resort village near the east end of Long Island usually attracts the genteel society crowd from New York City, which is a two-hour ride from here on the express train, or an hour and a half by limousine.

But the trains from Penn Station this weekend have deposited a different sort of crowd in the Hamptons. There has been an invasion of the unwashed masses, which undoubtedly is one of the reasons that members of Shinnecock Hills, one of the world's most exclusive golf clubs, were hesitant about playing host to the U.S. Open for the second time since 1896.

After Saturday's third round, it probably will be another 90 years before the members agree to hold one again. They no doubt were embarrassed when the tournament leader, Australian Greg Norman, said he had never played in front of a gallery so crude.

"I haven't experienced this anywhere else in the world," Norman said.

Taking crowd control into his own hands, Norman went over the rope and into the gallery to confront one heckler whom he found particularly offensive.

For Norman, the incident occurred at the most crucial point of the day, perhaps of the tournament. He had just taken a 6 on the par-4 No. 13 and lost a three-stroke lead to playing partner Lee Trevino, who birdied the hole.

As Norman addressed his ball on the No. 14 tee-box, a man who appeared to be in his early 20s began heckling the golfer.

"Norman, you're choking," said the man, who was wearing a white shirt that was unbuttoned, revealing his bare chest.

Norman didn't flinch, hitting a solid drive down the middle of the fairway.

Norman then began searching the gallery for the man. When he found him, the man smiled at Norman.

The smile quickly disappeared when the man saw Norman step over the rope. If this were a movie, the theme from "Jaws" would have been playing. Norman's nickname is the Shark.

He looked as if he were about to put a loud-mouthed shrimp on the barbie.

"If you want to say that, I'll talk to you afterward," Norman told the man. "But shut your face."

"Oh, I'm sorry," the man said.

Norman stalked away, not acknowledging the apology.

Neither did Norman's caddy, who told the man, "That shows no class."

What did he expect in New York?

A couple of holes later, another fan let him know.

"Hey, Norman," the fan said as the golfer was about to tee off on No. 16, "you're in New York. You've got to expect an abusive crowd."

By then, Norman had regained his composure. He parred the final five holes. When Trevino took a bogey on No. 18, Norman went to the clubhouse with a one-shot lead entering today's final 18 holes.

That soothed him, but not enough to forgive and forget.

"It was like a hockey match or a football match," Norman said of the crowd.

The difference is that a heckler most likely would have been ignored in hockey or football. In football, the kind that Norman referred to, the only way a fan attracts attention is if he starts a riot or burns down the stadium.

It is a good thing for Norman that he does not have to play in the other U.S. Open, the one for tennis that is held about 100 miles from here in Flushing Meadow. South African Kevin Curren said last year that the place should have a bomb dropped on it.

But in golf, even more so than tennis, the players are not accustomed to boisterous fans. In golf, this is as close to hooliganism as it gets.

Even Trevino, hero of the common man, complained Saturday.

"This has always been a gentleman's game," he said. "We always take pride in keeping it a clean sport. We want to keep it fair for everyone."

Trevino, however, said he plays better when he senses that crowds are against him.

"It pulls you up," he said.

Asked when a crowd has ever been against him, Trevino laughed.

"I never remember one rooting against me," he said.

That might have been the problem Saturday. Norman's gallery was swarming with Lee's Fleas.

For that reason, even though Norman said he enjoys playing with Trevino, the Australian will not mind being paired today with Hal Sutton, a fine player but one who does not inspire the masses. Bob Tway has the honor of playing with Trevino. Tway's followers are known as Tway's Twoops. They will be overmatched by the Fleas.

"I hope Lee takes the rowdies with him," Norman said.

In all fairness to the members of the gallery, Norman did not want to fight all of them. Just one.

"If he'd said that to me in the car park, he'd have had a face full of fingers," Norman said.

"Out of 17,000 people, there were only about 100 or 200 who thought they could say whatever they wanted to say. But they ruin the day for the golfers. They also ruin the day for the gallery because no one wants to stand next to a horse's ass."

Norman said he had second thoughts about the confrontation but no regrets.

"I didn't show enough cool and calm, but I'm not the kind of guy who can hold it in," he said. "I don't like to be abused without being able to defend myself.

"But maybe it's part of winning the championship in someone else's country. If you can put up with it and still win the tournament, maybe it makes you a better person."

As a joke, Norman was asked if the crowd was anti-Australian.

"Maybe," Norman said, laughing. "Americans are jacked up because we took America's Cup away from them. A couple of people have asked me why I want the U.S. Cup if I already have America's Cup."

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