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Families Follow Tour--Par for the Course

January 24, 1988|JACK HAWN

CARLSBAD, Calif. — As wind-whipped rain and hail pelted the Rancho La Costa golf course last Sunday--interrupting and ultimately shortening the 36th annual MONY Tournament of Champions--Shirley Casper and Karen Mowray dried out in the clubhouse.

They had sloshed along the marshy fairways for hours with their husbands, who had been playing in the seniors event, and . . . well, glamorous, they weren't.

Meanwhile, Shannon Pavin and a few other spouses waited inside a warm restaurant for breakfast.

Soon, they were joined by Shannon's husband, professional golfer Corey Pavin, who had managed to get in five holes before the first of several postponements during the on-again, off-again competition.

Pavin removed some wet garments, shook his head disconsolately and took a seat next to his wife.

The day before, he was observed chasing his rambunctious 19-month-old son, Ryan, through another dining room, but the youngster was elsewhere at the moment.

Otherwise, he might have been in his mother's lap when a busboy spilled a cup of hot coffee on Shannon Pavin's arm.

Nothing Unusual

"Ah," Shannon said, shrugging off the minor burn with an exaggerated laugh, "life on the tour."

Rainstorms and spilled coffee are a small part of the problems families of golfers encounter week after week as they follow the pro golf circuit.

But at La Costa, "life on the tour" is supposed to be different. It's one of the most luxurious tour stops and usually it's strictly party time--although dampened a bit this year by the storm.

"It's definitely a vacation for the wives," said Linda Watson, whose husband, Tom Watson, won $616,351 last year.

"This morning I was at two exercise classes and worked out on the treadmill for an hour. And massages, facials, pedicures, manicures, just about anything you want. They do spoil us."

For the golfers and their families, it's a week of free rooms, meals, tennis, spa, beauty parlor, et al, and even the sport's young millionaires lap it up.

Curtis Strange, who will be 33 on Saturday, was the Professional Golf Assn.'s top money winner last year with $925,941, which boosted his career earnings to more than $3 million. But his wife, Sarah, had hoped merely for a tour victory to qualify for the prestigious T of C.

"This is the tournament that when your husband wins, you say, 'Ah! La Costa!' " Sarah Strange said. "You don't even ask how much money was that or that gets me here or that gets me there. We never are treated quite like this (anywhere else)."

Mother of two sons, 5 and 2 1/2, she left her boys home.

"Flat out," she said with a laugh, "this is my week."

However, she flew back to her home in Virginia on Sunday and planned to bring the children to Palm Springs this weekend to see their father play in the Bob Hope Classic, then take them to Phoenix for the following tournament.

"Phoenix is a great week for children," she said. "The child care they have available is nice. The zoo is wonderful. . . . I usually don't see much of the golf course. . . ."

Following Phoenix, the pros play at Pebble Beach, Hawaii, La Jolla and Los Angeles before heading to Florida the first week of March.

A glamorous life?

"I didn't ever think it was glamorous," said Linda Watson, who has a daughter, 8, and a son, 5. "I love the tour. It's been wonderful for us, but there have been a lot of sacrifices.

"Last year I was away from Tom four weeks in a row, the kids five weeks in a row. I don't think there's much glamour in that. . . . Even a traveling salesman gets to see his children more often than that. I think the biggest sacrifice in the world is not being with your family."

Laundromats seem to dominate conversations about tour life, and Linda Watson has plenty to say on the subject. She's been searching for them for years in cities all over the country.

"I never send things out," she said. "I like to know how they're cleaned. Maybe I'm just crazy. I like to know that I put them in and that I use my special detergent. . . . I want them done the way I want them done. It's easier to do it myself."

Linda Miller, wife of veteran pro Johnny Miller, usually brings along domestic help with her brood of six, who range in age from 7 to 17. The kids have been traipsing around the country in their dad's footsteps all their lives.

Teen-age Problems

"With teen-agers, there are different problems," Linda said without elaborating. "They're normal teen-agers--not perfect."

With 11 children (six adopted), Shirley Casper has been visiting Laundromats along the tour for almost two decades.

A few years ago, when Billy Casper was competing in a seniors event in Utah, the family rented a large house for the week. "Everybody came," Shirley said, "except our daughter who lives in northern California. . . . All together (with grandchildren) there were 17 of us."

Although most of the younger wives say their lives are far from glamorous, Shirley disagrees.

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