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Golf / Mal Florence : Europeans May Have to Take a Hard Stance

June 18, 1989|Mal Florence

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — There's a recurring theme here at the 89th U.S. Open that isn't related to the activity on the course.

Seve Ballesteros has said that some prominent foreign players will drop out of the PGA Tour in a few years if requirements for membership aren't reduced from 15 to 12 tournaments.

Ballesteros is supported in his view by West Germany's Bernhard Langer and Britain's Nick Faldo and Sandy Lyle.

However, PGA Tour Commissioner Deane Beman has been emphatic in retaining the status quo.

"It's very difficult to play on both the European and American tours," Langer said. "I have a family and I'd like to spend some time with them. Our tours in Europe have grown tremendously. We have 36, or 38 events, compared to 20 a few years ago.

"I feel I have to support the European tours. I still feel more European than American.

"We hope things will change in the future and we hope that talking to Deane Beman and some of the other people involved that they might listen and try to accommodate us. That's all we can do."

Faldo says that it's not the actual participation in the tournaments that's at issue but the traveling and fatigue factor involved.

"It's not the 15 weeks of playing, but what's added onto it," Faldo said. "From door to door, it's about 15 to 18 hours of traveling and to do it properly, you can't come and play five weeks and take one week off.

"Fifteen weeks, with rest, all of a sudden becomes 22 weeks. It's a big chunk of the year to play. Rest is the bottom line."

Langer agrees with Faldo, saying, "I can't play 15 tournaments in a row. You need a few breaks in between and it's very difficult going back and forth. We only have to play nine tournaments on the European tour."

Ballesteros, Langer and Lyle met recently with Beman and members of the PGA Tournament Policy Board in an effort to get a reduction in the required number of tournaments.

Larry Mize and John Mahaffey represent the players on the policy board.

Mize is sympathetic to the foreign players' problem, saying, "Sometimes they think we don't want them over here. That's wrong. We do want them. Ours is the best tour and you want the best players on the tour."

Ballesteros has said that American golfers unanimously support the foreign players' position. Not necessarily.

"It's our tour," Fuzzy Zoeller said. "They should play by our rules. We're in America. You play by American rules."

Scott Simpson said he has mixed feelings about the possibility of changing the number of tournaments from 15 to 12 to accommodate the foreigners.

"If they are good enough to play in our tournaments, then they should be over here," he said. "But, at the same time, 15 was OK for Seve a few years ago. He agreed to that and then he decided he didn't want to do it.

"Now, all of a sudden, everyone else is a bad guy just because he changed his mind. I'm not on the policy board, though, so it's not important what I think."

Tom Kite said he believes that 12 is a reasonable number for the foreigners to participate actively on the U.S. tour.

"But the problem is that if you change it for one group, then you have to change it for everybody," he said. "If, all of a sudden, you say every member of the PGA Tour has to play 12 versus 15, you're hurting the tournament sponsors. You might be cutting off your nose to spite your face."

If the top foreign players decide to boycott the U.S. tour in the future, the paying public would be cheated. Ballesteros, Langer, Faldo and Lyle are elite players.

"We may have to take tough measures, like not playing here," Lyle said.

Lee Trevino is a celebrity as a player and television announcer and has been mobbed by autograph seekers at the Oak Hill course, site of the Open.

However, Trevino remembers that when he first played here, in 1968, looking for his first tour win, he was virtually ignored.

"I would sit in a golf cart outside of the pro shop drinking beer for two or three hours and nobody every stopped by to say hello," Trevino recalled. "Maybe they thought I was the golf cart guy."

He was soon to be recognized as the winner of the 1968 Open.

Golf Notes

In an effort to keep Europe's top golfers at home, the PGA European tour will expand its calendar next year with the addition of a $672,000 tournament in Las Brisas, Spain. . . . Free lessons will be provided to Los Angeles golfers under 18 during Junior Golf Week June 27-29 at three city courses--Rancho Park, Sepulveda and Hansen Dam. . . . The 1990 schedule for the Senior PGA Tour has a record 42 events and $15 million in prize money. A new event is scheduled in Cincinnati with a purse of $500,000. . . . Jackie Tobian-Steinmann, UCLA women's golf coach, has been inducted into the College Women's Golf Hall of Fame.

Pat Bradley, the first $2-million winner on the women's pro tour, her mother and her five brothers have been honored as the 1989 Jack Nicklaus Family Golf Award, given in recognition of the importance of families in bringing new players to the game. . . . Ben Davidson, former player for the Oakland Raiders, heads the list of celebrities playing Monday in the sixth annual Mission Viejo Classic at Mission Viejo CC. The tournament is a benefit for the National Foundation of Wheelchair Tennis and its Junior Wheelchair Sports Camp program.

Jim Wahl and Rick Ruppert have been named co-head professionals at Desert Horizons CC in Indian Wells. . . . The 1989 inductees for the PGA/World Golf Hall of Fame include Raymond Floyd, Nancy Lopez, Roberto De Vicenzo and the late Jim Barnes. They will be enshrined Nov. 4 at Pinehurst, N.C.

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