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CHRIS FOSTER : Crying Wulfe in a Crowd

October 25, 1994|CHRIS FOSTER

Seconds left. Everything is riding on this shot.

Tiger Woods has the ball. He putts, it's in! Oh what a play! The crowd is surging forward. They're carrying Woods off the course, shouting, "We're No. 1."

You see, it just doesn't work.

When this A-to-Z thing was brought up, I made one demand. Troy's Mark Wulfemeyer had to be on the list, no ifs, ands or putts.

But the powers that be--all golfers I might add--insist that Tiger Woods is the greatest high school athlete in Orange County history. Guys, no one cares about golf, except the fanatics who play it. It's a cult, not a sport.

OK, so they number in the millions. Big deal. So do the Shriners.

Folks, Tiger Woods? Nice guy. Great golfer. Going to make a pocket full of cash someday. But it's golf. Golf. Gerald Ford plays golf.

Come on, the golf team is what you join if the chess club is full.

Wulfemeyer, now there was an athlete.

He could have been a tremendous option quarterback, but his limbs were far too valuable. He was an overpowering pitcher, when he found the plate. He even signed with the Angels. But don't hold that against him.

What made him a legend, though, was basketball. No one played it better, before or since.

Did Tom Lewis just wheeze?

Sorry Tom, Wulfemeyer still holds the county career scoring record (2,608 points). Lewis couldn't catch him even with three fun-filled, run-up-the-score years at Mater Dei. Lewis had it made. He had Division I talent all around him. Wulfemeyer had the sixth period P.E. class.

Defenders were draped all over him and still he scored. Why, he hit his first seven shots in his first varsity game, as a freshman. He scored 27 that night, a prelude.

Wulfemeyer averaged 27 points for his career. As a senior, he averaged 36.

One night against Kennedy, Wulfemeyer pumped in 55 points. Those in attendance say he would have had 70 if there had been a three-point line in those days. He, not nature, dictated range. Why, legend has it, he sank eight half-court shots as a senior.

Wulfemeyer stories are plentiful, most are true. You enjoy telling them. It's hard to imagine years from now someone getting teary-eyed saying to his grandson, "I remember the day Tiger Woods had that birdie."

Eagles? Birdies? What is this, ornithology? The only "bogey" I care about wore a trench coat. Besides, how can "below par" be a good thing in sports?

Sure, Tiger is destined for greatness. You'll see him lining up a putt someday on TV. You'll catch a glimpse as you channel hop in search of a basketball game.

And sure, Wulfemeyer never did much after high school. But that's what legends are about. No one remembers the acquitted.

Even his flop was a half-court blunder. Tarkanian wanted him, badly. Gee, a run-and-gun player at a run-and-gun school? Frightening. Epic. Instead, he tried to play for Mr. Pass-and-Pick at USC.

A sportswriter, the story goes, approached Trojan Coach Bob Boyd one day and asked about Wulfemeyer. It went something like . . .

"How's he doing, Bob?"

"I don't know, he doesn't seem to be fitting in. He keeps shooting those 25-footers."

"Are they going in?"

"Well, yeah. But that's not our offense."

. . . 'nuff said.

Wulfemeyer was gone. He finished at Marymount College, a little NAIA school in Kansas. Yeah, he was a supernova. He went hot and quick, but he glowed.

So, go ahead you Philistines, make a golfer a false idol. I'll take Wulfemeyer. He was stratospheres above par.

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