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THE INSIDE TRACK | PAGE TWO / RANDY HARVEY

The Positive With Tiger Far Outweighs Negative

June 12, 1997|RANDY HARVEY

I am not Tiger Woods. I can't even imagine what it's like to be him. Maybe the only people in the world who can are the president, the pope and Dennis Rodman.

Like them, every move Woods makes is dissected. I've been critical because he didn't accept Bill Clinton's invitation to join him in honoring Jackie Robinson at Shea Stadium and because Woods practices at a Houston course that excludes women.

If what I've heard since is true, I will give him a break on the first. He already had a date with model Tyra Banks. That's a choice most 21-year-old single heterosexual males probably would have made.

Regardless of how I feel about Woods' priorities, or whether he has any more important than a birdie on the next hole, he is one of the most positive forces the sports world has seen.

I was reminded of that Wednesday when Steve Soboroff, president of the L.A. Board of Recreation and Parks Commission, told the Valley Development Forum about a plan to reopen Coolidge Golf Course in Griffith Park as a center for teaching the game to "at-risk" youths.

Coolidge was closed in 1981 because the city no longer could afford a nine-hole, pitch-and-putt course. Now the city no longer can afford to fence in the course when it could be providing recreation for city kids who have found inspiration in Woods' success.

It's not a big project. Soboroff, who emphasizes no city money will be used, said between $500,000 and $1 million in private funds is needed to reclaim Coolidge from the weeds and transform it into a three-hole course with driving ranges, putting greens and sand traps as components in an open-air classroom.

This is merely the latest in the local golf community's efforts to remove the imaginary out-of-bounds signs from the sport. The LPGA's Urban Youth Golf Program began working with public courses to expand opportunities for young players long before Woods wore his first swoosh. Now, because of him, its waiting list is longer than one of his drives.

Ultimately, the success of programs such as that is more significant than whether he wins the U.S. Open.

*

"The Catch" by Angel center fielder Jim Edmonds on Tuesday night made the ball Willie Mays chased down off Vic Wertz's bat look like a Texas Leaguer. . . .

Players like Edmonds who aren't afraid to sacrifice their bodies are the type Terry Collins believes can keep the Angels in contention all season. . . .

On the other hand, sacrificing his body is one reason Edmonds is so frequently injured. Some Angel followers thought he was a better first-base candidate than Darin Erstad because there are fewer opportunities to run through walls. . . .

It's interesting to hear some of the same Astros who wanted Collins fired last season in Houston compliment him for his success with the Angels. . . .

They wondered if Collins could relate to them because he'd never been a big league player. Now they're wondering if former pitcher Larry Dierker can lead because he's never been a manager.

No wonder the Astros are a .500 team. They can't make up their minds. . . .

Rod Carew, who lost 18-year-old daughter Michelle to leukemia last year, is host of a charity golf tournament Monday at Pelican Hill Golf Club in Newport Beach. Proceeds benefit the Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation. . . .

Of all the people who complained about the drastic measures taken Wednesday by Cal State Northridge, I didn't hear one offer to pay off the $800,000 athletic department debt. . . .

Does anyone really believe CSUN administrators would have dropped two of their most successful sports teams, baseball and men's volleyball, if there had been a way around it? . . .

If the Big West Conference would admit the Matadors and allow them, like Long Beach State and Cal State Fullerton, to drop football, that would solve most of their problems. . . .

Until then, they are stuck in the Big Sky Conference with such natural rivals as Montana and Boise State. . . .

Volleyball is having a tough month. After 38 years in Manhattan Beach, the world's premier beach volleyball tournament moves Friday through Sunday to Hermosa Beach. . . .

"It's like my soul has been ripped out," four-time winner Mike Dodd said. . . .

Hail to the Sportswriter. . . .

Newt Gingrich wants equal time to write about the upcoming NASCAR race in Fontana.

*

While wondering what took baseball so long, I was thinking: Interleague play is reviving interest in the sport, Tiger won't win the U.S. Open by 12 shots, 10 maybe.

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