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SPORTS WEEKEND | GOLF

She's Too Qualified to Have to Qualify

July 03, 1998|Thomas Bonk

After 23 years on the LPGA Tour, 29 victories and five major titles, 42-year- old Amy Alcott looked around on the first tee of U.S. Open qualifying at Mission Viejo Country Club, where 114 showed up to compete for four spots, and noticed she was playing with two women whose combined age was seven years younger than her own.

Alcott, the 1979 U.S. Open champion, qualified for the U.S. Open at Blackwolf Run in Kohler, Wis., even if she probably shouldn't have been forced to go through the whole process. After all, doesn't her 1979 U.S. Open title mean a special exemption, combined with the fact she is only one victory short of automatic entry into the LPGA Hall of Fame?

"It did seem kind of strange," said Alcott, who shot a first-round, eight-over-par 79 Thursday. "I guess that's just the way it is. But there's a part of me who looked at my record and then said, 'Why should I be doing this?' "

Because since 1991, Alcott has been looking for that one victory that's going to get her into the LPGA Hall of Fame, where the standard is 30 victories and two majors. If the men had such a standard, the World Golf Hall of Fame would have to boot such players as Raymond Floyd, Hale Irwin, Gene Littler, Johnny Miller, Nick Faldo and Gary Player.

Alcott said she just wants to be able to win a tournament.

"To be able to win again, it wouldn't prove anything I don't already know," she said. "The Hall of Fame would just be icing on the cake."

The USGA gave its Open special exemptions to Beth Daniel, who has not won a U.S. Open, and 1981 U.S. Open champion Pat Bradley.

MARTIN HURTING

He is making his debut in a PGA Tour event at the Canon Greater Hartford Open and Casey Martin admitted that his leg had been hurting him much more than he would say when he was playing Nike Tour events in April.

"I was really close to stopping playing because of my leg," Martin said. "It's been better the last couple of months because of the cart."

Martin, who also will play next week at the Quad City Classic in Coal Valley, Ill., said he doesn't wake up in the morning feeling like a role model.

"I'm living a dream right now," he said. "Who knows how long it will last? I feel confident. If I play up to my abilities, I'll do well these two weeks. If I play poorly, I could fade into obscurity pretty quick."

On Thursday, he shot a one-over 71 on the 6,820-yard TPC at River Highlands in the opening round at Cromwell, Conn.

GARY ISN'T GOING

It's a case of schedule- snatching, pure and simple, says Gary Player, who isn't going to be at Riviera for the U.S. Senior Open on July 23-26 because of it.

Player is the defending champion of the Senior British Open, which until this year was held the week after the British Open. But this year, the USGA has that date for its U.S. Senior Open, which bumped the Senior British Open to the next week, July 30-Aug. 2 at Royal Portrush in Ireland.

"The USGA is inconsiderate to take that date, I think," Player said.

Now, Player will play the British Open at Royal Birkdale, but he isn't willing to fly here for the U.S. Senior Open, then fly back to Ireland to defend his Senior British Open.

"I'm quite upset about that. I think what's happened is so bad. All the USGA had to do was get on the telephone and just work it out."

EQUIPMENT WARS

It appears as though the dust has settled in the Great Equipment War, marked most notably by the USGA's high-spirited march into the foray that was unequaled except for its own hasty retreat.

Now that the USGA has decided, basically, not to ban clubs that are already in people's hands and instead initiate a testing procedure to make sure future clubheads don't launch golf balls like bazookas, it's time to ask, who won this conflict?

Did the USGA really believe clubmakers that spend $50 million a year on research and development would sit back and say nothing? Given what happened, it probably isn't a stretch to imagine that clubmakers now feel powerful enough to fight any decision they don't like in court.

The USGA made the only logical decision it could. If a standard is needed, the USGA and the clubmakers ought to be able to work on it together.

BUT IN THE NICEST WAY

Looking for her third U.S Open trophy in four years, Annika Sorenstam is one of the favorites, just as surely as Kohler is famous for its plumbing-fixtures plant.

Anyway, Sorenstam is coming off a sizzling 17-under, two-shot victory over Julie Inkster in the ShopRite Classic at Absecon, N.J., last weekend. It was a performance that left Inkster in awe of Sorenstam.

How good is Sorenstam?

Said Inkster: "She's grossly great."

A PLAIN JOE

Joe Durant was merely a 34-year-old nonwinner, a former insurance agent who quit playing golf for a year, whose house in Florida survived two hurricanes, who shot a 68 in the first round of the U.S. Open at the Olympic Club in San Francisco--until last week at the Western Open, which he promptly won.

Durant knew he was cut out for golf despite pessimism that got him out of the game in 1992. That's when he was an insurance agent, but Durant soon realized he wasn't cut out for that job.

"I sold one policy," he said.

A LOT OF HOSPITALITY

Latest estimate on how much revenue from hospitality areas the USGA reaped from the U.S. Open at the Olympic Club: $11 million. The USGA gets $10 million from NBC for the television rights.

BIRDIES, BOGEYS, PARS

According to Sports Business Journal, Nike is planning to introduce golf balls to its product lineup. If so, it's going to be pretty crowded on the driving range. Callaway soon will be launching its own brand of ball into the market, currently dominated by Titleist. In 1997, golf ball sales in the U.S. totaled $889 million.

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