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SPORTS WEEKEND | GOLF / THOMAS BONK

This Time Flap Is Over Martin Walking

September 18, 1998|THOMAS BONK

And now for something completely different in the continuing saga of Casey Martin--a controversy that actually doesn't involve a golf cart.

This one is really something else: Who's his agent?

Now, in the semi-static world of pro golf, that's an unusual subject, but as we have learned with Martin, he rarely does anything the usual way.

At stake are Martin's endorsements as well as control of his future earning power, which may or may not stay up there depending on how he plays and whether the novelty of his cart-riding issue wears off.

Last week, Martin's agent resigned from Signature Sports, the Minneapolis-based management firm that represents Martin. Chris Murray told Jim Lehman of Signature Sports that he intended to set up his own firm by the middle of October and that he wanted to take Martin with him.

"He did not take it very well," Murray said of Lehman. "That's too bad. It's not a personal issue. I hope we can continue to be friends."

Lehman, who is Tom Lehman's brother, said he hopes to resolve the issue after talking with Martin, which he hasn't done yet. But Lehman has spoken with King and Melinda Martin, Casey's parents.

"It's my understanding they were going to make some time for us to talk to him," Lehman said. "Hopefully, we'll continue to represent him."

However, Murray said Martin already has given notice to Signature that he is going with Imani Sports, Murray's soon-to-be-launched company. Murray also indicated that at least two other Signature clients--golfer Scott Gump and Laker draft choice Sam Jacobson of the University of Minnesota--are following Martin to Imani. Murray said he is less sure about Tommy Armour III.

Imani, by the way, means "believe" in Swahili, a word Murray picked up after climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro. Murray's financial backer in Imani is Rick Born, who owns a computer consulting business in Wayzata, Minn.

Lehman said the fact that Signature is established should mean something.

"We have an existing business here," he said.

Meanwhile, figure out the money trails. The management fees from Martin's endorsements that he signed with Signature--Nike, Hartford Life and Ping--will remain with Signature. The fees from any new deals that Murray makes for Martin will go to Imani--if that's where he ultimately winds up.

"It'll eventually get resolved, one way or the other," Lehman said.

JUST A SECOND

For what it's worth, Payne Stewart has finished second 23 times, but he's not close to being the leader in the clubhouse in the runner-up race. Jack Nicklaus has finished second 58 times.

IT'S EVOLUTION

He eats volcanic sand to cleanse his system and he wears blinking lights on his head during airplane flights to balance both sides of his brain, but there's more to Jesper Parnevik than meets the eye. He also believes in reincarnation.

"Evolution doesn't go backward, and if you have once become a human being you will stay a human being," he told Golf Digest. "Jesper Parnevik will not be an ant in his next life. I hope.

"The more lives you live, the more you learn. Death is for me a kind of summer camp. The next time . . . you will be better prepared to know what to do."

PRESS RELATIONS 101

With only 10 of the top 30 money winners playing the Canadian Open last week, Canadian reporters were indignant that their national championship drew such scant interest. Hal Sutton was not amused when asked by reporters about the lack of star power.

Said Sutton: "I'm about sick and tired of that stuff. I take that personally. As far as I'm concerned, everybody on the PGA Tour is a star--unlike you all."

CONGRATULATIONS

A good year for Fred Couples became an even better one when he got married to Thais Bren in a small ceremony in the backyard of their Brentwood home last Saturday.

Couples, who has won twice and banked $1.6 million in only 15 events, might play only one more regular-season event, the Las Vegas Invitational, before the Tour Championship.

TEST THEIR METAL

All right, put this under the least-likely-to-pass-the-metal-

detector-in-the-airport category: golf balls with tungsten.

Srixon makes the Metal Mix SF golf balls, which you can add to the ones on the market by other companies that feature titanium. What's next, aluminum?

'IN THIS CORNER . . . '

The USGA will hold its first Town Hall meeting on its controversial technology testing at its Far Hills, N.J., headquarters on Sept. 29, and all it needs is a ring announcer. The idea is for the USGA to invite the equipment manufacturers to talk about the testing protocol, but chances are it's not going to be a very friendly chat.

Last week, Wally Uihlein of Titleist fired off a testy seven-page missive to the USGA suggesting the whole testing procedure be scrapped. Callaway sent a similarly worded letter to the USGA the week before.

BIRDIES, BOGEYS, PARS

Lee Trevino and Chi Chi Rodriguez have entered the Pacific Bell Senior Classic to be played Oct. 26-Nov. 1 at Wilshire Country Club. Gil Morgan is the two-time defending champion of the event, which also is expected to include Arnold Palmer, Raymond Floyd and, in a rare appearance, Johnny Miller. If Palmer enters, it may be his first tournament since his new round of chemotherapy treatments for prostate cancer began two weeks ago.

The Santa Barbara County Championship will be played Oct. 3-4 at La Purisima and Sandpiper. The entry deadline is Sept. 28. Details: (805) 735-8395.

Glen Campbell, Trace Adkins, Kenny Chesney, Ty Herndon, Toby Keith, Tracy Lawrence, John Michael Montgomery, Collin Raye, Aaron Tippin and Daryle Singletary are among the country singers who will play in the Academy of Country Music's Bill Boyd charity golf classic Oct. 12 at De Bell Golf Course in Burbank. Details: (323) 462-2351.

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