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Deejay Helped May Reach Station in Life

September 01, 2000|TIM BROWN

Bobby May, then 23, stood on the first tee at Bel-Air Country Club, the skyline of UCLA before him, the graphite of radio behind him.

Eight years before the back nine at Valhalla with Tiger Woods, there was the front nine at Bel-Air with Rick Dees.

Eddie Merrins, the longtime pro at Bel-Air, and Ed White, Dees' business manager, set up the round. May hoped someone would sponsor his fledgling golf career, getting him through Q-school and the first thin years of the PGA Tour. It had come to that.

Dees, a radio personality at KIIS-FM, hoped he didn't snap-hook a drive off Brenda, May's fiancee.

"I had graphite everything," Dees recalled, "trying to impress whoever was there. And they introduce me to this small guy."

It was May, maybe 5 feet 7 and a little uncomfortable with the idea of lining up sponsors.

"He's consistent," Merrins had told Dees, "but he's putting so much pressure on himself. He feels funny about being sponsored. He thought he should just make it on his own."

Dees looked at May and wondered if he could hit it. You know, really hit it.

"I could have sworn when he hit the ball it was going to hit the top of Pauley Pavilion," Dees said. "I was stunned. I looked at him and said, 'How does a body that size generate club-head speed like that?' So, he has a wedge in. He just throttled the earth, and I heard Chinese voices coming out of this hole. I thought, 'Who is this?' He eagled the hole, shot a 64 or 65."

Like that, May had himself a sponsor. Many, actually. Before he went off to PGA qualifying school, May's list of 10 sponsors would include Dees, White and Joe Pesci.

Flush with the $75,000 investment in his golf future, May failed to get through Q-school. He telephoned the sponsors and asked if they wouldn't mind if he took his game and their money to the Asian tour. Not at all, they said.

"Because if you can hit balls with cobras in the shade," Dees said, "you can play anywhere."

A year later, May paid them all back. They refused his request to include interest.

"So," Dees said, "we broke even and got a tremendous insight into what intestinal fortitude it takes to perform at the highest level of the game.

"At a certain point, on that professional level, the mental side of the game has to mature. It will either kick in or you'll drive yourself crazy as a professional golfer. He allowed it to gradually germinate and he really started to make it. But, in the back of his mind, he always thought, 'I need to go back home and prove myself.' The bloom came, obviously, at the PGA."

Watching that final-round back nine at Valhalla, Dees admitted, "I was as nervous as a busboy at Hooter's."

And he found himself . . . proud.

"I get the most pleasure," he said. "Like Walter Mitty, you know? There's a piece of me that's Bob May swinging. Of course, I'll never get that chance. But it is the greatest reward and satisfaction to see such a wonderful person do well. Because he is a great guy."


In the moments before he falls asleep, when today rushes back, when tomorrow calls, Tiger Woods does not become Michael Jordan. He is not Babe Ruth. Or Muhammad Ali.

He is a guy who hits golf shots, still. That, he said, is how he sees himself.

Even after all of this, the most dynamic golf ever played, Woods knows only the last shot, and the next one. That is what he said.

Asked Monday night at Bighorn Golf Club, in the throes of a shivering-in-the-desert flu, if he ever did consider the depth and breadth of his stature, Woods, only 24, smiled and shook his head.

"The quick answer," he said, "is no. I haven't thought about it. For one, I'm living the moment as of right now. I think when your career's winding down and you're on the downward spiral of it, that's when you can look back and reflect and have a better understanding of what you were able to accomplish throughout your career. Right now, I don't know what my peak is. Have I passed it? Am I at it right now? I don't know."

Woods shrugged.

"I'll have a better answer for you in a few decades," he said.


Althea Gibson recently celebrated her 73rd birthday with friends at her New Jersey home. The first black to play on the LPGA Tour, Gibson told the Chicago Sun-Times through a friend that she never misses Woods on television.

"It I were Tiger's age," she said, "I would marry him and make him the perfect wife."

Gibson told Fran Gray, director of the Althea Gibson Foundation, that Woods reminds her of her late husband, Will, in appearance and composure.

"It takes her back in time to her relationship with Will, which was a real love story," Gray said.

Gibson had a stroke about five years ago and suffers from degenerative arthritis. She still knows her golf, though. And her men.


May, protagonist in Woods' PGA Championship saga, is still out there. He placed third at the Reno-Tahoe Open last weekend, finishing one shot out of the Scott Verplank-Jean Van de Velde playoff, which Verplank won.

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