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Author Focuses on Golf Fiction

March 21, 2000

What would happen if John Grisham ever decided to write a book about golf?

Meet Mike Veron, a trial lawyer from Louisiana with a passion for golf who came up with a fascinating piece of fiction that Sleeping Bear Press released this month.

``The Greatest Golfer Who Never Lived″ is a story about Beau Steadman, a former caddie at East Lake who once beat Bobby Jones before he was wrongly accused of murder and spent the rest of his life as a fugitive.

To quench Steadman’s thirst for competition, Jones arranged exhibitions against all the greats of the game. Playing under an assumed name, Steadman competed against everyone from Walter Hagen and Gene Sarazen to Ben Hogan and Sam Snead, even a young U.S. Amateur champion named Arnold Palmer.

The story is told through a first-year law student who gets a job as a clerk with Jones’ firm in Atlanta and stumbles across a file that leads him on a mystery he spends the entire summer trying to solve.

Just as compelling is how Veron, who specializes in commercial litigation for Fortune 500 companies, went from attorney to author.

``I’ve published legal literature, but that’s dry, boring stuff,″ Veron said. ``I was in Baton Rouge over a three-day period and played `What if?′ What if a law clerk was going back to Jones’ firm and round a remarkable story hidden away in the files?″

Veron is no stranger to golf. He was club champion and club president at Lake Charles Country Club, worked for the USGA greens section on agronomy issues and is an official at U.S. Amateur qualifying events.

He also is a big fan of Jones, who won 13 majors by the time he was 28 and, like Veron, was an attorney.

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NEW SHOWDOWN: Tiger Woods will return to prime-time television this summer, but at a new course and against a new challenger.

Woods will play an 18-hole match against Sergio Garcia at Bighorn Golf Club, according to sources close to both players who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The ``Battle of Bighorn″ will take place Aug. 28 in Palm Desert, Calif., and will be televised by ABC on the last Monday night before the NFL season begins. The purse, which is likely to increase, was $1.5 million last year, with $1.1 going to the winner and each player donating $200,000 to charity.

Woods beat David Duval 2 and 1 last year in the ``Showdown at Sherwood,″ an exhibition that drew a 7.4 overnight rating.

The appeal of Woods and Garcia could be even greater. Both are young and charismatic and already have a history from the PGA Championship, in which Woods held off a furious charge by ``El Nino″ to win at Medinah.

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SAME OLD STADIUM: The Players Championship always brings out the debate whether it should be considered a fifth major. Here’s one vote against.

``If you’re going to have a major championship, it shouldn’t be held at the same course every year, other than Augusta,″ said Jim Furyk, who lives near the Stadium Course and plays it a dozen times a year.

Furyk says some players have a distinct advantage at certain courses.

``As far as putting it in a major championship category, my personal belief is that’s what hurts it,″ he said. ``Not that this is a poor course. I just feel like if it were really The `Players’ Championship, we would move it.″

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TIGER TIDBITS: By winning the Bay Hill Invitational for his 11th victory worldwide in the past 10 months, Tiger Woods increased his record in the world ranking to 22.87 points, and established another mark by taking a 10.28-point lead over David Duval.

The previous marks were 22.26 points, and a 9.63 point lead.

Other Tiger factoids: He has won most of his tournaments in California, Florida and Illinois (three each), with two wins in Texas, Georgia and Ohio.

In 24 victories, including unofficial events, 18 players have finished second to Woods. The leader in the clubhouse is Davis Love III (four times).

He also joined Fred Couples has the only players to have won all three PGA Tour events with storied players as the tournament host _ Bay Hill (Arnold Palmer), the Memorial (Jack Nicklaus) and the Byron Nelson Classic.

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THE KING AND MONTY: Arnold Palmer never stops showing his class.

A year ago in the Bay Hill Invitational, Colin Montgomerie was relegated to the first tee time Thursday morning, usually set aside for the less marquee players.

While the Scotsman is ranked No. 3 in the world and has won the European tour money title a record seven straight years, he has yet to win on the PGA Tour and thus is not afforded better tee times.

This year, Palmer took matters into his own hands and requested that Montgomerie play with him. It also eliminated any potential heckling that Montgomerie tends to endure in America.

Asked if he ordered up the pairing, Palmer smiled and said, ``I suggested if it could work out.″

Montgomerie, who wasn’t planning on playing Bay Hill, was appreciative.

``He’s a joy to play with,″ he said. ``I appreciated him bothering to take the time to play with me. He realized the type of atmosphere that can greet me here in America. Nothing is going to happen with him around.″

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DIVOTS: The final round of the Bay Hill produced an overnight rating of 5.3, the highest for Bay Hill since 1989, and up 20 percent from last year. It was the first time Tiger Woods had won on the PGA Tour in an event televised by NBC Sports. ... The Buick Challenge in Callaway Gardens, Ga., is getting a real shot in the arm. Not only will the purse increase $1 million to $3.1 million for 2001, it will take over the prized slot in the schedule the week before the Tour Championship. Also, ABC Sports will broadcast the final round next year, instead of ESPN. ... Lee Westwood has parted ways with longtime coach Pete Cowan and now will work with David Leadbetter. This follows good friend Darren Clarke’s decision last year to leave Cowan for Butch Harmon. ... The Royal and Ancient has scheduled a four-hole event for all the past champions of the British Open to commemorate the first Open of the new millennium

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STAT OF THE WEEK: Tiger Woods has never shot in the 60s in The Players Championship.

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FINAL WORD: ``Out of debt, hopefully.″ _ John Daly, asked where he sees himself in five years.

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