Notes, Quotes and News from the World of Golf
Tom Kite and Seve Ballesteros have made it clear they would like to be playing captains in the 1997 Ryder Cup. That seemed less far-fetched after Kite won the OKI Pro-Am over the weekend and Ballesteros finished third.
``I think it would be fun if we both made the team,″ Kite said in a telephone interview from Madrid where the OKI Pro-Am was held. ``It would be a neat experience and it would bring a new twist to the competition.″
The United States hasn’t had a playing captain since Arnold Palmer in 1963.
Both because the 1997 Ryder Cup will be played in Ballesteros’ native Spain and because Seve is Seve, it will be easier for him to select himself to the team if he doesn’t earn his way on than it would for Kite.
``I’m going to try to be on the team, but it doesn’t worry me,″ Ballesteros said before the OKI. ``It’s next August when I have to make the decision. Then I will know my form and will either choose myself or get myself off the team.″
Ten players qualify for each team based on points and the captains choose the last two players.
``I’m going to try to add something to the team that we need,″ Kite said about his captain’s choices. ``If there are a bunch of first timers, then I think it would be very smart to add some experience,″ he said.
``If I get a very experienced team then I can be a little more daring with the young guys.″
Like perhaps Tiger Woods. Or, if he needs experience, perhaps Tom Kite.
FOR APPEARANCE SAKE: Greg Norman, who gets $200,000 to show up at tournaments in his native Australia, agreed to play in the 1997-2000 Australian Opens for free.
While some in the business end of the game insisted that Norman would get what amounts to an appearance fee through his endorsement deal with Holden vehicles, most players were delighted by the news.
``I think Greg wants all the appearance money rubbish to stop,″ said Wayne Grady, referring to criticism Norman gets from the Australian press when he is paid to return home to play.
``What Greg’s doing is a great gesture and it’s got nothing to do with money,″ said Grady, the 1990 PGA winner.
Ian Baker-Finch, one on Norman’s closer friends, made a reference to the fact that Tiger Woods was getting more money than Norman to play in the Australian Open next month.
``I’d certainly pay Greg Norman $250,000 before I’d pay Tiger Woods the same fee, that’s for sure,″ Baker-Finch said.
RUNUP TO WALKER CUP: When the best amateurs from the United States and Britain gather at Quaker Ridge Country Club for next year’s Walker Cup matches, they will find some familiar conditions in a very unfamiliar setting.
The club and the U.S. Golf Association already are preparing the 6,700-yard, par-70 layout in typical USGA style. Officials said they would grow the rough to about 3 1/2 inches and set the greens at 10.5 on the Stimpmeter to start.
The last time Quaker Ridge hosted a big tournament was 1936, when Byron Nelson won the Met Open, considered at the time one of the game’s more prestigious events. That was Nelson’s first tournament victory.
Quaker Ridge is a relatively small club in the Westchester County suburbs northeast of New York City. It was designed by A.W. Tillinghast, the storied golf course architect who also laid out neighboring Winged Foot, site of next summer’s PGA Championship.
One unique feature of the tree-lined course is the circular route of the first eight holes. All run around the perimeter of the property, and all are out-of-bounds on the right.
``Tillinghast was probably a hooker,″ said Martin Davis, a Quaker Ridge member and owner of the American Golfer publishing company.
GREAT BALLS OF FIRE: The technology explosion sweeping through golf clubs has spilled over to balls. Earlier this year there was the Top-Flite Strata, a three-piece ball going for $54 a dozen.
Now Wilson has come out with the first titanium core golf ball. The Wilson Staff Titanium Spin, with a surlyn cover, will sell for $37 a dozen and the Wilson Staff Titanium Distance will go for $35 a dozen. Both will be available in early December.
The Wilson Staff Titanium Balata, at $43 a dozen, will be available in April.
The company says the titanium core helps the ball fly farther because it retains more energy generated by the clubhead.
CHIP SHOTS: Tiger Woods and Mark O’Meara are the only two players on tour this year with four consecutive top-five finishes. Phil Mickelson, Tommy Tolles and Justin Leonard have three each. ... Tom Lehman will miss at least part of the west coast PGA Tour next year. The British Open champion has committed to play in the South Australian Open in February. ... Robert Allenby, who fractured his sternum in a car crash, will tee off in the Volvo Masters in Spain next week and then withdraw. Allenby, third on the European tour money list, earns a bonus for finishing third, but it would only be added to his total if he tees off in the tournament. If Allenby finishes third on the money list he gets a Masters invitation. ... The Golf Channel has another hot property this weekend. After having almost exclusive coverage of Tiger Woods’ phenomenal debut as a pro, TGC has the Disney this week and thus will have first word on who makes the Tour Championship and who gets 1997 tour cards. ... The 1998 Nissan Open will be played at Valencia Country Club, pending the expected approval of the PGA Tour Policy Board. The site change is because Riviera Country Club will host the 1998 U.S. Senior Open. The Nissan will return to Riviera in 1999 and 2000. ... The PGA Tour’s minority internship program for qualified college students is entering its sixth year. Applications are due March 3 for the internships which will be offered June 2 through Aug. 1, 1997. Students interested in applying should call Aleizha Batson at (904) 285-3700.