If Curtis Strange had somehow forgotten that he blew the pivotal singles match against Nick Faldo in last year's Ryder Cup by making bogeys on the last three holes, he got a rude reminder during the second round of the Honda Classic.
Strange and Faldo, playing together for the first time since Oak Hill, had reached the 7th hole at Eagle Trace when a spectator began shouting, among other things, "Bogey, bogey, bogey... Ryder Cup choker!" Faldo confronted the man, later identified as 26-year-old Brian Potash of Pembroke Pines, Fla., and asked marshals to have him removed from the course. The marshals complied, confiscating Potash's weekly badge and turning him over to the police. Potash was not charged with a crime, although Faldo could not think of a more horrible offense. "It was nasty," he said. "It was the worst thing I've seen in almost 20 years of playing golf."
Strange was thankful that Faldo came to his defense. "It was awfully good of Nick to do that," he said. "I didn't feel it was my place to do anything. We had a chuckle about it two holes later, but at the time it wasn't very funny. When it happens, you want to confront the guy, but you don't want to sink to his level."
Potash, who returned to the tournament the next day but did not follow Strange, maintained that he was the one who had been wronged and accused Strange of being thin-skinned. "Strange choked, and now he has to pay the price," Potash said. "In any other sport athletes deal with this stuff all the time. If I had done it during his backswing, then I could see a problem, but he was walking to the green. With these guys anything they want done, it happens, and when they don't like someone, they have him removed. Everything's perfect in their world, but I've got to pay $50 to play golf."
Viva Las Vegas
In Las Vegas everybody loves a winner, which explains why the UNLV golf team might be taking over from the basketball team as the top act in town. A perennial doormat that was turned into a powerhouse by coach Dwaine Knight, who took over in 1988, the Rebel program could be ready for a celebratory Knightcap. UNLV, ranked third nationally, has an excellent chance to win its first NCAA team title, in Chattanooga in June.
Before Knight came to town from New Mexico, UNLV had never finished better than third in the Big West or come close to qualifying for the NCAAs. All that has changed. UNLV has won three of the last four conference titles and made it to the big dance seven straight years, four times finishing in the top eight. The Rebels' best finish was fourth in 1992 (though Warren Schutte won the individual trophy in '91).
With arguably the finest freshman class in the nation to complement a solid cast of upper-classmen, the 1995-96 Rebels are Knight's deepest, most exquisitely assembled team. UNLV already has three wins and two seconds. Last week at the Golf Digest Collegiate Invitational at The Woodlands, near Houston, the Rebels came from 11 strokes back on the final day to beat Oklahoma State, the defending national champion, by three shots.
The Rebels are anchored by seniors Chris Riley, a former All-America who finished third in the NCAAs as a freshman, and Chad Campbell. The team is so deep that junior Mike Ruiz, whose 73.83 stroke average was third-lowest on the team last year, and 1992 Junior World champion Gilberto Morales didn't make the trip to Houston. But unquestionably the Rebels' brightest lights are freshmen Ted Oh and Charley Hoffman, who were the nation's most coveted schoolboy players a year ago. In 1993 Oh, whose O-rating is second only to Tiger Woods's in the college ranks, became the second-youngest player to qualify for the U.S. Open. And last month Hoffman, the only two-time California high school champion, made the cut at the PGA Tour's Buick Invitational, becoming the third amateur to accomplish that feat.
Occasionally Oh and Hoffman carry the team. During the Rebel Classic in the fall, Hoffman shot a team-low 69 on the final day to help UNLV rally from a 14-stroke deficit to a playoff win over Texas Christian. Oh had forced the playoff when he drained a six-foot putt on the final hole of regulation. "By being ready to play right away, Charley and Ted give us depth that we haven't had before," says Rebel assistant coach J.T. Higgins.