NBC, whose careful nurturing of the USGA led last October to a five-year extension of its contract to televise the association's championships, may have damaged the relationship by signing Kevin Costner to do the narration for the opening segment of this Saturday's Open telecast. Some USGA officials feel that by linking the Open to the prerelease hype surrounding Tin Cup, the heavily promoted, R-rated movie featuring Costner as a golfer trying to win the event, NBC has tainted the national championship with commercialism. But what they really find distressing is that the network can unilaterally make decisions that imply that the USGA is a partner in such a promotion. "We don't sign off on everything they do," admits USGA executive director David Fay.
Others feel that using a movie star like Costner as a spokesman for golf is great for the game, and that all the hand-wringing makes the USGA look like a bunch of stuffed shirts. "I'd be willing to bet that Kevin's celebrity will do nothing but bring more awareness to the public," says Gary Foster, one of the producers of Tin Cup. "We're not a comedy spoof like Happy Gilmore. If this is a signal to me, it's that NBC thinks Kevin is a legitimate spokesman for this sport."
Of course, anything might be better than listening to Dick Enberg overstate the obvious in one of his gushy lead-ins.
There is no simple explanation for the transformation of 38-year-old Andrew Morse from nonentity to world's hottest pro golfer. Going into last week, Morse had won four consecutive tournaments on the Hooters tour, which is the equivalent of Double A baseball. First came a victory in Natchez, Miss., then two in Louisiana, in Monroe and Bastrop, and finally a win in Rantoul, Ill. He continued his run at U.S. Open qualifying at Exmoor Golf Club, near Chicago, where he was the medalist. His three-under-par 141 there made him 71 under for his last 290 holes. And while his Hooters streak finally came to an end on Sunday—he tied for seventh in the Heller Ford Classic in El Paso, Ill.—Morse thinks he could be a factor at Oakland Hills. "This'll be my first Open," Morse says, "and I'm looking forward to a good showing. Maybe I'll even threaten to win it."
Considering how far he has come, Morse can be excused for dreaming the impossible dream. After growing up playing public courses in the Boston area, Morse got a partial scholarship to North Carolina but lasted only three months there. He worked as a dishwasher and as the manager of a car wash before realizing he could make more money hustling golf.
As his game improved, Morse's horizons expanded. Only bad luck prevented him from winning the 1983 Massachusetts Open—he mismarked his ball on the final green—and he won back-to-back New England Opens in 1986 and '87. Following a sweep of the Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire opens in 1989, Morse struck out for the Hogan (now Nike) tour, traveling from one Monday qualifier to the next with his wife. Sue. in a motor home. He earned his Hogan card in 1991 but lost it in 1993 before Patti McGowan, an instructor from the David Leadbetter school, remade his swing. Morse then began playing the Hooters tour full time. His game came together late last year after a friend suggested he read Michael Murphy's mind-over-matter treatise, Golf in the Kingdom. Morse won a Hooters event the next week, then another before the season ended, and his good play carried over into 1996.
"The easiest thing would've been to quit," he says, looking back on the lean years. Now he's thinking big and beyond the Open. Morse intends to enter Tour qualifying school this fall.
Just like a Woman
Great Britain's Ladies Golf Union has closed a gender loophole by requiring that all contestants in the Aug. 15-18 Women's British Open be "females at birth."