Publinx Gets a Private Look
There were the usual longshoremen, schoolteachers and factory workers competing last week in the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship at Kearney Hill Golf Links in Lexington, Ky. More and more, though, the Publinx is dominated by youngsters who, while not exactly ringers, don't fit the traditional profile of a public-course player.
Take this year's winner, 21-year-old Tim Clark, who defeated Ryuji Imada 7 and 6 in the 36-hole final last Saturday. Clark, a sophomore at North Carolina State, declared Raleigh, N.C., to be his hometown even though he's a native of Umkomaas, South Africa. Clark has lived in the U.S. only since enrolling at N.C. State 18 months ago. The 20-year-old Imada, meanwhile, is from Onomichi, Japan, but called Tampa home because that's where he attended a golf school. He plans to attend Georgia on a golf scholarship in the fall.
At least Clark and Imada grew up playing public courses. That wasn't the case with several of last week's competitors, including Trip Kuehne, who lost in the quarterfinals after winning the medal portion of the championship with a 12-under-par 134 for 36 holes. Kuehne, whose father owns two banks and an oil and gas company in Texas, grew up playing at Stonebridge Country Club outside Dallas.
So why was Kuehne allowed to play in the Publinx? To be eligible, a golfer must not have belonged to a private club since Jan. 1 of the year of the tournament. Kuehne, 25, hasn't been a member at Stonebridge since 1993, and for the Publinx he listed his home course as the public club at Oklahoma State, where he played on the golf team and last year was an assistant coach while earning his M.B.A.
Clark won by playing the best golf of his life. He never trailed in any of his six matches, and none of the first five went past the 16th hole. The biggest perk for winning the Publinx, and the main reason so many college-age golfers enter it, is an invitation to the following year's Masters. Growing up, Clark dreamed of playing in the Masters, and in April he attended a practice round at Augusta.
Unfortunately, when Clark tees it up in Augusta next spring, his parents probably won't be there to watch him. "They're not wealthy people," he says, "and the round-trip plane tickets are just too expensive."
Balky Putter Sinks Davies
Laura Davies is usually an easygoing sort, but she wasn't smiling after her one-over-par 72 in the third round of the JAL Big Apple Classic. Davies signed a few autographs, tersely answered some questions and dashed off to the locker room at Wykagyl Country Club in New Rochelle, N.Y. "I've had rotten luck lately," said Davies, who finished 11th at Wykagyl, eight shots behind the winner, Michele Redman. "I can't sink any putts, and I don't know why."
Davies should be concerned. Next week the LPGA will hold its final major of 1997, the du Maurier Classic at Glen Abbey Golf Club outside Toronto, and Davies is in the middle of her worst season in years. So far she has missed the cut in a U.S. Open for the first time, has won just one tournament (the Standard Register Ping, in March) and is ninth on the money list. In the three previous seasons, Davies had won 14 events worldwide (including three majors), finished first and second (twice) on the U.S. money list and taken home the LPGA's player of the year award (1996).