That accomplished, he raced off to O'Hare Airport to catch a flight, thrilled that his is the first name on the Havemeyer Trophy under that of the three-time winner who will be his playing partner next April. That's when Kuchar, as the '97 Amateur champ, will tee it up with the defending Masters winner in the opening round at Augusta.
A month ago Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf justified his team's dumbfounding decision to give pitchers Wilson Alvarez, Roberto Hernandez and Danny Darwin to the San Francisco Giants for six little-known minor leaguers by saying, "Anyone who thinks this White Sox team will catch Cleveland is crazy." That was a pretty bewildering statement, considering that the White Sox were all of 3½ games behind the slumping Indians at the time. Now Reinsdorf—who denies he made the deal to cut costs—has bewildered trade analysts even further. Last week, White Sox slugger Albert Belle issued a mea culpa, taking blame for the team's struggles, which supposedly led to the deal. Said Reinsdorf, "Albert shouldn't worry. We would have made that trade even if we were five games up."
From the cheap seats—if such a term can be applied to a chair that costs $22 to rent—taking in the U.S. Open's brand-new, $254-million Arthur Ashe Stadium is like viewing the Colorado River from the lip of the Grand Canyon: The experience can be vertiginous, overwhelming, even awe-inspiring—but you sure don't get much sense of the rapids. "It's extraordinary," said 1994 Open champ Andre Agassi after a hike to the top row. "But the problem is that there are 8,000 bad seats up there."
The U.S. Tennis Association's new showcase isn't about picking up the fine points of anything. It's about being the biggest, most complete and most expensive tennis stadium in the world, a red-white-and-blue explosion of brick and steel, and in that it succeeds on all counts. It's a beautiful monster of a place, and most players consider it an improvement over its predecessor, Louis Armstrong Stadium, which now serves as Stadium No. 2. On Monday the players walked the revamped grounds in dazed disbelief. Suddenly the Open, an event in its 118th year, felt new. "The facility is much better, the locker room's better, they've got the [luxury] suites now," says world's No. 1 Pete Sampras. "It's about time we stepped up and built a nice place."
There's no doubt that American tennis now has a showpiece that can stand—in efficiency anyway—with Wimbledon's Centre Court, le Court Central at Roland Garros and Melbourne Park. Just because it's state-of-the-art, though, doesn't mean it's better in every respect. Say what you want about the rickety, rattling confines of old Louis Armstrong, but the place forced the cushy world of tennis through a maddening wringer that stunk of cooking food, clanged with the couplings of subway cars and dripped gunk from the steel beams. It had an angry soul, a New York soul. Its replacement feels like everyplace else. Only bigger.
Alive and Kicking
In 1980, when Tom Simpson was in medical school at UC San Francisco, he would spend his evenings on a 10-by-15-yard plot of grass near the married students' housing complex, kicking around a soccer ball with his two young sons and the other neighborhood kids. As the kids grew older, many of them continued to play under Simpson on youth-league and amateur teams, from the Toreadors to San Francisco United to the All Blacks and now to the San Francisco Bay Seals of United Systems of Independent Soccer Leagues (USISL), whose level of play is equivalent to baseball's Class AA. "This is just one of those stories of a guy who goes and coaches kids and hangs on forever," says the 51-year-old Simpson, now a San Francisco pediatrician.
Lately the story has seemed like a fairy tale. Over the past month the Seals have toppled a pail of MLS teams, the Kansas City Wizards and the Sari Jose Clash, by 2-1 scores to advance to the semifinals of the U.S. Open Cup. Modeled after soccer competitions throughout the world—most notably the F.A. Cup in England—the 84-year-old event allows any club to enter, giving amateurs who survive the qualifying rounds a chance to take on the pros. In the heyday of the now defunct North American Soccer League, its teams seldom risked competing. MLS, to its credit, has made the Open Cup a priority, creating the opportunity for homespun teams like the Seals, whose annual budget is roughly equal to MLS's $24,000 minimum salary, to soar.
Against the Clash at San Jose's Spartan Stadium on Aug. 20, San Francisco trailed 1-0 until the 77th minute, when Simpson's 24-year-old son, Shani, angled a shot past goalkeeper David Kramer. Forward Shane Watkins, 24, who joined up with Simpson 12 years ago, netted the game-winner in the 86th minute. "I was in that zone where I wasn't thinking," Watkins says. "I had to look at it on film to see how I scored."