A teen barely old enough to drive cruised to victory at the U.S. Public Links
Justin Rose and Matt Kuchar may be golf's whiz kids, but they didn't win last week. Trevor Immelman did. Immelman, fresh out of Hottentots-Holland High in Cape Town, South Africa, topped a 159-man field at the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship. "This is huge for me, like a major," said Immelman, who won an exemption to the 1999 Masters and major hugs from his mom.
The U.S. Public Links began in 1922, when 140 muni course regulars knocked balls around Ottawa Park Golf Course in Toledo. Almost half of them wore golf shoes. In later years the championship of bartenders and firemen, butchers, bakers and Greyhound takers became a proving ground for Tour players including Billy Mayfair and Jodie Mudd, both of whom won the event. It even achieved a Grand Slam of sorts, since future winners of the Masters ( George Archer), U.S. Open ( Tommy Bolt, Ed Furgol and Ken Venturi), British Open ( Tony Lema) and PGA ( Dave Marr and Bobby Nichols) all played the Public Links. Yet the Publinx gets hardly any pub even in its own neighborhood. Gawkers last week preferred the nude beach below the bluffs at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif., to the action on the course.
Immelman went seven under par on the first 10 holes last 'Thursday. He beat Andrew Komor 9 and 8—the biggest blowout since 1954—to become Publinx entity No. 1. "I was familiar with Torrey Pines," said the grim-faced 18-year-old, who finished second to Kevin Stadler, son of Craig, in the '97 Junior World tournament at the same course, "It seemed that this was meant to be."
Before Saturday's final against Auburn's Jason Dufner, Immelman waited out a three-hour, 40-minute fog delay with his parents, June and Johan. June used to do her son's driving for him. No one under 18 can drive a car in South Africa, so June quit working full-time three years ago to drive Trevor to lessons and tournaments. The boy had taken up golf at age five and has been coached by Robert Baker, who also works with Ernie Els and Mark O'Meara. Immelman insists he won't join South Africa's national hero on tour anytime soon. "When I'm good enough, and mentally strong enough, I'll turn pro," he says.
Golf's latest teen bopper was good and strong on Saturday, closing out Dufner 3 and 2. "You dream about something like this," he said. "When it happens, you pinch yourself." His minor major was no British Open, but it'll do in a pinch.
Gil Morgan's pro-am partner dazzled crowds at last week's Ameritech Senior Open. Michael Jordan, who says he'll focus on golf this fall if he retires from the NBA, outdrove Morgan on the 1st hole, but his Bull-in-a-pro-shop short game left him with a shaggy 45 at the turn. At the 15th tee, where he noted a resemblance between his ball and Bulls G.M. Jerry Krause, he slammed his drive into a bunker. "That's Jerry, all right," said a glum Jordan.
Then the Air conditioning kicked in at muggy Kemper Lakes Golf Club, near Chicago. Accustomed to making magic at crunch time, Jordan finished birdie-birdie. When a reporter suggested that his Airness had hit a lucky shot to set up one of the birds, Jordan flashed his best gotcha grin and said, "You know, Utah is saying the same thing."