North of Northwest
The Greater Vancouver Open gives the Tour a new direction
In its dress rehearsal for the big time, the Greater Vancouver Open hit every mark. British Columbia—the Pacific Northwest, Americans kept calling the place, though it is Canada's southwestern corner—was the setting for a drama featuring superb scenery by Mother Nature and outlandish costumes by Payne Stewart. The end was a standing ovation and a case of Chamblee.
Played on the same week as the star-jammed World Series of Golf, the three-year-old GVO has been summer stock going up against Broadway. Even now, it may be best known as the scene of John Daly's latest meltdown. Still, Vancouver's mountains and sailboat-dotted waterways captivated many players. "That's the most bridges I ever drove across to go to dinner," said Paul Stankowski. Paul Devenport of New Zealand said, " Vancouver reminds me of home. Are there any sheep here?" The region's wild and woolly embrace of pro golf, first felt at August's PGA in Redmond, Wash., keeps warming up. We Like to Party is a Vancouver motto, and the party will go full tilt in 1999, when the GVO gets the Sept. 2-5 time slot to itself. Fuzzy Zoeller, calling the region gorgeous, told Vancouverites, "You're on the list now, baby."
"It's what I've been telling people: Vancouver is the most beautiful city in the world," said Peter Jacobsen, who lives in Portland. " Seattle is second, and Portland's third. We've had a lot of good golf around here lately, and people are starting to sit up and take notice."
Northview Golf and Country Club was noticeably cruel to the plaid-knickered Stewart. With 22 runner-up finishes under his belt, including a tearjerker at this year's U.S. Open, Stewart always seems primed for defeat. He was tied with Brandel Chamblee coming down the stretch on Sunday but missed a four-foot putt at 14, then bogeyed the 18th, where Chamblee rolled home a 36-foot birdie putt for $360,000 and the first victory of his nine-year Tom career. "Best putt I ever hit," the jubilant Texan called it. "You work all your life to get to where you feel you can trust your swing and your game. Today it happened, and I kept telling myself to enjoy it."
Chamblee wasn't the only bubbly one in Canada's Pacific Southwest. "This is the perfect golfing atmosphere," said Stankowski, who finished 11th. "I'll be back, and I'll tell other players to come."
Stewart Cink was bolder. "I'll tell Tiger," he said.
State of The Union
A small band of rebels has fired the first shot in what could become a war between the PGA Tour and its players. Mark Brooks, Danny Edwards and Larry Rinker, three veteran pros who complain that the Tour is secretive about its finances, have launched a union they call the Tour Players Association. A pair of exploratory meetings during the Sprint International drew about two dozen pros who share the concerns of the TPA Three.
Players have long sought more clout. The Tour is a nonstock organization ostensibly run in the interest of its players, but its decision-making body, the nine-man policy board, includes just four touring pros. Typical of the golfers' gripes is the fuss over last month's long-delayed AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. Tour regulations state that no tournament can end more than two days after its scheduled finish, but the policy board made an exception for Pebble—a move that annoyed board member Tom Lehman. "What does that tell you?" asks pro Patrick Burke. "If a member of the policy board is pissed, who did they consult?"