Johnson's Husband Takes His Life
Chris Johnson is one of the more private players on the LPGA tour, but her second husband, whom she married in 1990, was more mysterious still. Those who had met William K. Shearman described him as the Marlboro Man (an acquaintance in Tucson), a true-blooded Texan (Johnson's father, Bob) and your typical redneck cowboy (Johnson's former caddie, Rob Caliolo).
Police say that at about 10:45 p.m. last Thursday in Willcox, Ariz., 83 miles east of Tucson, Shearman knocked on the door at lawyer John R. Evans Ill's home, pushed aside Evans's wife, Shelley, when she opened it, and fatally shot Evans in the chest as he was coming out of a bathroom. When Shelley Evans tried to stop the gunman from leaving, she, too, was shot but barely nicked in the hip by the bullet. Shearman then headed west on Interstate 10, leading police at high speeds for 60 miles. The pursuit ended just before midnight when the 42-year-old suspect hit a guardrail and was found dead in his pickup truck with a gunshot wound to his head.
Ruled a suicide, Shearman's death ended a chase in which he fired several times at police (a bullet grazed a motorist coming off an on-ramp on 1-10) and reached speeds of 120 mph. Police put down spikes in the road to flatten Shearman's tires, but he continued to drive, on his rims, at 80 mph until crashing. Police then fired a cannister of pepper spray inside the truck before discovering he had killed himself. Deputy James Ogden said that Shearman's truck was stocked with handguns, hunting rifles and "a very large amount of ammunition," and that Shearman's family and friends later said he "had made statements that he was very upset with people who had done him wrong or betrayed him or in some way had ruined his life."
Shearman was a mysterious figure who had been visible on the LPGA tour until recent years, when he stopped appearing in public after an unspecified horse-related injury. His rehabilitation took much of Johnson's time and energy, but she was coy about t he exact nature of the injury. "To see him, you wouldn't know anything is wrong," Johnson told SI last fall. Shearman had been feuding with Evans for about 15 years, according to Michael O'Connor, homicide supervisor for the Pima County Sheriffs Department, but the reason for their disagreement was not known as SI went to press on Monday.
Johnson has struggled in '99. After finishing fourth on the money list in 1997 and 19th in '98, she is 58th on the '99 money list, her best finish a tie for third at the Mercury Titleholders Championship in May. She was not scheduled to play in last week's JAL Big Apple Classic in New Rochelle, N.Y., but was in New York City on golf business. O'Connor, who spoke with Johnson on Friday, says she was told of Shearman's death by a close family friend. Johnson released a statement through the LPGA on Sunday asking for prayers for "the families involved in the tragedy" but offering no additional information. She withdrew from this week's Giant Eagle LPGA Classic in Warren, Ohio.
Hot Club on Tour
Looks Weird, Goes Straight
When first-round leader Rodney Pampling toured Carnoustie in even-par 71 last Thursday, he left the driver in the bag in favor of the club that has made the biggest splash on the Tour this year. It isn't an iron or a wood, but something in between, a hybrid. It has 15-24 degrees of loft, a 40-inch-long shaft, looks like a two-iron on steroids and performs like a fairway wood.
According to the Darrell Survey, which keeps track of all the equipment the pros use each week, 23 players packed one of the so-called driving irons or special utility clubs at the British Open last week, primarily the Taylor Made Rescue and PRGR Zoom. The other models represented were manufactured by Ryobi, whose club is simply known as the Ryobi; Bridgestone, which makes the Club X; and Honma, whose gold-or silver-colored entry is called the Big LB 210. "I can hit this club 230 yards high and land it soft," says Brandel Chamblee, who plays PRGR. "Instant Jack Nicklaus. It's like cheating."
Players such as Lee Janzen and Gary McCord regularly pack one of the hybrids—McCord used the Rescue in overtime to reach a par-5 in two when he won the Toshiba Senior Classic in Newport Beach, Calif., in March—but the club isn't a cure-all. Pampling was still using his Rescue in the second round last Friday when he shot 86 to miss the cut.
—Gary Van Sickle