SI Vault
John Garrity
February 12, 1990
Gale-force winds made the AT&T a rite of passage for young pros who aim to be stars of the 1990s
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February 12, 1990

Sea Of New Faces

Gale-force winds made the AT&T a rite of passage for young pros who aim to be stars of the 1990s

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The 18th at cypress point sometimes seems to have been designed for no other purpose than to tease and torment the young. The short par-4, one of golf's most perplexing finishing holes, bends in and up from the Pacific Ocean through a majestic gate of cypress trees—a route so cramped that an iron shot from the tee straying but a few yards in either direction closes the door. To the young warrior who has just carried the crashing surf on the heroic 16th and then whistled safely past the cypress graveyard on the cliffside 17th, the 18th says, "That's nice, son, but tuck in your shirt and wash your hands, and for heaven's sake, comb your hair, or you won't have dessert tonight."

Ted Schulz got his ears scrubbed at 18 last Thursday, during the first round of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. Schulz, a tall, boyish 30-year-old from Louisville, bounced his one-iron tee shot off a tree on the right and found his ball at the bottom of the rise to the green, his path blocked by a grove of trees. Having just played the dangerous 15th through 17th at even par despite being hit by a brief rain squall at 16, Schulz was naturally reluctant to forfeit a stroke by chipping to safety. Instead, he tried to punch a four-iron through the trees—a shot that made an interesting variety of sounds as it progressed, ending with a resounding whack at a cypress trunk. The ball, which traveled maybe 100 yards round-trip, wound up back at Schulz's feet.

A year ago Schulz might have tried the same shot again, inviting real disaster. This time he meekly chipped onto the fairway and then hit a superb wedge shot inches from the cup to save bogey. "I was lucky to make 5," he said afterward. "I deserved worse."

Schulz is one of a handful of youngish pros on the PGA Tour who appear to be breaking loose as the 1990s commence. No one knows if one of them will be to the decade what Jack Nicklaus was to the '60s, Tom Watson was to the '70s and Greg Norman might have been to the '80s, but the first candidates have asserted themselves. One of them, Ian Baker-Finch of Australia, opened the decade by nearly winning the Tournament of Champions and then explaining to reporters that he was not half-Baker and half-Finch, but the product of a long line of hyphenated Baker-Finches.

Baker-Finch won his first PGA Tour tournament last year, the Southwestern Bell Colonial, and plans to split his time between Australia and America. Last week he skipped the AT&T, in which most of the youngsters poised on the brink of sustained success found themselves swept over the brink in a storm of bogeys, double bogeys and worse.

Tommy Armour III, 30, who had won his first Tour tournament the week before, at Phoenix, got off to a good start at Cypress last Thursday. After five holes he was two under, but after 14 holes he was four over, thanks to "a couple of unplayables," he said. "It can happen real quick, but what can you do?"

Another upstart, 27-year-old Brian Tennyson, sidestepped catastrophe at Spyglass Hill and Pebble Beach, the other two courses in the tournament rotation, but couldn't read the tricky greens and missed a dozen or so makable birdie putts. "I played a practice round with Tommy Armour here two years ago," said Tennyson. "And he told me you can be playing the best golf of your life coming into this tournament and miss the cut. He said just to be patient and not get caught up in all that's going on with the weather or galleries or whatever."

Tennyson tried to follow Armour's advice, but on Saturday he played the 17th at Cypress Point in winds that gust-ed to 50 mph, and he shot a 9.

History tells us that these courses yield only to veteran pros, and even then only grudgingly. In 43 years, from the days of the Crosby Clambake to the present, only Don Massengale in 1966, John Cook in '81 and Steve Jones in '88 got their first tour wins at Pebble Beach, and those three played all their rounds under mostly sunny skies, a tournament anomaly. More typically, the young player succumbs to the many distractions along the 17 Mile Drive, which include bounding deer and rabbits, barking sea lions, posturing celebrities plunking spectators, and the infamous weather, which forces more costume changes than the Ice Capades. And because they get only one crack at Cypress and Spyglass every year, and two at Pebble—if they or their pro-am pairing make the cut—acquiring local knowledge takes several years and a prodigious memory.

What accumulates quickly is the horror stories. Schulz, who won the 1989 Southern Open as a rookie and finished 30th on the money list ($391,855), will always approach the par-4 8th at Cypress Point with trepidation because last year he vaporized there. Holding the tournament lead at four under in the third round, he hit his second shot at the flag and watched in dismay as the wind blew it left onto a dune. "I tried two times to hit it out lefthanded," he said last Thursday. "Then I took a drop, chipped on and made the putt for an easy 7."

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