SI Vault
Edited by Martin Kane
July 23, 1973
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July 23, 1973


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In 1972 the Houston Open was skipped by 16 of the 25 leading money-winners. So this year the tournament sponsors boosted the purse from $125,000 to $205,000—the fifth-largest prize on the PGA tour—in the hope of drawing the game's big names. And again they stayed away. This thorny problem of nonappearance has existed for tournament sponsors since the tour began to boom 15 years ago, and now the people at Houston think they may have come up with the solution: in 1974 they would like to base their purse on a sliding scale.

The minimum prize money would be $150,000, but for every one of what Houston regards as golf's big four—Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player—who appears, the prize money would increase $10,000. The sum would jump another $10,000 if the current top money-winner should enter and an additional $10,000—to a maximum of $210,000—if the event receives a national television contract.

"We didn't take a bath this year, but almost," says William Chapline, Houston Golf Association president. "We're afraid that if we go out and sponsor another $205,000 purse we could lose $50,000 or $60,000. This way, top money will be paid only if the top players participate."

The idea is a worthwhile one, but it is most unlikely that it will be put into effect. "We are still negotiating with Houston," says Joe Dey, the pro tour's commissioner, "but I doubt if our players' tournament committee will accept the Houston proposition. It would mean rewriting our tournament regulations. I can see the sponsors' point of view, but our players are free and independent. They can't be ordered around like members of a football team. The Houston plan seems to put unreasonable pressure on the big names to appear. We have 47 major events on our schedule. If the Houston plan became general, would the best players not be under pressure to appear every single week? I may be wrong, but I doubt if the players will go along with this. The best way to draw a top field is still to put on a top tournament."

Which means the problem still has thorns—and sponsors are getting stickier about it.


Until he decided to appeal a decision that denied him state unemployment compensation, Peter J. Lutz, 26, was just another college athlete hidden somewhere in the great American average. He made the UCLA wrestling team in 1970 on a full athletic scholarship, went through five matches, then was sidelined with knee injuries. Not exactly the sort of career that would stir the campus. But now the Lutz case has launched the school into a full investigation of his allegations that athletes are guaranteed grades under preferential treatment.

At the root of the matter is Lutz' full-time job as a laborer from May 11 to Oct. 5, 1972. In applying for unemployment insurance after leaving the job, it was noted that Lutz also claimed to be a full-time student. And since an unemployed claimant presumably would have to be available for work, how could he do both? Lutz told the examiners, under oath, that although he did not attend classes, because he was an athlete he was routinely given credit for doing so, that he was guaranteed a C or better grade and, in at least one case, he could arrange for someone to take an exam for him.

UCLA was shocked. "He hasn't competed or worked out with the team for two years," said Wrestling Coach Dave Hollinger. It was pointed out that it is school policy to continue to carry injured athletes on scholarship until their class graduates. Athletic Director J.D. Morgan noted, "We cannot guarantee anything in the academic process. We have lost athletes on grades just the same as the university loses other students."

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