SI Vault
Edited by Jerry Kirshenbaum
August 29, 1983
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August 29, 1983


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Then why bother to ban the ball? The answer, USGA officials say, is that the potential for unfair advantage was there and that in the course of enforcing equipment rules, the line has to be drawn somewhere. Manufacturers will naturally try to push rules to their very limits, but Titleist miscalculated and went a tad too far. "We tried to stay within the regulations as we saw them," says Bob Forbush, the firm's vice-president of sales and marketing. "It's as if we were going 56 in a 55-mph zone, and they had radar sensitive enough to pick it up."

Titleist, which sells 54 million golf balls a year and controls 40% of the world market, still has three USGA-approved, pro-quality balls available for sale, and it expects to have a modified version of the 384 ready for USGA inspection in September. In the meantime, the USGA's action gives a bit of a lift to the 384's competitors, including the 392-dimple Jack Nicklaus Muirfield, which is manufactured by MacGregor Golf Company, a firm owned by Nicklaus. A week before the USGA announced its ban, Nicklaus, who himself had played the 384 in four tournaments before the Muirfield 392 hit the market in June, told reporters that with the latter ball he was driving 20 to 25 yards farther than he had a few years ago, and that it may be time for the USGA to do something about the design one-upmanship that was resulting in balls playing too "hot" and carrying too far. When the 384 was banned the following week, Big Jack could scarcely complain. The next day, at the Buick Open, 13 players switched to the Nicklaus Muirfield, which may not play any faster or straighter than the 384, but so far has remained within the 55-mph limit.

Wyche says that he's pointing to Pasadena, the home of the Rose Bowl. His willingness to clear the air on the subject leaves only the question of how he intends to beat out perennial Big Ten powers Michigan and Ohio State for a Rose Bowl berth with a team that had a 5-6 record last year under Lee Corso. That's one mystery Wyche doesn't clear up.

Sparks have been flying over a planned movie about the life of Bear Bryant. Before the retired Alabama coach died last January, he granted permission to make the movie, subject to his family's approval, to producer Larry Spangler, who now says, "The movie is about to start humming." But Bryant's daughter, Mae Martin Tyson, recently objected that she and other Bryant kin hadn't approved the script, which she said contains language not in keeping with her father's desire that it be a "family movie." Nevertheless, Spangler has insisted that he will start filming in October, saying at one point, rather testily, "I am not going to let a Mae Martin Tyson stand in my way." Another source of conflict: Bryant's heirs haven't okayed Spangler's choice of the actor to play Bryant. He's Gary Busey, who's preparing for the part by trying to shed some of the 40-plus pounds he has gained since he played another Southern legend in the 1978 movie, The Buddy Holly Story.


Jim O'Donnell, a Philadelphian who lives in Lusaka, Zambia, where he runs the African branch of Sobek Expeditions, purveyors of rafting trips down exotic rivers, is a dedicated sports fan who wears a Phillies cap when meeting visitors at the Lusaka airport and who spends much of his spare time trying to teach Zambian youngsters the intricacies of baseball and football. He hasn't made a great deal of progress so far. For example, he complains that would-be native baseball players insist on sliding into all the bases, including first, even on walks. But O'Donnell takes somewhat perverse pride in one thing he has accomplished. In congratulating one Zambian athlete on a rare good play, he instinctively gave him a high five. It caught on instantly, O'Donnell says, and "has now spread through the land."

O'Donnell now proudly refers to himself as "the father" of the high five in Africa. And he says, expansively, "I think I'll introduce them to spiking next."

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