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Golf Notebook: Sorenstam will find it rough vs. the guys

Sunday, March 16, 2003

By Gerry Dulac, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

The decision by Annika Sorenstam to play in a PGA Tour event this season might sound like a nice idea for the LPGA Tour, where the Lady Tiger earns her living.

And it might sound like a nice idea for Sorenstam, who wants to use the experience to expand her personal limits to make competing on the LPGA Tour even easier.

But Sorenstam's appearance at the Colonial, where she has received a sponsor's exemption to play against the best male players in the world, will have absolutely no effect on the LPGA Tour.

Sure, Sorenstam's entry in the field will likely sell a few more tickets to the PGA Tour event, scheduled for May 22-25. And it will definitely raise the level of awareness for the tournament, especially if Tiger Woods isn't playing.

But, aside from politically correct statements from Phil Mickelson, who doesn't always say the right thing, does anyone really think she has a chance to be competitive? Or even make the cut?

For starters, Colonial is a 7,080-yard, par-70 layout, and it will play much harder and faster than she is accustomed. What's more, Sorenstam averaged 265.6 yards driving distance in 2002. Know where that would rank on the PGA Tour right now? Somewhere below No. 182. That spot belongs to Loren Roberts (266.4), and he's the last player on the tour's driving distance chart.

Mickelson said Sorenstam was capable of a top-20 finish. Defending champ Nick Price said she would finish in the top half of the field. Come on. Knowing you are the best player on the LPGA Tour is one thing. Wondering if you can even compete against the best male players is still another. That's the thought process -- hardly a confidence builder -- Sorenstam will carry to the first tee at the Colonial.

Thank goodness for JoAnne Carner, who, as one of the best female players in history, brought a little more sense to the debate. Big Mama said it was 1,000-to-1 Sorenstam would make the cut.

Let's establish another line.

I say the over/under for Sorenstam is 150 (75-75).

Any takers?

Trivia question

Tiger Woods has won twice in just three starts on the PGA Tour this year. Who was the last player to win three times in the least amount of time to start a season? Answer at end.

Big profits

Pride Manufacturing, already the largest manufacturer of wooden golf tees in the world, is experiencing an unexpected boom in business.

And the company has the oversized driver to thank.

Because of the onslaught of supersized drivers, the Gilford, Maine-based company has had to increase production of its longest tee -- the 2 3/4-inch model. Company president Bob Burr said sales of the long tee tripled from 2001 to 2002 and he expects them to double again this year.

The long tee is more than a half-inch longer than a standard wooden tee, which measures 2 1/8-inch. The oversized drivers require the ball to be teed higher, something the standard-sized tee just can't accommodate.

"People go out and spend $400 to $500 for their driver and to get the best benefit from them they have to tee the ball up higher," Burr said. "It's been amazing."

Burr said Pride is planning to introduce a 3 1/4-inch model this year.

Arnie's new digs

Arnold Palmer was really pleased with the debut of his latest Florida design -- Frenchman's Reserve in Palm Beach Gardens -- which opened in November. Palmer, though, didn't christen the club with the ceremonial "first round" until Jan. 15.

"It came out really well," Palmer said.

He wasn't kidding.

Frenchman's Reserve is one of the new best new designs in the state, a 6,855-yard, par-72 layout with a finishing hole that will rival any in Florida. The course weaves through tall Florida pines and around man-made lakes, but still has generous landing room in the fairways, a Palmer-design trademark.

The course features several spectacular holes, including No. 6, a 434-yard par 4 with mounded fairways and water running the entire right side. It has a challenging short hole -- the 313-yard 15th, which features an elevated fairway and angled green surrounded by water.

But the 447-yard 18th is the best at Frenchman's Reserve. It's a dogleg-right par 4 that requires a long tee shot over wetlands. If you can carry a large sand bunker to the fairway, your approach to a green framed with rocks is about 160 to 170 yards. Miss the tee shot -- or the approach -- to the right and your ball is wet.

Frenchman's Reserve is a private community, with some houses available for vacation rentals. But, because they're trying to build their membership, the initiation fee is affordable.

South Florida gems

If you're looking for places to play in South Florida, make sure to schedule Abacoa, an upscale, daily-fee course in Jupiter that offers a lot more than just golf.

The course is built in a neighborhood-type atmosphere, with Roger Dean Stadium, spring-training home of the St. Louis Cardinals, across the street. It takes a home-run hitter, too, to play the final hole -- a 457-yard par 4 with water running the entire right side.

And here's another: The Tom Fazio-designed South Course at the PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie. There are three courses at the resort -- two by Fazio, another by Pete Dye -- but the South course is the best of the bunch. With a $75 greens fee, it might be the best value in Florida, too.


Gary Player, unhappy with the elimination of the lifetime exemption into the Masters for former champions, on why he hasn't contacted Augusta National chairman Hootie Johnson about his displeasure: "I think Mr. Johnson likes writing letters more than receiving them."

Dissa and data

Jim Furyk made four eagles in last week's Ford Championship at Doral. He made just two in 85 rounds last year.

David Eger's $300,000 first-place check for winning last week's MasterCard Classic was more than he had earned in his entire career on the PGA Tour and Champions Tour combined.

Tom Doak has been retained to design the Harmony Club, a private par-70 layout in Lake Oconee, Ga. Doak gained acclaim for his spectacular oceanfront layout at Pacific Dunes in Bandon, Ore., voted the best new upscale public course in the country in 2001.

Roger Warren, vice president of the PGA of America, has been named director of golf at Kiawah Island (S.C.) Resort. Warren replaces Tommy Cuthbert, who will remain as a teacher at the ocean resort.

Sewickley Heights CC superintendent Jeff Cuny has been named one of the winners of the Environmental Leaders in Golf Award by the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America.

Former Laurel Valley and Oakmont superintendent Mark Kuhns has been named to the board of directors of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America. Kuhns works at Baltusrol GC in Springfield, N.J.

The Pittsburgh chapter of the Executive Women's Golf Association will have a kickoff and organizational dinner March 27 at Tambellini's, Route 51. Interested call 724-327-0661.

Titleist, which did not attend the PGA Merchandise Show in January, has announced it will not attend the 2004 show, either. Titleist and Ping were the top manufacturers who boycotted this year's show in Orlando, Fla.

Aaron Baddeley has signed an endorsement contract with MacGregor Golf to play the company's irons, wear its hat and carry its staff bag.

Trivia answer

Johnny Miller won three times in the first five events on the PGA Tour in 1975.

Gerry Dulac can be reached at gdulac@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1466.

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