Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

It’s A Girl’s Game

Now that the circus has left town, the PGA Tour can look at the “Great Annika Experiment” and decide if it was good for everybody, or good for anybody. The organizers of the Colonial look brilliant. They invited the one person on the planet who can actually play, who brought more publicity to their tournament than even Tiger Woods. Certainly, Vijay Singh looks silly, his harsh comments and subsequent withdraw from the Colonial putting him in caveman status in most women’s eyes.

Men’s golf is no worse for wear, Sorenstam herself admitting, “this was a bit much for me,” with Women’s golf getting a little bit of a boost. It’s not a completely inferior game, just a different level of competition. Sorenstam’s opening round 71, one over par, was solid as she hit almost every fairway and every green. But she couldn’t putt worth a lick. She’s never been considered a great putter, one of the stark differences between the PGA and LPGA Tours, but her putting wasn’t even average by her standards. Thirty-three putts usually means six or seven over in a normal round, but Sorenstam’s accuracy off the tee and with her irons gave her plenty of chances.

Her second round 75 is where some of the cracks in a game that isn’t rewarded by good putting started to show. Over two days, Annika made just two birdies, not anywhere near the kind of performance that gets into contention or even makes the cut on the PGA Tour every week. But once she teed it up on Thursday, much of the conversation regarding Sorenstam changed from “will she make the cut,” to “I hope she makes the cut.” If you watched her interaction with the media, the fans and other players, you couldn’t help but be rooting for her. Somehow, she was able to show that she was serious, yet not threatening to either the men or the women. She was funny. She was humble. She was astute. And she wasn’t afraid to let everybody know that this was “my Mt. Everest.” Other than Arnold Palmer, I can’t think of one professional athlete that could have handled her situation with the same style and grace as Sorenstam. She was unfailingly polite, admitted her shortcomings, thanked everybody, and said she hoped she played better.

So what’s not to like about the whole thing?


Sorenstam got a chance to measure her game against those who compete at the highest level. She found the going pretty tough, even against a limited field. As I’ve said before, just looking at her game, she has “cut line” talent on the PGA Tour. She’d be hanging around the cut line each week, making it to the weekend when she putted well, and going home on Friday nights when she didn’t. She’s by far and away the best female player, so there’s no threat, at least right now, that this scenario will be repeated with any serious thought of a woman being able to compete. Not to say that it won’t happen in the future. The money’s too good, and the game is too widespread to not see some female players develop enough game to challenge the men.

Michelle Wie says she wants to compete half the time against men. But she’s 13 years old, and her opinion might change. Beth Daniel played on the men’s golf team during her time at Furman, but opted for the LPGA Tour when she turned pro. Sorenstam didn’t shoot 80, but she didn’t shoot 65 either. This wasn’t about men vs. women anyway; it was about one dream fulfilled. And it was, even if somebody woke Annika up before she hoped it was over.

Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Coaches Foibles

It’s been a strange week for coaches and their image. Alabama football coach Mike Price goes to a charity golf tournament in Pensacola, has a few drinks, ends up in a strip bar and a woman charges $1000 of room service to his credit card the next morning in a Holiday Inn. Larry Eustachy declares himself an alcoholic after pictures were published of him kissing and being kissed by coeds on the cheek at a frat party following games his Iowa State Hawkeyes played this past season.

Price was fired on Saturday by Alabama before coaching one game for the Tide. In fact, he hadn’t even signed his 7-year $10 million contract. Price had lead the team through spring drills and thought he was the man to lead Alabama back to national prominence. He said all the right things when being introduced as Dennis Franchione’s successor. “I want to be the second best coach in Alabama history,” referring to Bear Bryant’s legacy.

There was a clause in his contract that allowed the school to get rid of him for bringing “disrepute” on him and the university. They exercised that clause in firing him. Price’s situation could involve some legal issues, although just the act of going to a strip club and having a woman charge room service to your credit card shouldn’t put you in jail. Should they cost you your job? Perhaps if it’s part of a pattern of behavior, but for all of the human failings made public these days, you would think a second chance would be in order for Price and others. Could he still lead? Certainly. Could he be an example that you can make a mistake, pay a price (both monetarily and emotionally) and return? Of course. But Alabama had had their share of scandal (Mike DuBose) recently and wasn’t willing to have any blemish on their new coach’s record. Price hadn’t won any games for the Tide either, meaning he didn’t have any leverage among boosters. Nobody was actually “casting the first stone” at Price, except the ‘Bama administration. Strip club business no doubt will be down in the Panhandle among those wearing crimson and white. Price knew better, but made an error in judgment. He should have paid a price, but in this case, the punishment didn’t fit the crime.

He also could have been a victim of Larry Eustachy’s public battle with Iowa State’s administration. Eustachy was suspended and the Athletic Director wants him fired. Eustachy is fighting for his job, and thinks his confession of guilt should give him a second chance. The problem is, university administrations have never been places where controversy is tolerated, unless of course, it means raising more money. They want problems swept under the rug, they want them to go away, not become part of the school’s landscape. Just get rid of the problem.

It all comes back to money. They don’t want to offend any large donors to the point where the money dries up. So fire the coach and move on. Eustachy’s declaration that he’s an alcoholic is either a true attempt to get his life in order or, from a cynical viewpoint, a desperate and elaborate attempt to keep his job. Any 47-year old man knows a fraternity or sorority party is not where they should be. Anybody with a million dollar salary paid by a state university really knows that’s not where they should end up. The only thing they’re going to find there is trouble. An admission of personal foibles doesn’t always keep the critics at bay. If Eustachy’s actions are a one time thing and not part of a pattern, he should be allowed to get his life in order.

But getting a second chance in life doesn’t always mean keeping your job. If we’ve learned one thing it’s that your boss is your boss. If they want you gone, you’re gone. Even when it’s not fair.