In Golf, It's Not How, But How Many

Random thoughts on a stormy Sunday morning, while wondering how the Austin, Texas, NCAA baseball regional will play out:



In George Peper's new book "The Secrets of Golf," there's this quote from Henry Cotton: "All that counts in golf is to find the back of the ball squarely with the middle of the clubface. Any style or method will do and if it enables players to strike the ball hard, squarely and consistently, then it is a good swing, no matter how it may depart from the classical."

The unorthodox swing of Jim Furyk comes to mind. CBS analyst David Feherty once likened it to an octopus falling out of a tree.

But Furyk is one of my early favorites to contend at the U.S. Open at Pinehurst, N.C., June 16-19, along with Kenny Perry and Nick Price.

Those three drive the ball straight, an obvious Open requirement. Furyk and Perry have played well recently, and the 48-year-old Price, who was given a special exemption into the Open, has played Pinehurst this year for USGA officials, who requested his feedback on the course setup.

Furyk has already won one Open, at Olympia Fields near Chicago in 2003, and he has the advantage of an experienced caddie, Mike "Fluff" Cowan, who formerly worked for Tiger Woods.

Watching Furyk and Cowan work out a yardage and a club selection from muddy pine needles in the right rough at No. 7 at Augusta National this year is a vivid Masters memory. They calmly consulted back and forth, oblivious to gallery members between them, until determining the correct iron, which Furyk hit crisply under a pine limb and within 10 feet of the hole.

ACES WERE WILD

A funny thing happened during the first round of the NCAA Division I Women's East Regional golf tournament at the University of Florida Golf Course this spring.

On the par-3 15th hole, Julia Huh of Mississippi State hit a 7-wood on the 165-yard hole and her ball rolled into the hole.

Huh?

Yeah, Huh holed it for an ace.

Not to be outdone, Whitney Simons of South Carolina stepped to the tee and told herself to do what Huh did.

Huh? Yeah, Huh.

According to Golfweek magazine, Simons "pured" a 4-iron and heard it hit the flagstick. She allowed herself a small laugh when she saw a ball come to rest a foot from the hole.

"I went to mark my ball, and my heart stopped because it was a Titleist and I play a Precept," Simons told Golfweek. "I thought I hit the wrong ball."

It turned out that Simons' ball knocked Huh's out of the hole, resulting in a hole-in-one for both golfers.

Huh?

Yep, that's the rule. Simons says both she and Huh got aces.

McDONNELL'S NATIONAL TITLES

According to Trackwire and most other sources, Arkansas is favored to win its 41st men's national title in either cross country, indoor track or outdoor track under coach John McDonnell this week when the Razorbacks go to Sacramento, Calif., for the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, Wednesday through Saturday.

But according to a story in GolfWorld magazine last week about Houston's golf program, Jim Steen of Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, is the winningest college coach in one sport, with 24 men's swimming titles (and 18 women's swimming titles).

McDonnell is listed next with his 18 indoor track titles, tied with Al Scates of UCLA with 18 men's volleyball titles and Anson Dorrance of North Carolina with 18 women's soccer crowns. Then come Dick Gould of Stanford, with 17 men's tennis titles, and former Houston golf coach Dave Williams, with 16 NCAA golf crowns. Dan Gable of Iowa had 15 men's wrestling titles and Willy Schaeffer of Denver coached 13 skiing titles.

The GolfWorld graphic stops there, with no mention of McDonnell's 11 NCAA cross country titles and 11 outdoor crowns.

That slight should be all the motivation McDonnell and the Hogs need for national title No. 41 and outdoor crown No. 12. Come to think of it, 50 is a nice, round number.

MORE LADY'BACKS GET IN

Arkansas' number of women qualifiers for the NCAA Meet at Sacramento has risen from seven to 11 since the Mideast Regional.

Included in the national descending-order list among those who qualified sixth, seventh or eighth in the regionals are Laura Jakosky (15th overall in the 5,000 meters), Erica Sigmont (16th in the 800), Dacia Barr (27th in the 1,500) and Penny Splichal (33rd in the 10,000).

"Every time the phone rings lately, it's been good news," said UA women's coach Lance Harter.

Jakosky and Sigmont were expected to qualify, but Barr was a bonus and Splichal, who landed the final spot, was an outright surprise.

It's a nice final chance for Splichal, a personable senior from Dickinson, N.D., whose cross country season ended in frustration as she had trouble finishing races.

Also qualified for the Lady'Backs are Aneita Denton in the 800 meters, Alison Rush in the 10,000, Beyonka McDowell in the heptathlon, Kasia Williams in the 100-meter hurdles, Stacie Manuel in the pole vault, Maureen Scott in the steeplechase and Brandy Blackwood in the hammer throw.

GOLF SUCCESS

Arkansas golf coaches Kelley Hester and Mike Ketcham might have wished for better NCAA Tournament results (tied for 11th in the women's and 26th in the men's, respectively), but can take pride in the fact that Arkansas was one of just 15 schools to qualify its golf teams for both national tournaments.

Hester loses just one senior, Gena Johnson, from its five-woman NCAA roster, and Ketcham returns his whole squad for next season.

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