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Notebook
Edited by Cameron Morfit
July 26, 1999
U.S. Amateur Public Links Hunter's Prey
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July 26, 1999

Notebook

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Numbers

Paul Lawrie came out of nowhere to claim the claret jug, but he wasn't the lowest-ranked player to win a major since the start of the World Ranking in 1986. Here are the 10 lowest-ranked players and the majors they won.

 

PLAYER

RANK

TOURNAMENT

1

John Daly

168

'91 PGA

2

Paul Lawrie

159

'99 British

3

John Daly

109

'95 British

4

Steve Jones

100

'96 U.S.0pen

5

Hale Irwin

90

'90 U.S. Open

G

Larry Nelson

84

'87 PGA

7

Jeff Sluman

71

'88 PGA

8

Wayne Grad

55

'90 PGA

9

Nick Faldo

46

'87 British

10

Mark Brooks

44

'96 PGA

U.S. Amateur Public Links
Hunter's Prey

Blood is thicker than ink, so Hans Haas, working the main scoreboard at the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship in Alton, Ill., last week, dropped his markers and knocked off early when his little brother, Hunter, was about to win the tournament "They can fire me if they want," Hans had said. "I'm going to be there." True to his word, he hopped onto a golf cart and raced to the 15th green at Spencer T. Olin Community Golf Course.

For the record, your winner and the best golfer in the nine-member Haas family of Fort Worth is 22-year-old Hunter Jefferson Huck Finn Haas, the fifth of Jim and Karen's seven children. (Jim wanted the name Huck Finn, Karen wanted Hunter Jefferson, and they compromised.) Hunter needed no sleight of hand from Hans, who recorded scores for Little Brother and everybody else in the 156-player field, then blinked back tears when Hunter thumped Michael Kirk 4 and 3 in the final. "It's the greatest day in my life" Hans said as if he had won the title himself. Then he turned to Hunter and said, "Way to go, brother."

For his victory Hunter received a place in the field at Augusta for the 2000 Masters, but don't let that fool you. The Pub-links, as it is known, is the blue-jeans-and-T-shirt cousin of the black tie U.S. Amateur. Open only to players who do not own a private-club membership, the tournament seldom has recognizable names in its field, though last week there was a Mickelson—not Phil, but his younger brother, Tim. Since transferring last year from Arizona State to Oregon State, Tim has shown he has the game for the name, but in Alton he got eliminated in the round of 16. Also in the field were Erik Compton, a 19-year-old with a heart transplant, and Bryant Odom, a player with three kidneys (two right, one left). Both lost in the second round of match play.

The second round also claimed Pete Meurer, a 42-year-old New York City firefighter. He was most likely the only player to have rescued a 400-pound pig—it had gotten caught in a fire in a Chinese restaurant—but he wasn't the only Boomer to balance out a field full of babies. There was 42-year-old amateur stalwart Danny Green, a self-described "fat man trying to beat a bunch of flat bellies."

In the end flat beat fat. None of the quarterfinalists were older than 23, and four were teenagers. The youngest of these was 17-year-old James Oh, a high school senior and the defending U.S. Junior Amateur champion. Oh lost in the quarters to Kirk, the No. 2 player for UNLV, who was vying to become the third consecutive South African, after Tim Clark and Trevor Immelman, to win the Public Links. Haas nixed that idea in the final, just as he had dispatched Kirk's roommate for the week, UNLV teammate Adam Scott, in the semifinals, thus preventing an all-Comfort Inn (Room 111) title match.

Haas, who has completed his eligibility at Oklahoma but will return next fall to get his sociology degree, was never in danger of losing. After shooting 68-71 to make the match-play portion of the tournament, he closed out his first five opponents so quickly that he didn't see the 17th or 18th holes until Saturday's 36-hole final. With uncanny accuracy from inside 100 yards, Haas made 43 birdies and two eagles in his 143 holes.

Haas was followed by his parents, who drove 12 hours from Fort Worth and have spawned almost enough players to form two formidable foursomes. Holly, 32, coordinates the golf program for the Boys and Girls Club of Coachella Valley, Calif.; Hud, 30, is a golf course superintendent in Fort Worth; Hans, 28, a former player at Arkansas, is a scorekeeper for the USGA, PGA and NCAA; Heather, 26, played for Ohio State and taught at Dave Pelz's short-game school in Boca Raton, Fla.; Heidi, 21, is an assistant pro at Oak Tree Golf Club in Edmond, Okla.; Hanni, 17, plays for Paschal High; and of course there is Hunter, the 1998 Big 12 champion, who just enjoyed the most indelible victory of his life. Father Jim, once a three handicapper, fills out the second foursome.

Haas played 107 holes of match play last week and trailed on only one of them. He won his first-round match 6 and 5, which ended up tied for the largest winning margin of the tournament. "I expect those things to happen," he says. "When they do, I don't get overjoyous. Every time I tee it up, I expect to be up there competing to win. If you don't feel that, why bother? Take up caddying."

There was one drawback for Haas in the victory. To get his invitation to the Masters, he must retain his amateur status. He had anticipated turning pro right after the U.S. Amateur next month so he could play for dough at the Oklahoma Open. As Hans might say, lucky those plans weren't written in ink.
Gene Menez

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