For the past two weeks, LPGA officials and Jean Johnston, the lawyer for suspended golfer Muffin Spencer-Devlin, have been privately negotiating the conditions and timing of Spencer-Devlin's return to the tour. The situation is delicate: Spencer-Devlin, 36, one of the LPGA's most colorful personalities (SI, Aug. 19, 1985), was given a three-event suspension for her behavior at a pretournament dinner in Woburn, England, on April 24. Since then, she has been at a clinic in England receiving psychiatric treatment for manic-depressive illness.
Spencer-Devlin shocked those in attendance at the dinner by arriving late in a very much out-of-place Roaring '20s-style dress and then cursing and storming out when she was not allowed to sit at the head table. "I spoke with her outside, and she was quite abusive," Joe Flanagan, executive director of the women's European tour, said afterward. "The language took me back to my seafaring days."
Spencer-Devlin later told British reporters that she had been under great emotional strain because of the recent death of her stepfather, Bill Devlin, and that she had been struggling to control her previously diagnosed manic-depressive condition. She said that she had gone through a psychological "crash" early in 1989 and that after a year plagued by recurring back pain, she had endured another bout of severe depression, in January.
"I tried to kill myself by injecting an air bubble into my veins, hoping it would travel to my heart and blow up, [but] nothing happened," Spencer-Devlin said. "I thought about taking a boat ride and slipping off the back so that I would drown or be eaten by sharks. I just wanted to end this incredible misery in which I was living. I was living my life for other people." Spencer-Devlin now says that although she contemplated suicide, she didn't actually attempt it, despite what she told the British reporters.
Spencer-Devlin hasn't played in an LPGA event since last month's Dinah Shore Classic, in which she finished in a tie for 69th place and drew a $300 fine for throwing a water bottle at her caddie. One would hope that the LPGA, now aware of Spencer-Devlin's medical disorder, will address her case with support and sensitivity. "She is full of apology and regret for her misbehavior [at the dinner]," says Leslie Morrish, the psychiatrist who has been treating her. "But in fairness, the incident had more to do with the level of neurotransmitters in her brain than it had to do with intentionally giving offense." Spencer-Devlin may have put it best after the dinner flare-up: "I need a little patience and tenderness."
Indiana basketball coach Bob Knight says that after seeing former UCLA coach John Wooden's autobiography, They Call Me Coach, in a bookstore, he came up with a title for his own someday-to-be-written autobiography: They Call Me a Lot of Things.
SI special correspondent Robert H. Boyle writes:
Last week's White House decision to renege on a pledge to help developing countries phase out the use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) was disturbing but not surprising. It was, after all, made at the behest of the President's chief of staff, John Sununu, and budget director Richard Darman, who aren't exactly allies of the environmental movement. In a recent speech at Harvard, Darman uttered the memorable line, "Americans did not fight and win the wars of the 20th century to make the world safe for green vegetables."
One could argue that Darman's speech was exactly the kind of stuff that makes vegetables grow. Unfortunately, the depletion of the stratospheric ozone layer by CFCs (man-made chemicals used as refrigerants, solvents and aerosol propellants) is no joking matter. The ozone layer is the primary filter of ultraviolet radiation from the sun and is essential to protecting life. In 1987, after scientists confirmed that CFCs had caused a hole in the ozone layer above Antarctica, the U.S. and 23 other nations signed a protocol calling for a 50% reduction in CFC production by 1999 and agreed to provide financial and technical assistance to help developing nations reduce their use of CFCs. In March, the contributing countries proposed that the U.S. chip in $25 million over three years toward the cause. This money would be drawn from $5 billion in excise taxes that the U.S. has imposed on CFC producers.