Golf : To Be Both Good and Lucky, Be Superstitious


Jack Nicklaus carries three coins in his pocket when he’s playing a round. Never two. Never four. Always three.

Paul Azinger always spots his ball on the green with a penny, heads up and Lincoln’s eyes looking toward the hole.

Mark Wiebe always spots his ball with a coin minted in the middle-60s because that’s what he wants to shoot.


If you ask professional golfers whether they would rather be good or lucky, most of them will tell you that it’s impossible to win on the tour if they’re not both. See Larry Mize. They can improve their skills on the driving range. To improve their luck, many of them have superstitions.

In an Augusta Chronicle article during the week of the Masters, reporter David Westin talked to several players about their superstitions. Surprisingly, he didn’t find one player who thought it was bad luck to talk about it.

Arnold Palmer said he always wears a new pair of shoes for the Masters.

Gene Sauers said he always carries two nickels in his right pocket.

Ben Crenshaw said he uses the same bathroom stall in the locker room if he played well the day before.

Ernie Gonzalez said he marks his ball with the same silver coin, tails up if he’s putting for a birdie or better and heads up if he’s putting for a par of worse.

Gonzalez also said his clubs have to be in the same place in the bag at all times.

“I’ve had caddies change them, and I tell them I don’t want them this way,” Gonzalez told Westin. “They say, ‘It’s easier for me,’ and I say, ‘It’s easier for me this way, and I want it this way.’ ”

Charles Coody said he wears a red shirt the day after a bad round because he wants his score back in the red numbers. Red signifies under par.


As for Mize, who won the Masters with a 140-foot chip shot on the second playoff hole, he told Westin: “I’m superstitious in a reverse sort of way. If I play bad in a certain outfit, I’ll wear it just for spite and say, ‘You’re going to play good.’ ”

Since Mize played well in the purple he wore on the final day of the Masters, perhaps we’ll never have to see him in it again. It clashed terribly with his green jacket.

While Mize was the lucky winner at the Masters, the unlucky loser was Greg Norman.

Mize’s victory not only cost Norman the $162,000 first-place check--the Shark won $79,200 for sharing second place--it cost him a bundle in bonuses. According to his contracts with apparel and golf equipment manufacturers, each major tournament he wins this year is worth about $300,000.

He lost about $200,000 in bonuses last year, when Bob Tway chipped in from the bunker of the final hole to win the PGA.

As for Mize, he said his Masters victory didn’t mean that much to him in bonus money.

“Mine is teenie, weenie peanuts compared to Greg’s,” Mize said. “He’s in a different rowboat from me.”

Allen Hamberg and his wife, Norma, of Fullerton were playing a round at Sierra La Verne Country Club in La Verne when they reached the 15th hole, a par-3 over a lake.


Allen hit first, using a 3-wood on the 185-yard hole. The ball rolled into the cup for a hole in one. After the celebrating subsided, Norma went to the women’s tee and used a 7-iron for her 115-yard shot.

You guessed it. Another hole in one.

Playing in his first tournament of the year, the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf at Onion Creek in Austin, Tex., Sam Snead said he has lost his vision in his right eye.

“I don’t see a third of my drives,” said Snead, who turns 75 next month.

But that hasn’t prevented him from playing. “I play out of memory,” he said. “If someone tells me to hit 150 yards, I hit 150 yards.”

Golf Notes

The Los Angeles Police-Celebrity tournament is scheduled for May 16 at Rancho Park, near Motor Ave. and Pico Blvd. in West Los Angeles. Among the celebrities expected to attend are Sean Penn, John Voight, Robert Duvall, Ernest Borgnine, Gary Collins and Jamie Farr. Adult tickets, which sell for $4, are available at all Los Angeles police stations and will be sold at the Rancho Park Gate May 16. Children under 12 will be admitted free. . . . Mac O’Grady, who played Los Angeles city courses as a junior, donated $2,500 to the Dept. of Parks and Recreation Junior Golf Program.

The Women’s Professional Golf tour will make its next Southern California stop, April 27-29, at La Mirada Golf Course. The Boys and Girls clubs of Whittier will benefit. The WPGT also has a tournament scheduled for Sierra La Verne Country Club in La Verne, May 26-28. A portion of the May 25 Pro-Am proceeds will benefit the Le Roy Boys Home. . . . The U.S. National Senior Open Golf Assn. will sponsor its spring tournament in Palm Springs, May 12-14. The 54-hole tournament will be played at Mission Hills, Palm Valley and Monterey.

Tac Tharp of Studio City and Vivian Overturf of Huntington Beach won championships in the Los Angeles City Junior tournament at the Sepulveda Golf Complex. . . . Oklahoma State remains No. 1 in the Jones Sports Co. College poll for men. Three Pacific 10 Conference teams are in the top 10--No. 3 Arizona State, No. 4 Arizona and No. 9 UCLA. USC is 14th. Fresno State is No. 5.


The Michael Marks Defeat Diabetes Classic is scheduled for May 18 at Riviera. Several Raiders, including Mike Haynes and Howie Long, are expected to attend. For information, call Tjiska Van Wyk at (213) 381-3639. . . . The Burbank Elks Lodge is holding a four-round tournament, Sept. 1-9, on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. The Elks will donate the proceeds to crippled children. For information, call Bill Howell at (818) 954-9719 or Tortuga Express at (714) 774-3121.