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Zoeller Played an Ill-Advised Shot

Bottom line on the longest week in the life of Frank Urban “Fuzzy” Zoeller:

He who lives by the flippant one-liner gets booted by Kmart, ridiculed by Jay Leno, derided by Jesse Jackson, scorned by the NAACP and guilted out of the Greater Greensboro Chrysler Classic when the flippant one-liner is way out of bounds and delivered, ever so brightly, for the benefit of CNN television cameras and microphones.

Like a chip shot onto a slick green that bounces alongside the pin and rolls . . . and rolls . . . and rolls all the way to double-bogey

oblivion, L’affaire Fuzzy continues to snowball on Zoeller, despite the best efforts of his buddies on the tour--read: Good Ol’ Boys--to translate and “interpret” Zoeller’s ill-conceived remarks about Tiger Woods at the Masters.

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See, Fuzzy meant no harm when he called Woods “that little boy,” because Fuzzy calls everybody “that little boy.” Why, just the other week, he called John Daly “that little boy,” and everybody knows Daly’s not little, which makes everything all right.

And when Fuzzy said, “Tell him not to serve fried chicken next year . . . or collard greens or whatever the hell they serve,” he wasn’t singling out an entire race and insulting it. “They” are the cooks and the waiters at the Masters, see, the ones who literally serve the meals at the champions dinner every year.

And “collard greens”?

No, no, no, no. What Fuzzy really said is that Tiger’s “collar is green.” You know, the one on that new jacket they gave him in Augusta?

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Unfortunately for Zoeller, the videotape does not lie. It might have been inexplicably suppressed for a week by CNN, but the videotape does exist, and if you’ve seen it, you can gather what Zoeller was getting at quite quickly.

Zoeller is seen outside the Augusta clubhouse, holding a cup of liquid--not milk, I’m guessing--while talking to a reporter from CNN’s “Pro Golf Weekly” show. Zoeller is speaking while Woods is finishing his final few holes at the Masters, and appears to be at a point somewhere between bemusement and aggravation as he is asked for the umpteenth time about Woods demolishing the most prestigious tournament in golf.

“He’s doing quite well,” Zoeller replies, looking eager to cut this interview short and get back inside the clubhouse. “Pretty impressive. That little boy is driving well and he’s putting well. He’s doing everything it takes to win.”

The challenge, as Zoeller sizes up the situation: Got to get out of here, now, but got to leave ‘em laughing.

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So, the self-described “jokester” reaches into his bag of quips and pulls out the wrong club.

“So, you know what you guys do when he gets in here?” Zoeller says. “You pat him on the back and say congratulations and enjoy it and tell him not to serve fried chicken next year. Got it?”

Exit, stage right. Zoeller peels away from the interviewer, seeming to be pleased with himself, snapping his fingers. He takes a step or two and looks back over his shoulder, calling back to the interviewer, “Or collard greens or whatever the hell they serve.”

It’s a sorry scene. Zoeller has rightly apologized--and apologized, and apologized--and is probably genuine when he claims he meant Woods no ill will, a telling statement on the current condition of men’s professional golf.

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Initially, Zoeller believed his comments were cute and harmless because they fall in line with the accepted mind-set of the white-dominated enclave that is country club golf.

For sure, much worse has been said about Woods and other black golfers behind closed clubhouse doors. In that context, Zoeller must have figured that a couple of cracks about “soul food” were innocuous--sanitized and palatable enough to be trotted out in front of a CNN film crew.

Woods may not be the next Jackie Robinson, but he’s trudging up the same mountain Robinson tried to scale 50 years ago. With every trophy he holds aloft, Woods takes another hack at the bias and bigotry that permeate golf, a sport that still prefers its fairways green and its champions white.

Give the kid 40 more years and a dozen more Masters championships and, maybe, he might make some headway.

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TIGER WOODS, CABLINASIAN

In the meantime, Woods is telling Oprah Winfrey that he’d rather not be labeled “black” or “African American.”

“Growing up,” Woods told Winfrey in an interview that aired Thursday, “I came up with this name: I’m a Cablinasian.” The name, Woods explained, represents his genetic makeup--part Caucasian, part black, part Indian, part Asian.

That could complicate next year’s menu at the next Master’s champions dinner, Fuzzy.

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Then again, as defending champion, what will Woods select for the fare at the 1998 champions dinner?

Most likely, 72 holes and a few dozen fading middle-aged reputations from the PGA’s Generation Ex.

Tasted all right the first time around in 1997.

STILL ON THE SHELF

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Kmart announced Thursday that it will not pull the Zoeller line of golf products from its stores even though it has cut its ties to him. The company, the nation’s third-largest retailer, said it will continue to sell the Zoeller golf equipment at the regular retail price until supplies are depleted.

“We stopped production of these items,” said Laura Mahle, a spokeswoman for Kmart. “But they will not disappear.”

TIGER IRWIN? HALE WOODS?

As he was closing down a 14-under-par, 12-stroke victory at last week’s PGA Seniors’ Championship, Hale Irwin could hear the chanting in the gallery.

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“They kept saying, ‘Tiger Irwin! Tiger Irwin!’ ” he said.

“I thought, ‘What the hell is wrong with ‘Hale Woods?’ ”

Irwin’s 12-stroke triumph is a senior tour record, and the victory was his third in six starts in 1997--a performance that can be described, at this point in Irwin’s career, as Tigeresque.

“I think Tiger [at the Masters] was a lesson for everybody,” Irwin, 51, said. “The young man played with a great deal of intensity under tremendous scrutiny, and I think more so than he justifies.

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“But at the same time, he seems to be dealing with it adequately well, and to see how he played a golf course that’s built for him, tear it apart . . . just rip the field up . . . I won’t say it’s inspirational, but you can always learn from that. And this old dog doesn’t intend to quit learning.

“I can look at him and say, ‘That’s the way I used to be.’ Not necessarily the results--[but] the intensity. Whatever it takes.”

LAURA DAVIES, REAL FOOTBALLER

If Andrew Shue can draw a paycheck from a professional soccer team, why can’t Laura Davies get in a few moonlighting kicks for free?

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Last Friday night in South Carolina, Davies, the 1996 LPGA player of the year, started at forward for the Myrtle Beach Sea Dawgs, a men’s minor league professional team. Davies played six minutes, got a few touches and completed a couple of passes.

“It was great fun,” said Davies, a soccer aficionado who has a soccer field in the front yard of her home in England. “I’ll take any chance I can get to have a go at a sport. Plus, I got a jersey with my name on it.”

Davies was in South Carolina on business, competing in last week’s Susan G. Komen International. She had been invited by the Sea Dawgs to make a guest appearance in their Friday night game, but didn’t find out until Wednesday that, in her words, she would be playing in “a proper league match” and was worried she might be “letting the guys down.”

Maybe Davies should have stayed on for the full 90 minutes. The score was nil-nil when she was substituted, but the Sea Dawgs eventually lost to the North Jersey Imperials, 4-1.

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