Notes Stephens a Man of Few Words at Augusta


Jack Stephens kept out of the spotlight during his seven years as chairman of Augusta National, except for presenting the Masters champion the green jacket in Butler Cabin and his annual news conference on the eve of the tournament. But his droll humor and rich Arkansas drawl made for some entertaining moments.
Stephens often made his point without saying much at all'if he even said anything.
When cigars were all the rage in 1998, he was asked whether Augusta National or any part of the course would be designated non-smoking. Stephens stared at the reporter and smiled, then reached into his pocket and put a pack of Winston cigarettes and his lighter on the table.
Sitting next to him was Will Nicholson, chairman of competition.
No, sir, Nicholson said, turning snickers into laughter.
Were not going to make it No Smoking.
One issue during Stephens tenure from 1991 to 1998 was the Masters limited television coverage. While other majors had a broadcast that stretched five hours or more, the final round of the Masters was only three hours, and usually didnt start until the leaders were approaching the turn.
Stephens once said he might consider extending the broadcast, and so in 1997 he was asked for update.
Progress is slow, Stephens said.
He was asked why it was slow, and to describe the discussions with CBS Sports.
Honestly, Stephens replied, progress is slow because we dont want to do it.
Reporters continued to press Stephens on extending the broadcast, pointing out that it could rob the television audience of dramatic shots that occur over the front nine. One reporter asked him if he ever watched the Super Bowl.
Fourth quarter, Stephens said.
Stephens, the fourth chairman at Augusta National, died over the weekend at age 81. His final year as chairman was in 1998, when Tiger Woods was defending champion after winning by 12 shots with a record score of 270. There was talk about Tiger-proofing the course, although Stephens never seemed to worry. He was asked what he would do if Woods were to set another record and demolish the field.
I suppose well anoint him, he said.
Stephens also could be succinct with players. David Duval finished at 8-under 280 that year and was in Jones Cabin, anticipating a playoff as Mark OMeara lined up a 20-foot birdie putt for the victory.
Dont worry, David, Stephens assured him. Nobody ever makes that putt.
The putt went in, OMeara thrust both arms in the air to celebrate his first major, and Duval was shocked. As Stephens left for the green jacket presentation in Butler Cabin, he looked back at Duval.
Hey, good tournament. Well look forward to seeing you next year.
Three teenagers have petitioned LPGA Tour commissioner Ty Votaw to become members before their 18th birthday, none of them named Michelle Wie.
Votaw made a compromise to U.S. Womens Open runner-up Morgan Pressel, allowing her to go through qualifying school in the fall but not allowing her to become an LPGA member until she turns 18 on May 23. He rejected the request of 15-year-old Carmen Bandea, who has never played an LPGA event.
The latest petition is from In-Bee Park, 17, who won the U.S. Junior Girls three years ago and has been runner-up two of the last three years. She has top 10s in two LPGA Tour starts, both in Las Vegas.
Votaw has not decided whether to waive the LPGAs age limit of 18 for Park, although it appears unlikely.
And he stands by his decision to make Pressel wait until she graduates from high school'three days before she turns 18. The only player granted a full waiver was Aree Song, who was 17 when she joined the tour last year.
Then again, Song had already graduated from high school. Plus, she had played in 14 events on the LPGA Tour, starting with the Kraft Nabisco at age 13 when she was in the final group.
Votaw said he was confident that Pressel would finish high school and keep her 4.0 GPA, but noted her limited experience on the LPGA Tour.
Five tournaments this summer isnt the same as 14 from the age of 13, he said.
Scott Verplank has gone nearly four years since his last win, at the Canadian Open, although it hasnt been for lack of effort.
He hit a brilliant shot in a playoff at Doral last year, only to have Craig Parry hole out a 6-iron. He was poised to win The Players Championship this year until his 10-foot par putt caught the edge, and Fred Funk got up-and-down from a bunker. He was runner-up again last week in Milwaukee.
You can look at that two ways, Verplank said. Either Im really due, or it aint gonna happen. I try and look at it like Im really due.
The average score at Milwaukee was 69.26, the lowest on the PGA Tour at a single course since the field averaged 69.08 at the 2003 Honda Classic at Mirasol. ... The USGA is accepting ticket applications for the 2006 U.S. Open, to be held June 15-18 at Winged Foot. The deadline is Aug. 15, followed by a random drawing. The U.S. Open has been a sellout the last 19 years. ... Scott Verplanks runner-up finish in Milwaukee moved him into 10th place in the Presidents Cup team standings. There are three tournaments left to qualify.
Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh each have been No. 1 for 15 weeks this season.
I hit balls for maybe 20 minutes, hit a few putts, smoke four or five cigarettes, drink three Diet Cokes and go to the first tee.'John Daly, on how he prepares for a tournament.
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