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Golf Notes January 15

Colleges that supply the PGA Tour with the most players include Oklahoma State, UCLA, Texas and Arizona.

The University of Hartford will never be mistaken for a powerhouse, but no one could have imagined the Hawks with three players on tour - from the same team, no less.

"How about that?" said Jerry Kelly, the biggest star of the trio. "Not many other schools can say that, especially a northern school."

Tim Petrovic, an All-American selection at Hartford, kept his card for the first time last year by finishing 86th on the money list, thanks to his runner-up finish in Memphis.

Rounding out the threesome is Patrick Sheehan, a rookie on the PGA Tour after finishing 12th on the Buy.com Tour money list.

Kelly, who defends his title this week in the Sony Open, split time playing hockey as a kid and chose Hartford because its golf team went to the NCAA championships the year before he arrived.

"That was a major factor in me wanting to go, to play Division I golf and get to the NCAAs, and to play Division I hockey," Kelly said. "I wasn't that disappointed they dropped the hockey program when I saw how good the golf program was."

It was good enough to produce three PGA Tour players.

"We're definitely not a powerhouse," Petrovic said Tuesday. "But we beat everyone in the Northeast pretty good."

Petrovic was a year ahead of Kelly at Hartford, and he might have had the most bizarre road to the PGA Tour.

After struggling on the Australasian and Canadian tours, he took jobs delivering newspapers, selling car phones and even working at a Pizza Hut as he kept grinding away on the smallest of mini-tours.

Sheehan was a freshman at Hartford when Petrovic was a senior. He also worked his way through the maze of mini-tours to reach the big leagues.

All three are playing in the Sony Open this week.

"It might be the only time we're together all year," Petrovic said.

Kelly thinks Hartford has potential as a major college team, but he says the Hawks should use its three PGA Tour alums as a recruiting tool.

"The school doesn't recruit outside the Northeast anymore," said Kelly, who grew up in Wisconsin. "I keep telling them, 'I've got a kid in Florida who wants to go.' You've got to come after these guys."

No telling what they might find.

PRIDE AND COUNTRY: Jeff Sluman doesn't understand why any player would turn down a chance to play for his country.

Then again, Sluman has never had a chance.

The 45-year-old Sluman is one of four active players who has won a major, but never played on a Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup team. The others are John Daly, Bob Tway and current PGA champion Rich Beem.

Told he might be the best player to have never played in a Cup, Sluman smiled.

"I guess that's better than being the best player to never win a major," the '88 PGA champion said.

Another good year, and that could change.

Sluman has finished 21st and 15th on the money list the last two seasons, and he is 12th in the Presidents Cup standings. U.S. captain Jack Nicklaus has a history of taking the next two players available for his wild-card selection.

"I'd love to do that," Sluman said. "Anytime you can represent your country in any athletic events, it's important to try to do it."

PUTTING CHANGE: Rocco Mediate was the first player to win on the PGA Tour (Doral in 1991) using the long putter, which helped ease back pains.

Now Mediate is fit enough to switch back to a regular putter, and he isn't complaining about the results.

He was the runner-up last week with a 23-under 269, and although he finished eight strokes behind Ernie Els, he was only four back as he played the last hole.

"I was over that putt, kind of laughing to myself going, 'Here I am in this situation the first week with this thing.' It's a good sign."

WILSON RETURNS: Wilson is back in the endorsement business on the PGA Tour.

The company that once had a lifetime contract with Sam Snead and recently had major champions in consecutive years - Vijay Singh at the '98 PGA Championship, Paul Lawrie at the '99 British Open - has signed Jesper Parnevik to a three-year deal.

Parnevik's contract with Callaway Golf expired last year.

Wilson decided two years ago to promote its equipment through club professionals, who are more active in selling the clubs. Anxious to get more exposure for its Wilson Staff True ball, it signed the Swede.

Parnevik has the bag, glove, ball and Deep Red irons.

In other changes, Robert Allenby has left Maxfli and will use the Srixon irons and ball this year; and Nick Faldo has switched to Nike.

The biggest switch of all came late last year in what was perceived as a trade.

Ernie Els left Taylor Made for Titleist, and won the Mercedes Championship at 31 under par in his first tournament with the new equipment. He hit two drives down the hill on No. 15 at Kapalua, which approached the 400-yard mark.

Sergio Garcia left Titleist for Taylor Made, and is using the Maxfli ball. He tied for 25th last week, although his biggest problem was putting.

DIVOTS: This must be Brad Faxon's favorite time of the year. He has made 66 percent of his money on the PGA Tour - over $2.5 million - in the first three months of the season over the last two years. ... The PGA of America and Jack Nicklaus donated $115,000 in grants to support teaching at 17 chapters of The First Tee program. ... Bob Estes hit 68 greens at the Mercedes Championships, one short of Peter Jacobsen's tour record set in the 1995 Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

STAT OF THE WEEK: Rich Beem was the only player at the Mercedes Championships who failed to break 70.

FINAL WORD: "It was like a wedding invitation. It pretty much says I get to go to Augusta and play in the tournament." - Jonathan Byrd, on receiving his invitation to the Masters.

 

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