Sorenstam at PGA event puts rookies in spotlight

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 21, 2003

The men's PGA takes a historic turn Thursday when the women's top player, Annika Sorenstam, tees off at 8:58 a.m. at the Bank of America Colonial Open.

Sorenstam was allowed to play in the tournament due to a sponsorship exemption. The move has drawn a lot of attention, especially after the negative comments by 2000 Masters champion Vijay Singh.

PGA Tour rookies Dean Wilson and Aaron Barber have been thrust into the spotlight without swinging a club. They are about to garner plenty of media attention without getting into contention. They have been grouped with Sorenstam during the first two rounds at Colonial.

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The pairings were chosen randomly by a computer.

Yeah, she's paired with two rookies. Sounds like the computer is a former Florida voting machine.

Of course, the media will be hounding Wilson and Barber for their thoughts about playing with Sorenstam. Their answers are predictable, at least publicly. But what about privately in the clubhouse.

I planted an electronic listening device in their lockers and managed to obtain this conversation after the duo learned about being grouped with Sorenstam. Let's listen in.

Barber: Why couldn't we have been put in a group with Anna Kournikova?

Wilson: Because she's a tennis player, not a golfer.

Barber: Well, if they're going to put pressure on us to play with a woman, at least we'd have an excuse if we lose.

Wilson: What kind of excuse?

Barber: Are you kidding? We were distracted by all the, uh, media attention.

Wilson: Well, I think she should have had to qualify just like us. I mean, we could have qualified and got bumped just because of her sponsor exemption.

Barber: Well, she did bump someone who qualified. She bumped Chevy Chase.

Wilson: He's no golfer. He's a comedian.

Barber: Did you see his talk show? He's a golfer.

Wilson: Well, this is all just a big publicity stunt to make people remember the sponsor.

Barber: Who is the sponsor?

Wilson: Some bank. I think it's some kind of men's cologne.

Barber: Not cologne. The tournament is called the Colonial and it is sponsored by some bank. I think it's the Banks of the Ohio River.

Wilson: Ah, you just made that up. It's all a joke, right?

Barber: Yep, just like two rookies being "randomly" grouped.

Wilson: I wonder if they decide to let women play in The Masters and they win if they'll change the name to The Mistress.

Barber: No, Hootie Johnson wouldn't allow that. But it sounds like a tournament Bill Clinton might want to sponsor.

Jim Walker is sports editor of The Ironton Tribune.