Originally created 01/27/99

Japanese tour splits with PGA of Japan



A golf revolt is under way in Japan.

Just as Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus helped pave the way 30 years ago for what is now the PGA Tour, touring pros in Japan are prepared to break from the PGA of Japan.

The Japan Tour Players Club, former Japanese tour director Kosaku Shimada and the Golf Tournament Promotion Association have "decided to separate from the PGA Policy officials who wish to follow the old way and not see the changes needed for the upcoming age," said GTPA director Michio Torii.

The PGA of Japan operated much like the PGA of America -- one division for teaching professionals and one for tournament professionals. Two years ago, the PGA Tour of Japan was established to better serve players' needs.

The tour tried to become independent, but Torii says the four PGA of Japan members on the tour's policy board -- particularly chairman Fujio Ishii -- have "rejected the basic premise of our tour organization."

Shimada represents Japan on the International Federation of PGA Tours, which established the World Golf Championships. He was removed from office, then reinstated when the tour protested. Shimada since has quit on his own.

Shimada will run the new tour, which will be called Golf Tour of Japan. The tour has the support of virtually every tournament sponsor and is planning a 27-event schedule beginning in March.

The PGA of Japan will still run a few tournaments, such as the Kirin Open, although money won from those events will not count toward official money on the Golf Tour of Japan.

TEACHER CUP: Another cup is on the line for the United States this week.

The World Golf Teachers Cup is being played at Ballantrae Golf and Yacht Club in Port St. Lucie, Fla., featuring a team of American teaching pros against their counterparts from around the world. The U.S. team has won the last two cups.

"With international victories in the Ryder Cup and the Presidents Cup, we expect the overseas contingent to put up a strong challenge this year," said Geoff Byant, president of the U.S. Golf Teachers Federation.

About 125 teaching pros are competing for individual and team honors. The top six finishers from the United States, Canada, South America, Europe and Asia will compete for their respective team.

This is the 10th anniversary of the federation, which has the largest number of strictly golf teaching pros in the world -- more than 6,000 in the United States and 39 countries.

SKINS SUB: Jim Colbert, who is replacing Jack Nicklaus in this weekend's Senior Skins Game in Hawaii, has experience as a last-minute substitution.

In his first year on the PGA Tour, Colbert was in Las Vegas when one of the tour officials asked him to fill in during the pro-am.

"I walk to the first tee and these guys give me a funny look," Colbert recalled. "I asked who they were supposed to play with and they said, 'Arnold Palmer.' They were a little disappointed.

"Now, 30 years later, I'm taking Nicklaus' place."

PLAYER LINKS: The PGA Tour has delivered laptop computers to 78 players, with more on the way.

The "Players Links Program" is an attempt to develop an online relationship between the tour and its exempt players. Among other things, players can arrange travel, check the status of their retirement plan and commit to play in tournaments.

The tour is adding a program that would show whether a course has changed from the last time a tournament was played, such as new bunkers or greens that have been rebuilt.

The program will give the tour more immediate communication on a number of issues, and give players a chance to e-mail commissioner Tim Finchem with their concerns. Previously, the tour distributed a weekly "green sheet" with any news of note.

The program will have a mechanism that forces players to read any news update before doing anything else in the system.

"We don't have to rely on them actually reading the green sheet," Finchem said.

DIVOTS: There are two more cubs in the Golden Bear's den. Jack Nicklaus celebrated the birth of two grandchildren this month. ... Ping has put its five-year contract with Bernhard Langer on hold after claiming he was not using enough the minimum number of clubs required. ... The newest member of the Phoenix Open Hall of Fame is retired CBS golf producer Frank Chirkinian. Others previously honored by the Thunderbirds include Arnold Palmer, Byron Nelson, Karsten Solheim and Ben Hogan. ... IMG agent Hughes Norton will play with Notah Begay at Pebble Beach. Begay once caddied for Norton when his pro-am team won the AT&T. Of course, Norton's partner that year was David Duval. ... State Farm Insurance will remain the title sponsor for the LPGA Rail Charity Classic through 2003. ... Greg Norman has scrapped plans to buy a Boeing 737, but has upgraded to a Gulfstream V. ... Tiger Woods is tied for 20th on the money list, the lowest he has been since he was 24th on the final 1996 money list after playing just eight events.

STAT OF THE WEEK: Since the World Golf Rankings began in 1986, only two players have been No. 1 without having won a major -- Ian Woosnam, the week before he won the 1991 Masters, and Fred Couples, for two out of three weeks before he won the 1992 Masters.

FINAL WORD: "They just kept saying, 'Good shot."' -- David Duval, on what playing partner Bob Tway and Jeff Maggert said during his round of 59.