HONOLULU (AP) — Parker McLachlin is in his third year on the PGA Tour and he still hasn’t even met Tiger Woods, let alone played with him. He has heard stories of young players being overwhelmed, but at least he will have experience to lean on when the time comes.
After all, not too many golfers get to guard president-elect Barack Obama in a pickup basketball game.
McLachlin’s father was Obama’s high school basketball coach at Punahou School in Honolulu, and during a vacation to Oahu over Christmas, Obama got together with some old friends from school. McLachlin’s father was invited, and asked if his sons could come along.
Next thing he knew, McLachlin was on the court with Obama and had to guard him.
“It was his choice,” McLachlin said. “I think he wanted to have an easy game on defense. He said he wanted to guard the golfer.”
McLachlin wasn’t always a pushover.
“He was trying to back me down, and I’m giving him an elbow to the kidney,” McLachlin said. “And I’m sure the Secret Service guys are like, ‘Get your hands off of him.’ I had to belly up and play a little hard-nosed defense. Looking back on it, I’m like, ‘I can’t believe I was elbowing him.’ But that’s what you’ve got to do.”
He was asked to compare being on the court with Obama to his first time on tour being in the presence of Woods, Vijay Singh and Phil Mickelson, players he had only seen on television.
“That’s an interesting question,” McLachlin said. “I think to me, there’s still a little bit more of an air with Tiger … just because it’s what I do and I aspire to be in Tiger’s shoes. There’s sort of a bit more of an air there, more unattainability.”
Then he paused and smiled at what he had just said.
“Obviously, the presidency is very unattainable, as well,” he said. “Maybe it’s just the way that Barack was. He was very genuine and very interested in what I was doing and everyone else that was there. He made a genuine effort to really connect. That was something that really made you feel at ease with him.”
McLachlin said he would watch the inauguration with more interest than most.
“Just knowing the fact that my dad has had a part in his upbringing and that he’s influenced him in some way, I think, is something pretty special,” McLachlin said.
GWAA AWARDS: Juli Inkster’s entertaining outlook, Erik Compton’s courageous recovery and Furman Bisher’s lifelong passion have led to them to be honored with prestigious awards from the Golf Writers Association of America.
Compton won the Ben Hogan Award for remaining active in golf despite a physical handicap or serious illness. He had a heart transplant at age 12, played on the Walker Cup team, then had a second transplant in May. Five months later, he advanced through the first stage of PGA Tour qualifying.
Inkster, a seven-time major champion who is blunt and glib, received the ASAPSports/Jim Murray Award for reflecting the most positive aspects of the working relationship with the press.
Bisher, the 90-year-old columnist for the Atlanta-Journal Constitution, is being honored with the William D. Richardson Award, given annually to recognize individuals who have consistently made an outstanding contribution to golf. He covered his first PGA Tour event in 1938 and has covered the Masters every year since 1950.
They will be honored at the GWAA’s annual awards dinner April 8 in Augusta, Ga.
HALL OF FAME: Not only did Kenny Perry’s three victories last year earn him a spot on the Ryder Cup team, it got him on the PGA Tour ballot for the World Golf Hall of Fame.
The Hall of Fame released its ballots to voters Tuesday. Perry and Jay Haas were added to the PGA Tour ballot, while Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland was added to the International ballot.
For players to be on the PGA Tour ballot, they must be at least 40 and a tour member for at least 10 years, with a minimum of 10 victories or a combination of 20 PGA and Champions Tour victories. Perry now has 12 wins; Haas won twice last year, pushing his combination of wins to 21. Clarke became eligible by turning 40.
Voters include Hall of Fame members, golf writers, historians and golf dignitaries from around the world. The ballots are due March 2, and players require 65 percent of the vote to be elected. (If no one is elected, the player receiving at least 50 percent will get in).
Lanny Wadkins received 52 percent of the vote last year, followed by Doug Ford (35 percent) and Mark O’Meara (24 percent). Davis Love III received 19 percent last year but likely will get more votes after picking up his 20th career victory in November.
On the international ballot, Jose Maria Olazabal received 49 percent of the vote last year.
CAREER MONEY EXEMPTIONS: Prize money on the PGA Tour has nearly tripled in the last decade. Now, there might be a new way to measure the financial growth — the number of players taking a one-time exemption for career money.
Chris DiMarco is among eight players who will keep their card in 2009 from being in the top 25 or the top 50 in career money, the highest number using career money exemptions this decade.
DiMarco (No. 19) and Tom Lehman (No. 18) are the only two players from the top 25 in career money. The others are Jeff Sluman, Brad Faxon, Bob Estes, David Duval, Jeff Maggert and Loren Roberts. Sluman (No. 26) and Roberts (No. 45) aren’t expected to play most of the time on the Champions Tour, but so taking the exemption was a matter of using it while it’s available.
Roberts and Sluman both are playing in the Sony Open.
“If I don’t use it, I’ll probably lose it,” said Roberts, who plans to play four or five times on the PGA Tour this year.
DIVOTS: Seven players at the Mercedes-Benz Championship decided not to take the 20-minute flight to Oahu for the Sony Open, including Vijay Singh (knee surgery Wednesday) and Justin Leonard, who traditionally plays the Bob Hope Desert Classic next week, which starts a day early because it is 90 holes. … Sean O’Hair figures to have a hectic summer. His wife, Jackie, is expecting their third child in late June. … The Irish Open will be played this year at County Louth Golf Club.
STAT OF THE WEEK: The PGA Tour had 41 players who made more money last year than Arnold Palmer earned in his career.
FINAL WORD: “This is the first year I can remember that I don’t have to worry about keeping my card.” — Paul Azinger, who turns 50 next year and will join the Champions Tour.