What in the world is Mark (Unplayable) Lye - unknown PGA tour rabbit - doing in the World Series of Golf?
This tournament with its $100,000 first prize and an elite world-class field of 20 is supposed to be the bucket of gold at the end of the golf season's rainbow.
However, Lye, a rookie from Napa, Calif., who ranks 107th on the money-winning list but qualified by winning the Australian Order of Merit, was the first man to tee off on valunted Firestone outh today.
It took him only one swing to live up to his nickname. His first tee shot Friday, a hook toward tiger country, to - you guessed it - an unplayable Lye.
Nevertheless, it has been an experience that "I wouldn't trade for anything."
This morning Lye leaned back in a deep leather arm chair in the Firestone Country Club locker room munching a chicken wing and thinking about the whole improbable thing.
Suddenly, Firestone club pro Bobby Nichols interrupted the reveries. "Excuse me, Mark," he said. "Someone to meet you."
"This," said Nichols, "is Mr. Firestone."
"Mr. Firestone?" said Lye numble, letting the name [WORD ILLEGIBLE] around in his blank brain as he wiped chicken grease off his hand.
"Anything I can do for you, Mark?" asked Mr. Firestone.
"No. No thanks," Lye managed to get out.
When he was alone again, Lye simply sat and shook his head. "Mr. Firestone," he kept repeating with a disbelieving chuckle. "I guess I thougt he would look like a tire."
It has been a week of suprise and disbelief for Lye. He can hardly realize that a year ago at this time his career was at a dead end. He twice had missed qualifying for his tour card and had dedided to head halfway around the world to Australia to get his head together and make a few dollars where the competition was soft.
In just nine week in Australia Lye made $42,000 and an awful reputation. "The Australians resent Americans coming over and winning their tournaments," he said. "One paper actually ran a photo of me yawning and a headline that said, "Yankee, go Home."
If the Aussies though if him as "that awful Lye" the young pro also found that he had indvertantly made enemies at home.
When Lye finally got his tour card last December at Brownville, Tex., he found himself a marked rabbit on the tour.
"As the ledding Australian money winner," explained Lye. "I had won something called the Australian Order of Merit that qualified me for the World Series of Golf."
"Some of the other pros were green with envy," said one Firestone official. "They couldn't swallor it that some rookie had gotten in the Series before he ever got his tour card.
Sometimes the remarks were not even kept behind Lye's back. "This tour is dog-eat-dog full of cliques and cut-downs," said Lye. "One guy who earns $100,000 or more every year walked up behind me on a practice putting green and said, "How did you get in the World Series?"
"Anybody who thinks about it would know that it's absurd to assume that I went to Australia to win the Order of Merit. With as little talent as I had then. I was just struggling to make expenses from week to week and get a little experience."
The though of Firestone has been with Lye constantly for almost a year. He visited the course months ago jsut to walk the famous grounds. And he showed up eight days early to start practice for the Series.
"I played the South Course for eight straight days," said Lye. "then after that I'd hit balls for three hours at least."
"I'm afraid," said a Firestone official, "that Mark overcooked himself with practice."
By the third hole on Friday, all Lye's dreams of a huge payday were cooked, a bot overdone, too.He hooked wildly into a tree that spit his ball into a pond. After a penalty drop. Lye chipped back into the pond. When Lye stopped adding the dam-ages, the total was quadruple bogey eight - the score the pros call "a snowman."
"It was awful," moaned Lye after his opening 78, the highest score in the field by three strokes. "I hit only four fairways all day. It's a beautiful course . . . what I could see of it from the weed."