Curtis Strange, the ninth leading money winner on the PGA Tour last year, said yesterday he had been involved in two incidents at the Bay Hill Classic in Orlando, Fla., in March. He said he regretted the incidents and said there would be no repeat performances.
"I said to myself when it all came about how embarrassed I was about it," said Strange, 27, of Kingsmill, Va. "I'm even embarrassed to talk about it, embarrassed to the point that I will not do it again. I hate to say I'll turn over a new leaf, but it will not happen again."
Arnold Palmer, the host of the tournament, wrote a letter dated March 8 to PGA Tour Commissioner Deane R. Beman, citing instances of "abusive language and displays of temperament" at the tournament. Palmer said, in his opinion, "suspensions are in order for some of these incidents" involving pro golfers. Beman, in turn, sent copies of the letter to PGA Tour members. None of the players were identified in the letter.
Strange finished second at the Byron Nelson Golf Classic last week in Dallas and is No. 12 on the money list with earnings of $102,365.
Strange said, "It (Palmer's letter) wasn't directed at me. He wanted Deane to keep up disciplinary action. It was not pointed at me. There were two fellas who acted as bad as me that week. I don't know why my name came up.
"He wants to protect the tour," Strange said. "That's why he wrote it, not to single out me or any other one player."
Strange said the incidents in which he was involved occurred during the second round of the tournament and involved himself, a woman scorekeeper working for the tournament and a photographer covering it. "It was a bad day, believe me," he said.
"I thought she (the scorekeeper) was out of position, twice," Strange said. "I thought maybe she was walking a little too close to us, but that's not her fault. She was where she needed to be to do her job. I did not want to say something I would have to regret later on. She said, 'No problem, Curtis.' The second time, I got short-tempered with her. It upset her and it should have. It was my fault."
Strange said he had written the woman a letter of apology and had received a letter accepting the apology.
On his last hole of the day, at the ninth green, "I was standing over a four- or five-foot putt," Strange said. "It (the photographer's camera) shorted out. But I didn't know that at the time. I missed the putt and as a result I got angry with him. I kind of said something to him walking off the green . . . I felt bad because he had no way of getting around a camera shorting out."
Strange said he believes the scorekeeper also overheard that remark. According to Jim Bell, the tournament coordinator, the scorekeeper told PGA officials about the incidents.
Strange said he apologized to Palmer the next time he saw him, at the Tournament Players Championship in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. "He's a friend," Strange said. "A friend was upset at me. I wanted to straighten it out. Arnold appreciated it."
Beman declined to discuss specifics of the incidents raised by Palmer's letter or any of the individuals involved, saying it was general policy not to make such decisions public. "I have made up my mind (what to do)," he said, "but I have not yet spoken with the players involved to advise them what the decision is."
Beman said he believes that out of 350 players on the tour there are "10 to 15 people who, as a general pattern, conduct themselves actionably all the time. But, frankly, they don't get caught. It's broader than three or four people. But there are three or four really bad ones."
In his letter, Palmer sharply criticized some players on the pro tour for "discourteous and ungentlemanly behavior and thoughtlessness . . . that is despicable to me." He said that too often in the past incidents had been dealt with by wrist-slapping.
Beman said, "I accept the premise that more stringent things should be done for repeated offenses" but that to "run in and make an example of an individual may be less helpful than to take a more pragmatic approach to make sure players as a group are aware of the problem."
Beman said that is the reason he decided to circulate the letter to PGA members. Part of the problem, he said, is that players are reluctant to "confirm what occurs. Nobody wants to be a rat. When somebody gets called on the carpet, and everybody says, 'Oh, that s.o.b. has been doing it for years,' that's not a good enough excuse to throw the book at the guy."
Strange says he is anxious to put the whole thing behind him and that he just wants to show people "I'm not such a bad guy.
"You're supposed to outgrow your emotions," he said. "But you don't outgrow it. You just learn to control it. The good ones control it, the bad ones don't."