Why Laura's a heroine

Great Briton puts on a show for the kid

Bob Warters's picture
Fri, 5 Apr 2002

Laura Davies gained a new fan this week – 15-year-old Aree Wongluekiet, one of the Thai-born twin amateurs playing on the LPGA circuit.

Laura Davies - star of the show.

The European star from Surrey and the schoolgirl from Florida were paired together in the final round of the Kraft Nabisco Championship at Mission Hills in California and Davies took the opportunity to put on an exhibition for Aree and a possee of fans who followed their progress.

At the ninth tee of the narrow Par-5 dogleg, Davies tossed a ball on the ground, pulled out her Srixon driver and fizzed a perfect hook not more than 10 feet off the ground to give herself a shot at the green 525 yards away.

Aree and the gallery gasped in awe.

At the par-5 18th, fearless Davies ripped another drive 300 yards and shaped to reach the island green in two big hits. Aree and the crowd groaned as she mishit her attempt in the water but received a standing ovation when she salvaged her par with a pitch and a putt.

Sports Illustrated’s reporter on the spot eaves-dropped as the wonderkid and her heroine discussed cars, houses, school and holidays on the way round – almost everything but golf.

Down the first fairway, after Davies had ripped a 2-iron as far as Wongluekiet's driver, the kid questioned the veteran about her car collection.

"Yeah, I have four cars, including a couple of Ferraris," Davies told wide-eyed Wongluekiet.

After Wongluekiet birdied the third, Davies asked her young playing partner when she had to go back to school.

"Tomorrow morning at 7 a.m.," said Wongluekiet, who attends Pendelton Academy in Bradenton, Florida and was on a spring break holiday last week.

"You have to fly back to Florida and go to school tomorrow?" asked Davies. "That stinks. I tell you what, if you shoot under par today, I will write you a note to be excused."

Later, Wongluekiet asked her new pal about her modest home back in England. "I heard about your house," Wongluekiet said.

"It's not a big house -- just five bedrooms, but I have six acres with a soccer field and a nine-hole pitch-and-putt golf course in the backyard. So it's a fun house," said Davies, who didn't mention she has a pool table, dart board and a direct line to her bookie when she fancies a bet.

"Cool," said Wongluekiet.

"Yeah, actually I have two spare bedrooms so you and Naree (Aree's sister) can come and visit any time you like," Davies said.

"But we like to stay up late, we may keep you awake," said the teenager, who no doubt couldn't wait to put a date in her diary for a visit to Byfleet for the summer holidays.

"She is unbelievable," Wongluekiet said. "I would like to be more like her."

Jill McGill - Playboy offer.

While Davies makes an impression with her golf skills, another LPGA player is attracting attention by considering a contract offer to pose for Playboy magazine.

American Jill McGill, 30, finished second in a recent poll among golf fans, asked which Tour player would look best in the camera lens.

"It's not something that I would say, ‘No, I absolutely won't do it,'" McGill told Sports illustrated/ CNN after the survey in which she finished behind Swedish Solheim Cup player Carin Koch.

Carin Koch - poll-winner.

Six-foot tall McGill, known for wearing mini shorts and tight, black T-shirts, is reportedly still mulling over the offer but Ty Votaw, the Tour’s commissioner, is worried about the Tour's image.

"If Jill McGill is approached or is asked to do that, I'm sure she will ask very intelligent questions before she comes to a decision," he said, diplomatically, falling short of saying he would discourage her.

"I would encourage her to ask as many intelligent questions as she could and make up her own mind, which is her right," he said. In other words, 'Ms McGill, don’t you dare!'

If McGill, a former competitor on the European Women’s Tour, bares all, some say it’s a concession that females can't bolster ratings as athletes alone? It begs the question: Can fans whistle at their favourite players?

Meanwhile Laura Davies, thankfully, just has to be herself to attract hero worship from all age groups.



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