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The True Faces Of Golf

From The Pink Panther To The NHL's Blue Jacket Mascot, Players Beautify Bags

By Alex Miceli

South Hadley - Imagine walking down the fairway and seeing Tigger wave back? Or the NHL's Columbus Blue Jacket mascot, Stinger, smile as he bounces along. Or, the Pink Panther coolly bob his head up and down as he's being torn off the body he protects?

Sounds like a psychedelic trip of some sort, but no, it really isn't. At the U.S. Women's Open this week, a smorgasbord of head covers can be seen guarding the players' most valuable assests: their clubs.

Many of them are more than just head covers. Sometimes they describe the personality of the player or they are gifts of love from friends and family.

 
No, it's not a Cicada. It's only Stinger, mascot of the NHL's Columbus Blue Jackets, hanging out in Lorie Kane's bag. (John Mummert/USGA)

And many are unique and artful for different reasons. Laura Diaz' clubs last year used a family of elves from a popular cookie company. Se Ri Pak, winner of the 1998 Women's Open, must like cartoons. How else would one explain the Pink Panther, Tigger and one of the 7 Dwarfs hanging off her bag? Or there are players like Lorena Ochoa, who take the more conservative route and use alma mater covers, like the University of Arizona Wildcat, on her driver.

One of the more interesting head covers belongs to Australian Michelle Ellis, who entered Saturday's round at 3-under 139. On her bag the Notre Dame leprechaun can be found. When she plays, normally Ellis will don a Notre Dame cap.

Naturally she's an alumnus or huge fan, right? Well no. The story goes that since she has so many friends in Lakeland, Fla., who are Florida State fans, Ellis decided to side with one its rivalries.

"People call in and wonder why the little Aussie wants to wear a Notre Dame hat," said Ellis. "I haven't played in events without one on." 

Ellis also has a koala bear cover for her roots Down Under and a beaver as part of a water endorsement deal.

Some people have rules for there bags. Joanna Head's clubs used to have poodles covering them, but since her fiancé, Terry Mundy, has been caddieing for her he's refused to lug around any bag with furry weak-looking canines adorning it. He went so far as to say he wouldn't carry her bag until she replaced them with normal manufacturer head covers, but then the two compromised. As a gift, Munday gave her a white tiger.

"It's now the one-eyed tiger because it has lost an eye," said Head. "He just lost during the winter. It is only 2 years old; he'll stay with me for a while."

Some people have head covers that reflect their personality. Mi Hyun Kim has Popeye on her bag, which she says is like her because they're both strong. Amid breaths of laughter she spoke glowingly of her Goofy cover and said it "looked stupid," but because he has a huge grin on his face, she decided he made the cut.

In many cases a sponsor gets a plug. Scotland's Catriona Matthew sports a duck mascot for an insurance that she received at a tournament in which the company sponsored. She continues to use it even though the hat that came with it has long fallen by the wayside.

One of the more colorful bags has to be Canadian Lori Kane's. First, she has a box of fast food french fries on her driver, and Stinger, the mascot of the Columbus Blue Jackets, on her 3 wood. Kane has an endorsement deal with a popular fast food chain, but Stinger was a gift from a family friend Doug MacLean, who is the general manager of the National Hockey League team.

 
Who would have thought Grumpy, one of the 7 Dwarfs, and the Pink Panther, background, could ever co-exist? But they do in Se Ri Pak's bag as head covers. (John Mummert/USGA)

Besides Ochoa, many other players have head covers from their former colleges. Jamie Hullet, a Texan all the way, uses Texas A&M's Sarge. She got Sarge in 1999 from her coach Jeanne Sutherland. Poor Sarge is so torn up that his A&M tie is ripped off, but a new one is on the way. 

"I called my coach after my practice round and said, 'Coach, Sarge is in bad shape, you got to send me a new one.' So hopefully there's one in the mail," said Hullet, who also has a Texas flag as another head cover and a rottweiler as a present from her caddie.

The cartoon characters are very prevalent at the Women's Open this week.  Korean Jeong Jang has both Olive Oil and Brutus on her clubs, but also has a girl and boy monkey as well.  In the Chinese calendar, the Year of the Monkey also represents the year Jang was born. So the monkey gets to go along for the ride.

Another Korean, Soo-Yun Kang, also has many cartoon head covers: Tigger, Hello Kitty, Ody (the dog from the comic strip Garfield) and even childrens' favorite Elmo. Korean Seol-An Jeon has Snoopy on her clubs. Need a reason why? Her nickname is Snoopy, so her best friend got her one to add to her collection. Not only does she have Snoopy but she also has a teddy bear that is only 3 weeks old, but it is nameless at the moment.

Some head covers are made by other famous golfers. Take two-time USGA champion Dorothy Delasin, for instance. She saw a tiger on PGA Tour player Rich Beam's bag at the EDS Byron Nelson Championship and said, "I want one of those."

So her caddie pulled some strings through John Daly, who had connections to getting such a cover.

Voila, now she has it.

Kate Miceli and Ken Klavon of the USGA contributed.