Advertisement
  1. Archive

With maturity comes victory

The letters on his baseball cap earn him an abundance of money, but Lee Janzen cannot buy the word they really spell _ maturity.

Chances were remote Sunday night that Janzen was drinking the non-alcoholic beer, Sharp's, he endorses. Champagne was the beverage of choice, and perhaps it came straight out of the U.S. Open trophy he claimed earlier in the day at Baltusrol Golf Club.

Although he now swears by the straight stuff (but admits he still strays occasionally), there was a time when Janzen would have scoffed at slurping anything that didn't have a little kick to it.

Not that he ever had a drinking problem, but when Janzen was at Florida Southern College in Lakeland, tearing it up had nothing to do with shooting a great score on a golf course.

"Back then it was always, "When are we going out; where are we going?' " said Charley Matlock, 62, who just completed his 21st year as golf coach at Florida Southern. "Maturity has really helped him.

"He discovered two kinds of lifestyles in college. He knew how to party and he knew how to play it straight. I think he found out that the straighter he plays it, the better off his game is. College was a proving ground for him in that way."

Matlock's voice boomed with pride on the telephone from his Lakeland home Sunday afternoon as he watched the U.S. Open on television. One of his prized pupils was about realize the stuff of dreams and become a part of golfing history.

No matter how talented Matlock always believed Janzen was, no matter how much he felt in his heart that Janzen could be this good, there is always fear. Thousands of talented, hotshot college golfers never taste this kind of success.

"I'm very involved and engrossed in it," Matlock said, the tournament blaring in the background. "My son just walked in the room and I told him not to talk during Lee's backswing."

Anything to help. And on this day, Janzen needed all of it. Matlock _ along with swing instructor and friend Rick Smith _ hoped that the years of sweating would pay off amid the major championship heat that Janzen never before had felt.

"The pressure is like another hazard out there," said Nick Price, who let it get to him twice while blowing the British Open before handling it beautifully last summer to win the PGA Championship. "It makes it difficult to stay focused. You start thinking of so many things."

The inference was this: Don't be surprised if Janzen is trying to dislodge a large object from his throat come the back nine on Sunday afternoon. He looked cool, but Janzen was anything but. "I woke up with a knot in my stomach and it still hasn't gone away," Janzen said later.

There were enough sprayed tee shots, shaky approaches and slippery putts to make you believe him. A collapse seemed inevitable. Many of the greats in golf had to endure some embarrassing, humbling moments in the majors before it was their turn to win.

Payne Stewart was one. He had a chance to win the U.S. Open in 1986 _ the same year Janzen was winning an NCAA Division II title _ at Shinnecock Hills, but was melted by the stare of steely Raymond Floyd, who at the time became the oldest player to win the championship.

Now Janzen, 28, would be paired with Stewart, 36, who learned from his mistakes and three years later came from behind to win the PGA Championship. In 1991, he won the U.S Open in a playoff over Scott Simpson.

Playing with Stewart, who had two solid rounds on the weekend, would not be easy. Janzen never had made the cut in a U.S. Open. He tied for the first-round lead at this year's Masters and blew up.

Then he grew up _ to become the youngest U.S. Open champion in 15 years.

Janzen joined elite company. His 272 total tied a U.S. Open record set by Jack Nicklaus at Baltusrol in 1980. His four scores in the 60s make him and Lee Trevino _ who did it in 1968 at Oak Hill _ the only players to accomplish that feat in 93 U.S. Opens.

"I was with Lee in his formative years," Matlock said. "It's such a wonderful thing to see him doing this. He's a much more complete person, a much more mature person than the one I knew."

Janzen has a right to celebrate in style. Chances are, he'll do so in moderation.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Advertisement
Advertisement