PGA golfer seeks a spot in Womens Open


When the best female golfers in the world converge on Pumpkin Ridge July 3-6 for the U.S. Women's Open, Brian Kontak intends to be there, competing for the top prize.

Motivated by Annika Sorenstam's inclusion in the Bank of America Colonial PGA event in May, Kontak, 31, says he will attempt to qualify for the U.S. Women's Open.

'I don't want to be involved with the LPGA,' Kontak told the Golf Channel this week. 'I want to enter this event because it is run by the USGA and is a public entity. If a woman has the opportunity to play in a men's event, a man should have the opportunity to play in a women's event, without a doubt.'

Colonial organizers are granting Sorenstam 'a spot that should go to an individual trying to make a living on the PGA Tour,' Kontak said.

Kontak, a Phoenix resident who has five Canadian Tour victories and is competing on the Nationwide Tour this year, says he has retained an attorney and will take the issue to court if necessary, citing 'public accommodation laws and the right-to-work issue. The U.S. Women's Open bylaws state you have to be born a female to try to qualify, but under the 14th Amendment, you cannot discriminate by gender.'

Some are accusing Kontak of using this as a publicity stunt, but he insists otherwise.

'A lot of times I do things on a whim,' he said. 'But I have thought about this, I know what I am doing, and I believe I am doing what is right.'

• Sports Illustrated polled 75 PGA Tour players on a variety of subjects, and former Beaverton and University of Oregon standout Ben Crane was a landslide winner in one category Ñ slowest player. Crane received 37 percent of the vote, compared to 16 percent for runner-up Bernhard Langer. 'He is glacial,' one player said of Crane. Said another: 'I believe they bronzed him the last time I saw him swing.'

• Tonya Harding's opponent for her next pro fight March 15 in Gulfport, Miss., is Shannon Birmingham, 23, a bank employee from Tupelo, Miss. Ñ same hometown as Samantha Browning, who beat Harding in their pro debuts at Memphis last month. The guess here is that Birmingham won't be as tough as Browning. Harding's promoters envision a world lightweight title down the road, so she needs to start piling up victories.

Harding could use a good payday. Two days after her loss to Browning, a Clark County, Wash., judge ordered her to pay $20,000 to a former landlord who evicted her from her Vancouver home when she didn't pay rent last year. It probably didn't help that Harding was an hour late for her court date, explaining that her car had broken down.

'I was definitely going to pay (rent),' Harding told the judge. 'I was just waiting for the money to come in. Unfortunately, me and my dog are going to have to sleep in a Corvette roadster.'

• ESPN's 'Outside the Lines' will feature former Beaverton High and Portland State pitcher Steve Olin, who was killed with Cleveland Indians teammate Tim Crews in a boating accident 10 years ago, in a piece that will air at 7:30 a.m. March 16.

'We anticipate it airing on SportsCenter in different versions later that week,' says reporter Tom Rinaldi, who worked as a news reporter for KATU-TV in 1996-98 and came to ESPN last year from CNN-SI.

When Olin was killed, he and wife Patti had three young children. Patti is now married to Billy Winter, the University of Portland golf coach who was an outfielder for the Pilots and played against Olin while he was at PSU. ESPN visited with the Winter family in Portland and with Olin's parents, who live in the Portland area.

'It is a story about the power of love and perseverance over incredible loss,' Rinaldi says. 'It is a portrait of a remarkably strong and loving family. Patti's strength in raising the children after such a loss has been remarkable.'

• New Mexico basketball coach Ritchie McKay's admission that assistant Duane Broussard violated an NCAA rule prohibiting contact between an official at one institution and an athlete at another has been forwarded to the NCAA's enforcement staff. The ex-OSU coach says contact between Broussard and members of the Bradley basketball team was innocent, violating the letter of the law but not the spirit of it.

Broussard had several phone conversations in the past 10 months with athletes he helped recruit to Bradley before joining McKay at New Mexico. Sophomore Danny Granger has transferred from Bradley to New Mexico, and McKay initially said nothing was wrong with the conversations as long as they were not of a recruiting nature.

New Mexico officials believe the transgression will be ruled by the NCAA as a secondary violation, which is generally handled by the school through a letter of admonishment or reprimand.

Bradley Athletic Director Ken Kavanagh has refused to release Granger from his scholarship and disagrees with the Lobos' assessment of the seriousness of the violation.

'This was a blatant and repeated violation,' Kavanagh told the Albuquerque Tribune. 'If this was a matter of calling up saying, 'Happy birthday' or 'How is your sick cousin?' É that is an innocent violation of the bylaw. But that's not what this is. It is a long way from that.'

• Gresham's Matt 'The Law' Lindland improved his record to 9-1 by scoring a unanimous decision over the world's No. 2 contender, Phil Baroni, in last week's Ultimate Fighting card in Atlantic City. The 2000 Olympic wrestling silver medalist is, according to one source, 'on a fast track for another shot at the world championship.' Says Lindblad: 'My goal is to fight the champion,' Brazilian Murilo Bustamante.

• The Oregon Sports Hall of Fame has a new board of directors and a new lease on life. The hall, located at 321 S.W. Salmon St. since 1997, was financially unstable. The new management team will focus on procuring new exhibits and increasing attendance, board member Drew Mahalic says.

• St. Johns Racquet Center is back in the hands of the city of Portland. After eight years of a private lease arrangement, St. Johns Ñ built in 1980 Ñ returns to the direction of the Portland Parks & Recreation Department, but under no cost to the taxpayers.

'We have a year to make it financially,' says recreational coordinator Mike Stone, who also runs Portland Tennis Center. 'If we don't, it turns into a maintenance shed. We think we can do it. I would like to see it as an active part of the Portland tennis community, which is desperate for indoor courts.'

• Joe Gerber, former Grant High and Oregon State first baseman, was one of 10 players signed by San Diego after a two-day tryout camp in Peoria last week. Gerber likely will be sent to Class A.

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