Mark NessmithThis Week at November 01, 2005

With his stand against R&A, Jean
Van de Velde clings (barely) to relevance

Certainly you've read by now about Jean Van de Velde's comments about the R&A allowing women to play in the Open Championship. (That's the "British Open" to you base Americans - having just been to Scotland, I prefer the proper designation. More tea, Jeeves!) At any rate, the mad Frenchman got himself into the headlines again, using his most potent weapon. His golf clubs? Nope - his mouth.

High-minded golf writers everywhere, including our own Jennifer Mario and others in the blogosphere, have railed against Van de Velde in print before rounding up pitchforks and torches and setting off to sack Euro Disney in Paris. A good many others argue that Van de Velde's got a point. What with the likes of Michelle Wie, Annika Sorenstam, and Suzy Whaley playing in men's tournaments, it's only fair to let men qualify for LPGA events, they say.

Well, my first thought when I scanned the headlines was: Jean Van de who?

Oh, yeah, that French dude who took off his shoes and committed hari-kari in the British Open, err, the Open Championship back in '99. Hmmm, haven't heard from that guy in awhile. But if people are still quoting him about things golf, he must be doing okay, right? So I did some extensive research (read: googled his name and asked a few golf-nut friends). His bio at the official web site of the PGA European Tour begins: "Will forever be remembered as the man who nearly won the Open Golf Championship. Led the 1999 Championship at Carnoustie by three shots playing the 72nd hole only to take a triple bogey seven and then lose ..." Nothing new there. So I read on.

Well, he came in second at the Open de France back in June, losing to the inimitable Jean-Francois Remesy in a playoff but besting a field for the ages that included Soren Hansen, Francois Delamontagne, Gregory Havret, Bradley Dredge and so forth. And he's sitting at a respectable 43rd on the European Tour Order of Merit. His last actual victory, however, came in the 1993 Roma Masters. In other words, over the past decade Chris Baldwin has won as many European PGA Tour events as M. Van de Velde. The Frenchman's comments came last Thursday, following his round of 78 at the Volvo Masters. And assuming you're his caddie, you remember how he missed the cut in the Open at St. Andrews back in July with a 150.

Thinking there must be more to this guy, I popped over to Pretty much all that site says is "The Official Site of Jean Van de Velde - Coming Soon," and then lists five sponsors (they've got to be ecstatic to have this guy touting their gear, eh?).

So the issue of women playing in men's events is not going anywhere soon, and I'm still saddled with this one burning question: Other than his Carnoustie calamity, why the hell is anyone still talking about Jean Van de Velde?

As always, welcomes your comments.

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