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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Gamblers Give Sorenstam High Odds to Win; Interview With Brian Kontak

Aired May 21, 2003 - 20:24   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Very interesting sports story to follow out of Fort Worth, Texas. Las Vegas odds makers have made Annika Sorenstam a 500 to 1 longshot in this weekend's Colonial Golf Tournament. Then they'll give you 4 to 1 she won't even make the cut even though she's considered the best player in women's golf in the entire world.
This weekend, of course, she is playing with the guys. Josie Karp is watching her today at practice round. Joins us from Fort Worth, Texas. Josie, good evening.

JOSIE KARP, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Daryn. You know, it has already been an overwhelming week for Annika Sorenstam and she still hasn't played the round that counts yet.

Today she said she was overwhelmed by all of the people who turned out to watch her play in the Pro-Am. Again, this was a round that doesn't count for anything, but still, people were lining the fairway, they were five deep, just to catch a glimpse of Annika Sorenstam, to cheer Annika Sorenstam, to show off their "Go, Annika" buttons.

And they stayed out on the course with her in a driving rain through 10 holes, but then they called all the golfers off the course, trying to keep this course in shape for when the golf begins for real tomorrow morning. And afterward Sorenstam said that she wasn't keeping score but she probably shot no worse than one over par and that she is definitely ready to play for real.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNIKA SORENSTAM, GOLFER: Today was just trying to stay dry. But you know, it's another chance for me to see the golf course. You know, I worked a little bit on my swing, and today I was a little more calm than yesterday, so I felt like I hit some good shots.

You know, I love the golf course. It's much different than I thought it would be because of the water, obviously. I can't prepare anymore. I mean, I've been waiting for this day for a long time. I've been practicing a lot the last few months. You know, I want the day to come. You know, it's here. So whatever happens happens.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KARP: Even though Sorenstam has said that everyone here, all the PGA Tour players, they've made her feel very welcome, that doesn't mean that the controversy has entirely disappeared.

There were some rumblings today, some talk among tour players about whether or not the PGA Tour should change its bylaws because currently there are no restrictions based on gender. But one player who would be in charge of getting the ball rolling towards a change like that, David Toms, he sits on the policy board, said as far as he's concerned yes, this week has been like a circus, but unless every week started to become like this one he doesn't foresee there being any great outcry for change -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Well, a little bit of celebrity rubbing off from Annika. The two rookies that are paired through the computer drawing to tee off with her tomorrow, I think they've been surprised. One of those young men, he's in under a sponsor exemption just like Annika is, isn't that right?

KARP: That's exactly right. And he said, even if he had found out that somehow he didn't get the sponsor's exemption because Annika Sorenstam did, he wouldn't feel like she had gotten something that she didn't deserve because both those guys, Aaron Barber and Dean Wilson, have said.

And certainly there's something in it for them, that they're very excited to play with her. They think they can learn from her because they respect the fact that she has accomplished so much on the Women's Tour. And they think that she really does belong with the men, that she definitely deserves this possibility.

They weren't saying they were going to lose to her. They weren't going to say that she was going to go out and make the cut. But they were willing to say that she definitely deserved this chance -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Well, if not, 15 minutes of fame for them, 18 holes at least. Josie Karp in Fort Worth.

KARP: At least 36, actually. It's the first two rounds.

KAGAN: Well, there you go. Exactly. Thank you for correcting me on that. Josie Karp in Fort Worth, Texas. Appreciate that.

Well, Sorenstam's presence at the Colonial has raised questions about whether women can or should play in men's golf tournaments, but there's another side to this coin. A veteran of the men's circuit, though not the PGA Tour, says that he wants to tee up with the ladies.

Brian Contact hopes to qualify for this summer's U.S. Women's Open. However, the women say he cannot. Brian Kontak joining us from Phoenix, Arizona. Brian, good evening. Thanks for being with us.

BRIAN KONTAK, GOLFER: Thanks for having me.

KAGAN: Explain to our viewers exactly the tournament you want to play in. KONTAK: It's the USGA Women's Open. It's open to anybody except people who weren't born a female.

KAGAN: Well, and there you have it. There's actually a rule, not just that you have to be female, you have to be born female. So just in case you were thinking, Brian, about doing something between now and then, that's not going to help you out is it?

KONTAK: No, I don't think my wife would appreciate it, either.

KAGAN: No, she probably not. It's probably not worth it.

But you did file and ask for this on the day that Annika was accepting the invitation to play in the Colonial, is that right?

KONTAK: Yes, that's correct.

KAGAN: Are you doing this as a protest? Are you against Annika Sorenstam playing in the Colonial?

KONTAK: No, I'm not against her playing in the Colonial. I just -- I feel that a sponsor's exemption would have been better used on a player that -- either a veteran or an up and comer that has worked all of his life to try and get that spot.

KAGAN: But you've been around the golf game long enough. You know these sponsor's exemptions, they're controversial in their own right. I'm sure you could tell me stories of tournaments that you have played in where sponsor's exemptions go to people for getting the gender that just absolutely make you roll your eyes.

KONTAK: Well, it's obviously ultimately up to the sponsor. I do think that the PGA Tour should play a little bit more of a role in who and who isn't available -- or who -- you know, who can or cannot play in that event.

KAGAN: Give us the lowdown or the latest on your quest to play in this women's event.

KONTAK: Well, this year it's not going to happen. The qualifying has already started. So I'm going to have a whole year to kind of get my ducks in a row, get a lawyer, and go from there.

KAGAN: So you will sue to try to get that right?

KONTAK: Absolutely.

KAGAN: We will be tracking that.

Just while I have you here, golf expert, how do you think Annika Sorenstam is going to do in the Colonial?

KONTAK: I hope she plays well for her.

KAGAN: What does that mean? Make par? Make the cut? KONTAK: Whatever her best is, I'm sure she's going to put it out there, and I hope it's -- you know, I hope she plays the best that she can.

KAGAN: Do you think this is the last we've seen of women playing in PGA events?

KONTAK: Well, no, because you've got two more coming up in Suzy Whaley and...

KONTAK: And Michelle Weave (ph)...

(CROSSTALK)

KAGAN: Absolutely.

How's your game looking these days, Brian?

KONTAK: It's getting better.

KAGAN: OK. We wish you luck out on the golf course. Thanks so much for stopping by. Appreciate your story.

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Brian Kontak>


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