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Published: Saturday, 8/14/2004

Nearly fatherless Baird wants to help missing kids

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Briny Baird, at 136, is just one shot from the lead after two rounds of the PGA Championship. Briny Baird, at 136, is just one shot from the lead after two rounds of the PGA Championship.
NATI HARNIK / AP Enlarge

HAVEN, Wis. - Briny Baird insists it is nothing more than irony.

The PGA Tour member, whose golf bag always features a missing child, has no relationship with his own dad, one-time tour winner Butch Baird.

"One has nothing to do with the other,'' Briny said yesterday at Whistling Straits. "If somebody asked you to put a picture of a missing child on your bag, would you say no?''

Baird has parlayed rounds of 67-69 into serious contention at the midway point of the PGA Championship.

As is the case anytime he is in the spotlight, the subject of his relationship with his father was broached.

"It is what it is,'' Briny said. "It just takes too long to explain it. Did you read the story? Well, use whatever you want. It was accurate.''

The story he referred to appeared several weeks ago in Sports Illustrated. It documented a nasty divorce between Baird's parents in the early 1990s that was reportedly fueled by the father's infidelity. Butch moved from Miami to Phoenix and disappeared from Briny's life. Phone calls were few and far between and when Briny and his wife had their first child in March of 2003, Butch never acknowledged the event or sent congratulations.

Earlier this year, when Butch and his current wife - Briny learned of their marriage from a hole marshal at a tournament in which he was playing - showed up out of the blue to join Briny's gallery in Phoenix, an angry son dispatched his caddie to ask them to leave.

"I could hardly look down and see my golf ball,'' Briny told SI. "Everything became a blur.''

Baird was 22nd on the PGA Tour money list in 2003, but has slumped some this year and has dipped to No. 76 in the world rankings.

He is best known for his alliance with Canon4Kids, a collaborative effort with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. This week, for example, his bag displays the picture of a Milwaukee girl who has been missing since May 3, 2002.

Within one shot of the lead heading into today's third round, Baird was asked yesterday if he were saddened by not having a relationship that would allow him to share moments like this with his father.

"Nope, I'm used to it,'' he said. "I'm going to go call my mom and share it with her.''

TAKING AIM: Darren Clarke, the leader after Thursday's first round, stayed close yesterday despite having to play over an early double bogey at No. 11, his second hole of the day.

You might say the tee shot that led to his bad hole was the result of a missed communication between Clarke, who is at 8-under 136 and just a stroke off the lead, and his caddie.

"Billy [Foster] told me to go ahead and aim at that TV tower,'' Clarke said. "I hit a 3-iron to be sensible, hit it absolutely perfect, and I looked at Billy and said, 'It's perfect.' He said, 'Well, actually, it's a bit right. You do know which TV tower I was talking about, don't you?' ''

"It was the wrong TV tower. We'd gone through it in practice rounds, but I completely forgot. It was all my fault. I wasn't paying attention."

NO HOME EDGE: Wisconsin native Jerry Kelly shot a 77 yesterday and missed the cut. "I just plain played poorly,'' he said. "It's my first missed cut of the year and it's the one I most didn't want to miss.''

THREE-DOT DATA: Mark Calcavecchia was disqualified for signing an incorrect score card. He marked down a 3 on the seventh hole when he actually had scored a par 4. . .

Robert Gamez had the second hole-in-one in as many days at the PGA Championship. He aced the tough par-3 17th hole with a 5-iron shot from 228 yards. He made the cut right on the number at 1-over 145. . .

Only one of the 25 club professionals in the field survived the cut. Chip Sullivan, a one-time assistant in the Cleveland area who now works in Virginia, shot 72-71 for a 1-under 143 total. . .

The European Ryder Cup team drew first blood, of sorts. Its captain, Bernhard Langer, is at even-par 144 and made the cut while U.S. captain Hal Sutton is out after rounds of 73-74.


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