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Clarke, Love relationship rooted in sportsmanship

Tuesday - 10/22/2013, 2:00pm  ET

DOUG FERGUSON
AP Golf Writer

The McGladrey Classic still isn't sure what kind of field to expect as a regular PGA Tour event in November, about a month later than usual, and one week after most of the top players are in Shanghai for the HSBC Champions. For crowd appeal, the tournament received a boost from the commitment of Darren Clarke.

Considering the host at Sea Island -- Davis Love III -- that should not be all that surprising.

Clarke, a most popular British Open champion two years ago at Royal St. George's and for years the lovable, cigar-chomping, Ryder Cup regular, decided this year to take up PGA Tour membership and play a full schedule. His first stop in America is Sea Island.

The long friendship between Clarke and Love is best illustrated in match play on two occasions in 2004.

During the semifinals of the Accenture Match Play Championship, Love rallied to force extra holes. The greens were so bumpy at La Costa that Love, not wanting to see the match end with a missed putt, conceded par putts from 4- to 5-foot range on consecutive holes. Love won in 21 holes.

Later that year, in the Ryder Cup, Love put his tee shot on 18 in the rough. He could have widened his stance for a high cut shot and taken relief because his foot would have been on a sprinkler. He chose to play the ball where it was because such a shot would have been impractical. They halved the match.

"He said I was honest with my drop in the rough," Love recalled last month at Sea Island. "Darren is just one of those guys like Freddie (Couples). Everywhere he plays, people like watching him."

Love still isn't sure how Clarke decided on Sea Island. He said Scott Reid, the McGladrey Classic tournament director, heard a rumor Clarke might be playing and asked Love to try to close the deal. Too late. Turns out Clarke already had committed as Love was sending him a text.

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THE PRO & THE AM: Rock singer Huey Lewis had to pull out of the Dunhill Links Championship in Scotland, which might have been the best thing to ever happen to Bradley Neill in more ways than he can count.

The 17-year-old Scottish Boys champion was asked to fill in for the rock singer, meaning four days with former U.S. Amateur champion Peter Uihlein. Neill watched Uihlein narrowly miss a shot at 59 at Kingsbarns, holed out for eagle at St. Andrews to take the lead and lose in a playoff.

And then it got even better.

Uihlein donated his prize from the pro-am -- 10,000 pounds (about $16,000) -- to the Scottish Golf Union to help pay for Neill's golfing expenses.

"Bradley was a pleasure to partner and I was very impressed with his performance," Uihlein said. "He has a great chance of achieving success in the game if he continues to work hard. I will be following his career and hope the donation can play some small part in helping him progress in the right direction."

Neill said he was nervous to being playing a European Tour event -- Ernie Els was in his group -- but that Uihlein made it comfortable and enjoyable.

"The experience will stay with me for a long time, and I hope it's not the last time we play together," Neill said.

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AMBASSADOR WIE: Michelle Wie is getting her second taste of the Olympics -- first as a spectator, next as an ambassador.

Wie has been chosen to be an ambassador for the Youth Olympic Games when golf makes its debut next summer. Wie was 10 when she qualified for the U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links, and she became the youngest USGA winner of an adult championship when she captures the WAPL three years later in Florida at 13.

She turned professional at 16 and has two LPGA Tour wins.

"I'm hoping to teach young people to have fun with their game, to be competitive, to really want something and to realize the importance of having a dream," Wie said. "I think it's really important to inspire young people to take up sports. It's important to be active and be outdoors."

Wie said she was inspired to make the Olympic team in 2016 after attending the London Games last year.

"It's one of my biggest focuses, making the American team for Rio," she said.

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SPECIAL MEMBERSHIP: Brooks Koepka has received a sponsor exemption to the OHL Classic in Mexico next month. That will be his third PGA Tour start out of four events in North America that will help toward earning special temporary membership.

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