Jordan Plays Pro-Am SBC Senior Open

Thursday, June 8th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LONG GROVE, Ill. (AP) — He's every inch the corporate mogul these days, right down to the cellular phone that sits on his left hip. He's traded in his jump shot for a day job, with deals to close and coaches to woo.

No matter what he's doing or where he's doing it, though, Chicago can never get enough of Michael Jordan.

``He'll always belong to Chicago,'' said Ken Baxter, who brought his 3-year-old son, Andy, to watch Jordan play in a pro-am Wednesday at the SBC Senior Open. ``There's never been an athlete quite like him. Who knows if there ever will be.''

Two years after he led the Bulls to their sixth NBA title, Chicagoans turned out in droves to follow him around the course, hoping to catch his eye or maybe even be lucky enough to get a pat on the shoulder.

They carried cameras, snapping pictures of him at every opportunity. They brought basketballs and hats for him to sign. There were kids in No. 23 jerseys, though not as many as in years past.

The woman who offers to cook him dinner every year was back, though she's taken the fried bologna she always promises off the menu. And the guys who camp out on the roof of the house overlooking the 13th green were up there again, right above a banner that read, ``Hey Mike, I'm Back! Go Wizards.''

``It was a relaxing round. We had a fun time today,'' Jordan said. ``I had a couple of bad holes, but I finished up good, so I am happy about that.''

Jordan was five-over for 17 holes; he picked up his ball on the 10th after his tee shot went over a fence and out-of-bounds.

His game is better than it was last year, and he can blame that annoying cell phone for a couple of his extra strokes. In negotiations with University of Miami coach Leonard Hamilton for the Wizards head coaching job, he hadn't even reached the first green when the phone rang.

He talked and walked for most of the second hole, gabbing even as he lined up a putt. By the fourth hole, playing partner Raymond Floyd decided Jordan had chatted enough to merit some grief.

``Michael, you going to play golf or are you going to pitty-pat around?'' Floyd yelled.

``I'm going to pitty-pat until I can get all of these phone calls taken care of,'' Jordan said, patting his phone.

Sure enough, just as he was about to take his third shot of the hole, the phone went off again.

``Phone!'' Jordan yelled, as his shot from about 110 yards out landed two yards short of the green.

Jordan said after the round that while he and Hamilton have had ``some great conversations,'' they don't have a deal yet.

``I've got a little work to do,'' Jordan said. ``This is just a little short stop. I have been pretty busy as of late. I am pretty sure you guys know that.''

Even if it was only for a few hours, Jordan's fans were thrilled to see him back in Chicago. Neil Precilio and Kevin Looff, 8-year-olds from Lake Zurich, Ill., followed him all day, trying to get as close to him as they could.

On the fifth hole, Neil worked up his guts and yelled, ``Hey Michael!'' When Jordan turned his way, Neil yelled hello.

``He said, `Hi, how are you doing?''' Neil said, elation in his eyes. Jordan signed hats for the boys after his round.

Baxter and his son, who was wearing a Bulls T-shirt and carrying a tiny Bulls basketball, were waiting as Jordan walked to the ninth tee, and he stopped to say hello. Andy Baxter was only 1 the last time Jordan was on a basketball court, but he's still a huge fan, his father said.

``We've got a videotape of the 1993 Finals,'' Ken Baxter said. ``That's his favorite thing to watch.''

After his round, Jordan took pictures with tournament workers and talked to reporters. Unlike the past two years, he didn't have to answer any questions about his future. The playing days are definitely over, he's got a team to run now.

``I never said I came in knowing everything about the game,'' he said. ``I have been around the game enough to understand the challenges and some of the business surrounding it. But I am still a student of it. I will continue to learn.''