Kansas City's bold NFL draft gamble; speeding up golf slowpokes

There's no question that the Kansas City Chiefs have gone out on a limb to bolster their offense. The Chiefs used their top two picks in this year's National Football League draft to select running backs with uncertain futures - Temple's Paul Palmer and Azusa Pacific's Christian Okoye. At 5 ft. 10 in., 180 lbs., Palmer is undersized by pro standards. Okoye, a 25-year-old Nigerian who came to the United States on a track scholarship, definitely has the size (he's a sculpted 6-3, 250), but not much experience, having taken up the game just three years ago, and then at a small Los Angeles-area school. The Chiefs, of course, were duly impressed with each player's college credentials. Palmer, the Heisman Trophy runner-up to Vinny Testaverde, was the major-college rushing champion, with nearly 170 yards per game. Okoye averaged 186.7, more than any other back in the country. But the big question is whether he can ever approximate this performance against NFL competition.

Okoye can bull through tacklers, but he's been known to leave the ball behind (26 fumbles in 28 games) and has to learn how to catch it.

In the past, the thought of drafting such a raw talent might have seemed too risky. But many eyes have been opened by the rapid development of Nigerian basketball player Akeem Olajuwon, who in six years has gone from a klutzy college freshman to a genuine NBA superstar.

Then, too, scouts and coaches were duly impressed when Okoye scored a record four touchdowns in January's Senior Bowl, an all-star contest where he got to display his short-yardage prowess against many pro prospects. ``Even I got excited,'' said Don Shula, who has coached many great players with the Miami Dolphins. Attention, golf tortoises

Golf Digest's ``Stop slow play'' campaign is trying to humor the turtles of the fairway into quickening their pace. To identify the slowpokes, the magazine offers an amusing checklist to pinpoint the culprits. It explains that golfers are too slow if others play through on the first tee, if they finish in darkness after starting at dawn, or if family members file missing persons' reports each time they play. As much as anything else, the campaign serves as a reminder that 18 holes of golf were never meant to last five hours. Among the common-sense ways any individual can help to keep things moving are these:

Carry an extra ball.

Mark your score on the way to the next tee.

Go to your own ball instead of waiting nearby as a playing partner hits. Two players, in fact, can hit simultaneously as long there's no danger in doing so.

Don't always wait for the person farthest from the hole to putt. If someone else is ready, that player should go.

Cut down on or eliminate practice swings.

Be realistic about how far you can hit the ball, and don't necessarily wait for the group in front to disappear before driving or taking an approach shot.

Decide which club to use as you approach your ball.

Never spend more than five minutes looking for a lost ball, and encourage others to hit rather than joining in the search.

When arriving at the green, place your bag or cart where no backtracking will be necessary after holing out.

And finally, follow the advice of great Gene Sarazen, who used to say, ``Miss 'em quick.'' In other words, don't expect that undue deliberations will make for a better score. Touching other bases

The United States and West Germany are two of the world's leading tennis-playing nations, right? Absolutely, but that hasn't kept them from being relegated to the losers' bracket of the current Davis Cup playoffs. Both countries lost opening-round matches in March, the United States to Paraguay and West Germany to Spain. As a result, the two will soon battle each other just for the right to play in the 1988 qualifying matches. Whichever country is defeated this time is out of contention for the cup until at least 1989. The match, to be played in Hartford, Conn., July 24-26, will be the first on American soil since October 1984. It could be a classic confrontation between potential tennis superpowers, and possibly their biggest male headliners, Boris Becker and John McEnroe.

Organizers of the Pan American Games in Indianapolis have enlisted the help of Walt Disney World to plan a spectacular opening ceremony. The Aug. 8 extravaganza will be staged at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which until now has been used exclusively for the 500-mile auto race. The plan is to use about 80,000 grandstand seats, with ticket prices ranging from $10 to $100.

TV basketball analyst Billy Packer makes a good point about holding the college tournament's Final Four in domed stadiums. He says these facilities let more people ``be a part of the show,'' not simply as spectators, but as fans who share in the atmosphere that surrounds this event. As anyone who has attended a Final Four knows, half the fun comes in rubbing shoulders with the coaches and fans from around the country, whether in hotel lobbies, restaurants, or simply on the streets of the host city. Packer, in fact, suggests booking the season wrap-up into a Southern city as often as possible, thereby enhancing the event's potential as a rite of spring.

Sunday night games will become a regular fixture of the National Football League schedule this fall. ESPN, which has been cut into the league's new TV contract, will be televising prime-time contests on each of the regular season's final eight Sunday nights.

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