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Wednesday, December 17, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 23.0° F  Partly Cloudy
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Midsummer mailbag: Women's golf, NBA draft, soccer, books

In this lazy summer period between the NBA Finals and the start of NFL training camp, there are few must-see sporting events, at least according to the pundits. This is the time of year many sports columnists take vacations, getting some golf and fishing in before baseball's pennant races heat up. But not Isthmus' resident sports dork. In fact, I'm hard at work catching up on my email.

So I heard you used to caddie at Interlachen Country Club, site of the 2008 U.S. Women's Open. How are you handicapping the field?
Michelle W.

Like just about everyone else, I like Lorena Ochoa, for a variety of reasons. At 26, Ochoa represents the future of women's golf. She leads the LPGA in driving distance (270.8 yards), scoring (68.63) and greens in regulation (.782). Time magazine named her one of the world's 100 most influential people, thanks to her foundation, which funds an elementary school in her native Guadalajara.

But don't count out Annika Sorenstam, who has been the big name in women's golf since the mid-'90s. Sorenstam has announced she'll retire after this season, and it's a fair bet the native Swede will be a crowd favorite in the Scandinavian-loaded Twin Cities.

Also playing at Interlachen this week will be Madison native Sherri Steinhauer, a 45-year-old tour native who won the British Open in 2006. But keep an eye on Christina Kim, one of the flashier young personalities on the LPGA tour, who is sure to feed off the crowd and vice-versa.

What's your mock NBA Draft look like?
Brian B.

Unlike most hoop heads, I couldn't care less about which players go to which teams in the draft. I watch for the attire. The top projected picks are all under 20 and will be made instant multimillionaires. They've been fronted some cash by their agents and sent on shopping sprees to gear up for Thursday night's proceedings. Let's just say none of these kids will be rolling out in an off-the-rack Men's Wearhouse get-up. Expect brash colors, ill-advised patterns and plenty of diamonds.

The best reason to watch the draft, however, is to observe a talented young player, brimming with confidence and potential, come to terms with being drafted by the perennially horrible L.A. Clippers or Milwaukee Bucks in front of a national TV audience. Most mock drafts predict the Clippers, who pick second, will snare Kansas State's Michael Beasley, who scored 23 in a loss to the Badgers in the 2008 NCAA tournament.

The Bucks pick eighth, where's Chad Ford projects they'll take a guy named Joe Alexander, a 6'8" forward from West Virginia. The word on Alexander is that he's a work in progress who needs to develop his shot and ball-handling skills. Let's see how he fares in the sartorial department.

Who do you think will win the Major League Soccer championship this year?
David B.

MLS? Who cares about MLS? I plan on getting my yard work out of the way while D.C. United plays the L.A. Galaxy this Sunday and plopping down on the couch just in time to watch the Euro 2008 final.

Disney did American soccer fans a huge favor by televising every match of this delightful event, which is the best showcase for the sport aside from the World Cup, on its various sports networks. And instead of dumbing down the coverage, the ESPN commentators played it straight, using leading-edge technology to break down scoring plays in a way that was instructive to die-hard fans and newbies alike.

We keep hearing that Americans will never embrace soccer because there's not enough scoring. But when the mechanics and personalities of the game are featured in the way ESPN has done it, only the most close-minded sports fan would be able to deny the drama of a 1-0 match.

What are you reading these days?
Buzz B.

I recently got my hands on a copy of Beer and Circus: How Big-Time College Sports Is Crippling Undergraduate Education. Author Murray Sperber analyzes how state universities use big-time athletics, and the accompanying party atmosphere, to distract undergraduate students from the declining quality of their education.

Sperber is a professor emeritus at Indiana University, but he uses responses gleaned from questionnaires distributed to students and faculty at schools across the country to form his opinions. After reading his book, you'll never view the binge drinking that takes place on football Saturdays in Madison the same way again.

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