June 1, 2008

Andrew Giuliani . . .

Unruly brat or good kid who just wanted to play golf at Duke?

Early in 2008, Rudy Giuliani's son was kicked off the Duke University golf team. The coach portrayed the kid as a hot-headed bully. Andrew Giuliani fired back with a lawsuit. Here a skeptic might have thought, Oh, great, another sniveling, silver-spooned brat.

That might well be true. It might also be too easy. There is the question asked of me by a friend/Duke graduate. It goes, " 'Sniveling, silver-spooned?' And how exactly does that make him different from every other Duke student?" One thinks of those Dukies painted blue at Coach K worship services.

Hearing Andrew Giuliani's name, even the angels of tolerance among us would click on the YouTube video, "Guiliani's [sic] Funny Son." The year is 1994, and we see Rudy making his New York City mayoral inauguration speech. Andrew, 7 years old, has jumped from his chair and stands at the lectern just off Rudy's right hand, the boy chubby-cheeked with thick blond hair, a match for Daddy in a dark suit and tie.

As Rudy Giuliani's voice rises: " . . . to give our children a stronger and a healthier city"—the memorable image is not of the former New York prosecutor who would run for president on the America's 9/11 Mayor ticket.

Instead, we remember little Andrew doing his Rudy impression. Terence Mulvey, then a New York police officer in the mayor's protective unit, thinks of the moment as "so hysterical that I see it now and still think it's funny." The boy is a ham and mischief-maker, and at his daddy's shining hour Andrew Giuliani has the time of a rambunctious kid's life.

Though on the video we hear only the mayor, the boy is also speaking. Andrew dominates the video with Rudy in the background, unaware of his son's dead-on act. They gesticulate in tandem, their heads bob together, and we see the imp's lips form the words that we hear from the mayor. "It should be so," father and son say, "and it will be so."

Let us note that at Rudy's second inauguration, in 1998, the young Giuliani remained seated and mute. For years, in fact, he went unseen and unheard. But there was a messy divorce, with Rudy leaving Andrew's mother. And after Rudy's third marriage brought his son more of life's baggage, Andrew surfaced in early 2007 to say he has a strained relationship with his father.

Now comes the ruckus at Duke, where Giuliani, a senior sociology major, is the university's latest athletic cause celebre.

On Feb. 11, 2008, two weeks after his father quit the presidential race, Andrew Giuliani was booted from the school's golf team. He looks like a Nicklaus—fair-skinned with sun-brightened blond hair—and at 5-feet-10, 210, to quote a witness, he's "built like a brick house." Never more than a second-stringer at an elite program, he made national news in July with the lawsuit against the university and golf coach O.D. Vincent.

Giuliani claims he was unfairly dismissed. The suit argues that his enrollment at Duke constituted a contract in which his payment of $200,000 in tuition and fees across four years brought him, among other things, lifetime access to the university's golf facilities. The suit asks for that access, compensatory damages, exemplary damages, legal fees and a ruling that student-athletes enjoy contractual rights.

Duke's argument is that no such contract has ever existed and that the university's golf opportunities are a privilege, not a right.

The school's independent newspaper favors the administration. In an editorial, The Chronicle called Giuliani's case "tenuous at best, vindictive at worst and, on its face, without merit in any court of law."

Both sides mostly agree on the precipitating events, though Giuliani's suit portrays them as trivial, and Duke's account suggests darker possibilities.

Giuliani's suit summarizes coach Vincent's allegations against Giuliani as (1) "throwing and breaking a club," (2) walking ahead of a playing partner, (3) "gunning" his car engine as he drove fast out of a course parking lot, (4) "during a football game that was part of the team's training session, Andrew played harder than some of the other boys wanted to play," and (5) being "disrespectful" to a trainer. Not to mention the Flying Apple Incident, about which we'll get to more in a minute.

Duke's answers claim that Giuliani (1) slammed a putter against his bag, breaking a driver that he then, against golf's rules, replaced in competition, (2) injured a teammate in that football game, (3) drove "at a high rate of speed at the entrance to a golf course frequented by members and their children," (4) was "verbally abusive and physically confrontational" with a Duke coaching staff member, and (5) violated "consistently the rules and integrity" of golf.

Now, to the core of the apple affair . . .

Giuliani's suit says it happened this way: "On February 10, 2008, after a teammate, Brian Kim, twice hit Andrew's hand, knocking an apple to the ground, and slammed a door, hitting Andrew's face, Andrew tossed the apple at the teammate, glancing off the side of Kim's face."

In answer, Duke denies those allegations and claims that Giuliani injured Kim by "throwing an apple at Brian Kim with such force that the apple 'exploded' when it hit Brian Kim in the face, leaving a mark on Brian Kim's face visible a day later." In a motion for dismissal, Duke's lawyers said Giuliani had "physically assaulted" Kim.

Here, as we bounce between silly and serious, there seems to be only one thing to say.

Whoa, Nellie.

There is only one question to ask.

Assault by apple?

Not to be flip, heavens no. But this is Duke, where in 2007 three lacrosse players were finally exonerated of kidnapping and rape charges. And now we're worried about who hit whom how hard with a piece of fruit? Inquiring minds want to know: Red Delicious or Granny Smith?

O.D. Vincent could have told Andrew Giuliani he just wasn't good enough. (A 2007-'08 stroke average of 74.5 ranked him 12th of 14 players.) Nor did recruiting promises to Giuliani by the previous coach, Rod Myers, mean a thing. (Never do. Besides, Myers died March 30, 2007.)

It all befuddles Allan Small. He knows Giuliani well; he has played with and against him. He knows golf administration well; he coached Seton Hall University's golf team from 1991-'95 and is vice president of the Metropolitan Golf Association, which oversees the New York region.

"These are young kids, their hormones are flowing, they compete against each other practically daily to make the tournament teams, they travel together, room together, run together," Small says. "All these egos are colliding constantly. Clearly, things have happened. But, look, if I suspended every kid who did something stupid . . . "

Before this summer's Met Amateur, Small found himself on the practice tee between Giuliani and a Duke star, Michael Quagliano.

"Andrew and Michael used to be good buddies, but now they don't speak," Small says. "I've said a lot of nice things about Andrew, and now Michael barely says hi to me." A sigh. "I wanted so badly to say to these two guys, 'Talk to me for five minutes. Andrew, drop the case. Michael, be the team leader.' "

What Small hears from Duke, he says, is not what he knows of the Giuliani who has played Met events since age 12. "No staff, no committee member, no player that I know has made one comment that Andrew ever did anything inappropriate."

Paul Sliva, the pro at Van Cortlandt Park Golf Course and Giuliani's first coach, loves Giuliani's "work ethic, maturity and discipline." A high school football buddy, Ethan Pickett, called Giuliani "a great teammate who motivated us all."

Because Vincent, his lawyers and current Duke players have refused public comment since the lawsuit was filed, I looked for someone else who might have gotten crossways with Giuliani.

Maybe a caddie? Caddies know all. How about a 40-year-old caddie who'd never met Giuliani before the Met Am and doesn't expect to see him again?

"The caddiemaster said, 'You can handle this,' and put me on Andrew's bag," Shane Lynch says. "Here's how he was. We're walking along the second hole, first day. He puts his arm around me. He says, 'Listen, nothing out here is your fault. If I get mad, it's definitely not at you, it's at me.' Nobody ever said that to me before."

Lynch's day job is a title-insurance examiner. "I told my dad I was caddieing for Andrew Giuliani, and he said, 'Snot-nosed kid.' I said, 'Not at all.' " He worked five rounds for Giuliani. "I'd read a number of articles, and, you ask me, Andrew's the direct opposite of what Duke's claiming."

How about a competitor? Tommy McDonagh is a 19-year-old Penn State sophomore. This summer he beat Giuliani in the Met Am semifinals. They went 21 holes. Two years ago, same tournament, semifinals, McDonagh beat him then, too.

"I always get along with Andrew well," McDonagh says. "He's a nice guy. A great sense of humor. He tells funny golf stories and stories about people he's met." McDonagh said he heard "a lot of the negative, but I always wondered where that came from because it was never my experience."

Giuliani spoke with me in his lawyer's office with the lawyer, Robert Ekstrand, tape-recording the session. We couldn't talk about the case, so we talked about his future. He graduates in May and intends to turn pro soon after. He tried PGA Tour qualifying school in September; at Roseville, Calif., rounds of 73-78-77-71 left him one shot short of qualifying for first-stage play.

We also talked about his father's inauguration speech. Here's what 22-year-old Andrew Giuliani thinks about his 7-year-old self:

"I see the video and . . . "

Laughing out loud. " . . . I think, Who's that crazy kid? "