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Tee to Green: Strange sports firings

6:30 PM, Jul 4, 2013   |    comments
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Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Lost in the spectacle of Inbee Park's historic performance at the U.S. Women's Open was the bizarre incident involving Jessica Korda.

The 20-year-old American was 5-over par through nine third-round holes at the season's third major when she promptly fired her caddie, Jason Gilroyed, on the course.

And who replaced the longtime LPGA Tour looper on the back nine? Korda's boyfriend, of course.

"Johnny, grab the bag, let's go," Korda told Johnny DelPrete, a professional golfer who missed five of six cuts on the Web.com Tour last season.

Boyfriend in tow, Korda fired a 1-under on the back nine. She kept DelPrete on the bag for the final round and shot 73, finishing in a tie for seventh and pulling in $94,357.

"I think everybody has problems every week," Korda said. "You blame the caddie, the caddie blames you. It's just up in the air. I just felt like enough was enough today so I just -- I just wasn't mentally ready for it. It's a U.S. Open. It's a big week for me. It's one of the most important weeks for me of the year. I was just not in the right state of mind."

Korda's taxed mental state certainly yielded a bizarre result. When asked if she'd ever seen another player fire a caddie mid-round, Korda simply replied, "No."

But this wasn't the first strange dismissal to grace the sporting world. When a diverse collection of driven personalities are competing for on-field success, lucrative pay days and public adoration, things can get pretty weird.

ROGER NEILSON

Today, Roger Neilson is a respected former coach, a Hockey Hall of Famer and a known innovator. But in 1979 he was just a guy looking for a job.

Neilson guided the 1977-78 Toronto Maple Leafs to a conference finals berth his first year at the helm. But during a losing stretch the following season, he was fired by owner Harold Ballard after a game in Montreal.

With no assistance from Maple Leafs management, Neilson had to inform the press of his own dismissal. Media and fans alike did not support the firing, and without a suitable replacement lined up, Ballard was forced to re-hire Neilson just two days later.

The owner then made an odd request: that Neilson enter the next game wearing a paper bag over his head, then remove it just before the faceoff to the amazement of the fans. The coach refused, finished the season, made it to the second round of the playoffs, and was fired for good that April.

GEORGE O'LEARY

Five days. That's how long George O'Leary acted as head football coach at the University of Notre Dame.

In 2001, the 55-year-old O'Leary landed the most prestigious job of his coaching career, bolting Georgia Tech to take over the Fighting Irish. He didn't last long.

Within days, several inaccuracies were discovered in O'Leary's biographical profile.

First, a New England newspaper trying to report a feature on O'Leary discovered that hadn't played in a single game at the University of New Hampshire, where he claimed he had earned three letters in football from 1966 to 1968.

When pressed by Notre Dame, O'Leary subsequently admitted to lying about his academic record. The institution where he claimed to have earned his master's degree, NYU-Stony Brook University, didn't exist. It was actually a combination of two separate schools, NYU and Stony Brook. In reality, O'Leary had only taken two courses at Stony Brook. He never graduated.

When the truth was revealed, O'Leary offered his resignation and Notre Dame accepted.

TIM JOHNSON

In 1998, Tim Johnson guided the Toronto Blue Jays to an 88-74 record in his first year as an MLB manager. The Blue Jays finished third in the AL East, four games out of a tie for the wild card, thanks in part to Johnson's inspirational stories about his service in the Vietnam War.

The problem? Johnson never served in Vietnam. He was a member of the Marine Corps reserves during the war and served at Camp Pendleton in Southern California while playing in the Los Angeles Dodgers' farm system.

Another popular, if less egregious, lie promoted by Johnson was that he turned down a basketball scholarship from UCLA.

After the 1998 season, Johnson admitted the truth to the media. The Blue Jays initially kept Johnson on, but the distraction proved overwhelming, and they fired him during spring training.

Shortly before Johnson was let go, Ed Sprague, the Blue Jays third baseman during the 1998 season, called the manager a "liar" and a "backstabber."

The Blue Jays haven't reached 88 wins in a season since Johnson's firing.

The Sports Network