Youthful Star Earns His Stripes At Hacienda

Former junior phenomenon and current Stanford freshman Tiger Woods had already won almost everything he'd entered at the junior level. Nobody but Woods has won the U.S. Junior Amateur twice, not to mention three times. He has a fistful of records at the nation's two biggest junior events.

But unless you were involved directly with junior golf around Southern California, you probably only heard about Tiger Woods.

Southern California now has a broad, first-hand knowledge of a young man who will become, in all likelihood, a legend of the game.

Lofty stuff for someone just 18? Maybe, but it'll be awhile before someone shoots 62 again at Hacienda Golf Club.

That third round of the Southern California Amateur Championship played a big part in Woods' record-setting performance in the 95th renewal of the tournament.

"It's as well as I've ever played," the quietly confident Woods softly told an appreciative crowd at the post-event awards ceremony.

For the record, Woods' four-round total of 270, 10-under-par, set a 72-hole SCGA Amateur record by four strokes, besting Brad Greer's 1985 total at Virginia CC.

Woods staved off a fourth round challenge form Mark Johnson of Sun Valley GC with a merely mortal par-70 on the final day to win by five strokes.

However, it was Saturday's round that was the talk of the tournament. Cheered on by a large gallery bolstered by members of "Team Tiger" — a group of Woods' family and friends — the BIg Canyon CC member came within a stroke of equaling the low nine for the SCGA Amateur.

The 29 (a score Duffy Waldorf posted during the 1982 event) on the front side went by the boards when Woods missed a two-foot putt on the ninth hole after a photographer had moved around within his line of sight. His bogey 5 broke a string of seven consecutive 3s on the scorecard.

Woods got several great breaks throughout the round and made the most of them.

On the short-par-4 third hole, his approach shot hit the concrete corner of the cart path, bounced over the bunker, and rolled to within a foot of the hole.

He made a "barkie birdie" on No. 4 when his shot hit a tree but bounced back in the fairway and subsequently sank a 40-foot-putt.

Then, on the par-5 seventh, he reached the green pin high, but in a bunker. In one smooth shower of sand Woods had an eagle at the 516-yard hole, the ball striking the flagstick and dropping in.

He wasn't finished, despite moving on to the more difficult back nine.

At No. 14, a 426-yard par-4, Woods extracated his ball form the rough and trees, only to have it bounce into some tall grass in a small swale beyond the green. Using his trademark big swing and lofted wedge, Woods floated the ball softly toward the cup (Set toward the back edge this day) and in it went.

With the help of those two shots, Woods completed his record-setting round using just 25 putts.

The 62 is the best score that Woods has ever shot. It is also an SCGA Amateur single-round record, braking Waldorf's final-round 35-29 — 64 at Stockdale (Waldorf, incidentally lost that tournament by a stroke to Mark Blakely).

It also broke Hacienda's competitive course record of 66 shared by Dave Olson and Pat Mateer. A round of 62 was recorded by Dough Soper in the 1950's, according to Hacienda's head pro Andy Thuney, but that was before the course was set up with its blue tees.

Woods is the third-youngest winner of the tournament, being slightly more than a month older than Doug Clarke when the latter won the 1978 title. Paul Hunter won his first of five SCGA Amateurs in 1908 some eight month before he turned 18.

Woods is also the first wire-to-wire winner in the tournament since David Hobby did it in 1983. The closest anyone was to him all three days was after the first round when he shared the top of the leaderboard with Kemp Richardson's opening 68. After the second round, his lead was two over Johnson and TaylorMade Golf's Tom Kroll.

During the four rounds, Woods' had 18 birdies, getting one at each of the holes except the last three (each of which he failed to par once - 17 during the second round was his only double bogey). He birdied the par-five 10th all four rounds and played No. 7 in five under par. His toughest holes proved to be Nos. 5 (the 460-yard No. 1 handicap hole) and 14 (the 426-yard "Road Hole"), each of which he bogied twice (but also made a stunning birdie at each).

Most frustrated of all had to be Johnson, who played some of he finest golf of his career. His 275 total would have won every other SCGA Amateur but Greer's, and he was the bet player on the final day with a sizzling 67, a score that (except for Woods' record) was the tournament's low round.

The meticulous, steady Johnson, who's been winning SCGA events for two decades (and who would come back two weeks later to win the Pacific Coast Amateur Championship), didn't throw in his hand, even in the face of an eight-stroke deficit with 18 holes left. He cut that to five within the first five holes with two of his own birdies and Woods' bogey at No. 5.

However Woods regained momentum at the site of his wondrous sand shot the day before - the seventh. After a huge drive, Tiger landed his second shot within four inches of that bunker, but this time it skipped right toward the hole, stopping on the fringe of the green. With his putter, he rammed in a 35-footer for eagle. Meanwhile, Johnson just missed an 18-footer and settled for birdie.

Johnson then bogied No. 8, and when Woods got his first of three straight birdies at the ninth, the two were back where they started the day, each with 33 going out.

The fact that Woods bogied four of the last six holes came too late to make any difference.

After holing out at 18 and before a TV crew began taping its interview, Woods was surrounded by his family and friends. "We're all Team Tiger and I'm just one of the team," Woods says of his staunch support.

At the risk of mixing meta-phors, it could be said that Team Tiger obviously makes sure that Tiger Woods is batting cleanup each time out.

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