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Stephenson's One-Under 215 Gives Her Three-Stroke Lead at Oakmont

March 24, 1985|SHAV GLICK | Times Staff Writer

From the way the players of the Ladies Professional Golf Assn. have been talking all week, the U.S. Golf Assn. should bring the U.S. Women's Open to Oakmont.

And that doesn't mean historic old Oakmont on the outskirts of Pittsburgh, either. It means historic old Oakmont Country Club on the outskirts of Glendale.

The USGA's idea of a perfect Open course is one that does not yield a sub-par score for 72 holes. Or, if it does, by only a stroke or two.

After 54 holes of the inaugural GNA Tournament, a $250,000 LPGA tournament, one one player, Jan Stephenson, is under par. And only by one stroke. Stephenson shot par 72 Saturday for a 215 for three rounds over the 6,328-yard, par-72 course.

Three strokes back at 218 are Bonnie Lauer, one of three who equaled the course record of 70; Becky Pearson, who moved up with a 71; and second-round leader Barbara Moxness, who slipped to a 78.

Pearl Sinn, the 17-year-old amateur from Bellflower, shot a steady 74 to share the 219 spot with two pre-tournament favorites, Nancy Lopez, who shot a 75 Saturday, and Pat Bradley, who shot a 72.

Where are the other big names of one of the strongest fields ever assembled for a women's golf tournament?

Player of the year Betsy King is 72-226. Hall of Famer JoAnne Carner is 75-224. U.S. Open champion Hollis Stacy is 70-225. 1983 Player of the Year Patty Sheehan is 73-222.

Those are the scores the USGA would love.

Said Stephenson, a former Open champion: "This is one of the few courses we play where ball hitting is important. It's like an Open course, where you have to place your shots to have a chance at a birdie."

Moxness: "The course is very comparable to ones we use for the U.S. Open. It's long, tight and very demanding for us."

Pearson: "This is one of the three most difficult courses we play. It's terrific. But we've had ideal weather, which makes me wonder what the scores would be like if the weather was bad."

Debbie Massey, who shot a course-record, four-under-par 32 for nine holes: "If we played more courses like this, we'd all be better players. You have to use all your clubs, and that's more than you can say for most courses we play, except the Open."

Stephenson, normally a steady player who hits most of the greens, had an uncharacteristic round of four bogeys--three in her first four holes--and four birdies as she scrambled her way around.

"It wasn't my style of golf today," Stephenson said. "I started out timidly, and that didn't work, and then I got too aggressive, and that didn't work. I lost my confidence when I took three putts on the first hole and I was lucky to stop the bleeding with a long putt (30 feet) that dropped on the fifth hole."

Later she made three more birdie putts of 15, 4 and 20 feet, prompting her to say: "I kept missing the easy ones and making the tough ones."

The holes that ruined the day for most of the players were two long par 4s, 410-yard No. 12 and 405-yard No. 13. That's where Stephenson broke away from the pack.

Where Stephenson went par-birdie, Moxness went bogey-bogey, Lopez bogey-double bogey, Sinn bogey-bogey and Bradley par-double bogey.

Pearson, winless in six years on the tour, went bogey-birdie at 12-13 and said: "I felt like I picked up a shot."

One of the remarkable things about the tournament is the steady play of Sinn, a Bellflower High School student who is the only amateur who qualified. After shooting a surprising 70 on Thursday, predictions were that she would fade away in the later rounds, but instead she has ground out scores of 75-74 without a single double bogey.

"I have learned so much, I feel like I've grown about 10 years in three days," Sinn said. "Tomorrow, if my nerves hold up, I just hope I can play a good round and come close, maybe finish in the top ten. Or the top five."

Then a pause while she thought about it.

"Maybe in the top three."

Lopez, the last schoolgirl to challenge the professionals while still in high school in Roswell, N.M., was laudatory of Sinn.

"I think the way Pearl is playing is great," Lopez said. "I remember the days when I was in that position. I'm sure she is very excited. She may be one of the next great pro players on the tour. You never know. This is a tough course, really tough, and she's hung in there. I'm just glad she's not making any money this week."

Sinn, asked if she would feel less pressure when she returns to high school competition, said: "Oh, no, then I'll have to play the boys."

Massey, who bogeyed the 10th hole before starting her sub-par streak on the tough back nine, helped her cause with an eagle-2 on the 364-yard 16th hole when she holed out from 112 yards.

"I hit the most perfect three-quarter 9-iron I ever hit," Massey said. "It hit the green, took a couple of bounces and disappeared in the ground."

Oakmont, where Ben Hogan shot a final round 64 to win the 1948 Glendale Open, is still looking for its first round in the 60s by a woman. The record is two-under-par 70 by Sinn, Stephenson, Moxness (twice), Atsuko Hikage, Amy Alcott, Lauer, Massey and Stacy.

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