The lure of playing on the PGA tour is tempting, but U.S. Amateur champion Sam Randolph already has enrolled for his final year at USC.
The 21-year-old Santa Barbara native climaxed a big year by overcoming back spasms and beating Peter Persons in the 36-hole Amateur final at Montclair, N.J.
Winning his first major after being runner-up the year before eased the pain of blowing the NCAA championship. Randolph held a six-stroke lead with nine holes remaining, shot a 40 on the final nine and lost on the first playoff hole to Clark Burroughs of Ohio State.
Earlier in the year, Randolph had played brilliantly in the Masters, shooting an opening round 70 and finishing as the low amateur. He was tied for 18th to earn a return invitation next spring.
Then, following the bitter disappointment in the NCAA at Haines City, Fla., Randolph bounced back to win the State Amateur last June.
Just as he did a couple of weeks ago in the U.S. Amateur, Randolph won medalist qualifying honors, then swept through to the match-play championship.
"I really was down after everything went wrong on the last nine holes of the NCAA," Randolph said. "I learned the hard way that no lead is safe in golf.
"But, I guess I was fortunate it happened early in my career. It has happened to others. Arnold Palmer blew an even bigger lead once."
One of the reasons Randolph is returning to school is to have one more crack at the NCAA next May. He would also like to help USC win the team title. By winning the U.S. Amateur, he will be eligible to play in the U.S. Open next year as well as the Masters.
"I know there's a lot of money out there, but it will still be there next summer," he said. "I will get my chance at qualifying for the tour in December next year. It will give me another year to improve my game. I want to get to the point were all parts of my game are solid."
Randolph hasn't played since Sept. 1 when, with the help of a chiropractor, his back held up long enough to win the Amateur.
"I have been doing exercises and I would say the back is about 90% healed," he said. "I will return to competition in the middle of October in the Southwestern Intercollegiate at North Ranch."
When he does turn pro following the NCAA next May, Randolph will join a long list of Trojans playing professionally.
Eight pupils of former USC Coach Stan Wood are on either the regular or senior tour.
"I never had the pleasure of coaching Sam, but I rate him right up there with the best of them," Wood said. "He certainly belongs in the company of Craig Stadler, Scott Simpson and Al Geiberger.
"Sam was in tears after losing the NCAA, but I like the way he came back."
Golf Notes Once again the LPGA will play three tournaments in Southern California early next year. The first will be the $330,000 Uniden Invitational at Mesa Verde Country Club, Feb. 27-Mar. 2; the GNA Classic will be held for the second time at Oakmont CC, Mar. 13-16, and the Nabisco Dinah Shore will wind up the California portion of the tour at Mission Hills CC in Rancho Mirage, April 3-6. . . . Four local pro-am teams have qualified for the Oldsmobile Scramble national final at The Woodlands near Houston on Sept. 27-30. A San Clemente Golf Course team of pro James Weeks and amateurs Rick Divel, Walt Sadell, Ray Rivadeneyra and Mike Gelet and a Circle "R" Resort Golf Club of Lon Strand (pro), Dave Pless, Ken Heckman, Jim Dettman and Nick Miller, qualified at Singing Hills Country Club. A team from Buena Vista Golf Course composed of David James (pro), Ron Baker, Tom Clarksean, Mike Kresha and Don Hammonds and from Antelope Valley CC, a team of Steve Applegate (pro), Ray Munoz, Al Munoz, Dave Hutchison and Lane Hubbard, qualified at North Ranch Country Club. . . . A $55 million expansion program is under way at La Costa, and most of it will be completed in time for the Tournament of Champions that will open the PGA tour next season Jan. 8-11. The North San Diego County resort recently completed an additional 9-hole layout to give it two 18-hole championship courses. . . . The senior tour has become so popular that for the first time there will be a national qualifying tournament beginning in October at several sites.