SAN DIEGO — Harry Rudolph was the first player in 26 years of San Diego Section golf to win consecutive individual championships, but few could tell it by looking at him after he clinched the title last Wednesday.
The La Jolla High School junior didn't raise his club triumphantly or tip his cap. He did display a tight-lipped grin to his teammates for a few seconds. It was the first time he had smiled all day.
He shot a two-under-par 140 over 36 holes for a one-shot victory and his second consecutive championship. Trailing by two strokes after the first round, Rudolph battled University of San Diego High School's Phil Mickelson for the title, finally winning on the 18th hole.
"I like Harry's poker face when he plays golf," said Gene Edwards, La Jolla golf coach. "He has the perfect disposition for a golfer. He never shows emotion one way or the other. He's able to take a bad shot and not let it bother him."
Rudolph's agreed that his stoic appearance is all part of his game plan.
"I try to stay that way," he said. "I think it's easier to play if you don't get your adrenaline going and get excited. It can affect your concentration and cause you to make mistakes."
The significance of the accomplishment was lost on the quiet, 17-year-old.
"Winning the second year in a row wasn't even on my mind," Rudolph said. "I was just trying to win the tournament. I don't think about what I've done in the past."
Three golfers have come within one stroke of earning a second section title, but no one had done it. Even Craig Stadler--who would become the PGA Tour's leading money winner in 1982--was unable to repeat after he won the section championship as a junior at La Jolla in 1970.
But Rudolph has not distanced himself from his competitors. The one stroke that separated Rudolph and Mickelson in the section championship came on the 18th hole when Mickelson hooked his second shot out of bounds, causing him to bogey the hole.
Opinions differ as to who is the better golfer.
Edwards said the two match up evenly in the areas of skill and experience, but he gives Rudolph the edge for his steely composure.
"Phil also has a lot of potential, but I like Harry's disposition a little better," Edwards said. "At his stage of development, he's as good as any golfer I've seen in San Diego County."
La Jolla High
Height, Weight, Class: 5-9, 150, Jr.
Last Week: He shot a two-day, 36-hole total of two-under-par 140 to win the San Diego Section individual golf title for the second consecutive year.