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2-Stroke Penalty Hits Pocketbook

February 19, 1990|BOB WOLF

SAN DIEGO — Rookie mistakes are commonplace, but how about the one that cost Michael Allen money in the Shearson Lehman Hutton Open at Torrey Pines?

When Allen played Steve Pate's golf ball on the 12th fairway Saturday, it appeared to be no more than a bizarre sidelight to the main focus of the tournament. Neither Allen nor Pate was in the running anyway so it didn't appear to matter that each was socked with a two-stroke penalty.

But that was before Allen got hot in the final round Sunday. His five-under-par 67 gave him a 72-hole total of 282 and led him to wonder what might have happened if he hadn't committed a monumental goof 24 hours earlier.

Allen's finishing kick gave him a tie for 14th place and a check for $15,300, more than he had made in four previous tournaments in his maiden season on the PGA Tour. His money total going in was only $11,788.

Now consider where Allen might have wound up if he hadn't made that grievous error Saturday.

Subtracting the two shots he sacrificed by playing the wrong golf ball would move Allen into a tie for 10th place with Bob Estes, who earned $24,300. And since Allen probably would have had a birdie three instead of the par four he eventually shot--before the penalty--it's likely that he would have joined six players in a tie for fourth. Each of them pocketed $32,625.

Allen completed his disastrous round with a 78 after shooting 68 and 69 the first two days.

Pate, who won this tournament in 1988, never recovered from Allen's blunder. He went on to shoot 77 Saturday and 74 Sunday, finishing in a tie for 56th place at 288 and earning only $1,998.

Allen, an unusually mature rookie at 31, is a personable sort who lists wine tasting and the San Francisco 49ers among his special interests. He was born in San Mateo and now lives in Phoenix.

"A golfer was something I never wanted to be," he said. "It was something that kind of happened. I was more interested in mountaineering until I broke my left wrist rock-climbing."

Allen finally got hooked on golf while attending Nevada Reno. He turned pro in 1983, but didn't make it through qualifying school until last fall. In the interim, he played on the European tour and won two tournaments, the Bordeaux Open in 1986 and the Scottish Open in 1989.

Did he ever hit somebody else's golf ball before?

"I'm sure I did, probably in college," he said. "All I know is that whenever I did it, it didn't make as much difference as it did here."

Allen recounted these details from the shot he will never forget:

"It was the best shot I hit all day. It put me on the green in two, about six feet from the cup. Steve (Pate) went ahead and hit my ball, and he holed out, having no idea it was the wrong ball.

"I had marked what I thought was my ball, and I was all set to putt for a birdie when I looked at the ball before putting it back on the green. When I saw it, I said, 'That's not my ball.' Then we took the penalties and went back to our second shots."

How did this happen?

"My drive hit the right edge of a bunker and must have bounced toward the fairway," Allen said. "Steve's went down the middle of the fairway and must have bounced to the right, past mine. They were 10 or 15 yards apart, and I went to where I had seen my ball land. Maybe the wind had something to do with it."

In any case, Allen wished he had those two--perhaps three--strokes back when he went on a roll Sunday.

Playing the back nine first, he shot a sizzling 30 that included four birdies and an eagle, on No. 18. Then he cooled off but still would have tied Jeff Wilson for the best round of the day if he hadn't bogeyed No. 9.

"I fell asleep out there," he said. "But outside of that third round, I had a great tournament. I just wish I was still in contention after yesterday."

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