A perfect ending to his first season on the Senior PGA Tour would be a victory this week at Rancho Park for Dave Stockton.
Stockton, a Southern Californian, is one of the favorites in the 54-hole $600,000 Ralphs Senior Classic, which begins today.
Stockton, who has won one tournament and more than $500,000 in his first year in the 50-and-older group, faces one of the best fields in the tour's only appearance in Los Angeles this year.
In addition to Bob Charles, whose sensational putting on the final round kept Stockton from winning at Napa last week, most of the top players will be on hand. Charles has won the last two tournaments.
Included are "rookie" Raymond Floyd, who has not yet taken charge of the tour for the older fellows, perennial favorite Arnold Palmer, Mike Hill, Jim Colbert, Charles, George Archer, Chi Chi Rodriguez and defending champion John Brodie.
Lee Trevino, who finished seventh at Napa despite a painful left thumb, will also be on hand in an attempt to strengthen his hold on the money lead.
Stockton, captain of the winning U.S. Ryder Cup team last fall, attended USC and won the Los Angeles Open at Riviera in 1974.
"It's a great thrill to come back here to play," said Stockton, who lives in Mentone, near San Bernardino. "It would be a fitting climax to win where I have so many memories of my youth, my college days and starting out as a professional golfer.
"My first year has been a wonderful experience. I'm fifth on the money list, I won a tournament--and it was a big one, the Tournament Players Championship.
"I'm by no means disappointed, but I thought I would do even better. I will be better next season. For one thing, most of the courses were new to me. "
Only the left-handed Charles' 10 one-putt greens last Sunday at Napa deprived Stockton of his second title. He held a two-shot lead after 36 holes, then shot a four-under-par 68 in the final round and lost because Charles, four shots back, shot a 63.
"It's a funny thing," Stockton said. "My plan after I joined the tour last November for the final tournament, was to play in most of the events this year, then weed out the ones I didn't like.
"I've played 34 or 35 this year and I haven't found one I didn't like. It has been a pleasant surprise. The courses are great and the people, organizers and fans couldn't be better. I don't know how I'm going to eliminate any."
When he joined the seniors, Stockton had been playing sparingly on the regular tour. Most of his time had been spent on corporate outings.
"I'm having more fun than I anticipated," he said. "Instead of being busy helping others with their game, I have had a wonderful opportunity to work on my own. One of the big differences in the tours is the lack of pressure over here. You never have to worry about making the cut because there isn't any. You know you'll be here for the weekend. And, then, there's the money.
"When I won the players' championship, I won more (counting a car) than I made in my best year on the regular tour ($155,104 in 1974). In one year I've won close to half as much money as I won in 27 years on the regular tour. You can't beat that."