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COLLEGES / ALAN OTA : Waves Like Chances at NCAA Golf Meet

June 03, 1993|ALAN OTA

Members of the Pepperdine men's golf team liked what they saw during practice rounds this week at The Champions Golf Course in Lexington, Ky., site of the NCAA Championships, which end Sunday.

Competing in the tournament for the first time in school history, the Waves have played their best on the most challenging courses and found this one--par 72, 7,018 yards--especially difficult. Team members even appreciated the wind, which started to pick up to 20 m.p.h. before noon on Monday.

Pepperdine claimed its one tournament title this season in a final-round windstorm in the Bruin Desert Classic in Temecula.

"We won that one when (the wind was blowing) 45 to 50 m.p.h. by just holding on better than any other team," said senior Jeff Gove, who tied for second in the West Regional last week with a three-round total of 214. "I think it will be a factor this time. And the course is a tough one. We're a good ball-striking team so it's set up well for us."

Pepperdine Coach Kurt Schuette feels his team will be more than competitive under the trying circumstances.

"We don't make a ton of birdies but we don't make many mistakes, which should help us on this course," Schuette said. "Par will be a good score here."

Pepperdine is ranked 29th and has placed among the top four teams in seven of 11 tournaments. Schuette attributes much of his team's success to the improved play by Gove.

"Jeff started as a wild and aggressive freshman," said the fifth-year coach. "He steadily developed and this year had only two or three rounds not playing par."

Said Gove: "I'm making better decisions and I'm not over-swinging. Before, I might have been trying too hard. I've learned that par is a good score and you just go for a birdie on the next hole."

And he's more comfortable than ever on the greens.

"The putting has been the biggest difference," Gove said. "I switched putters about three weeks ago and it's worked out. I'm playing probably the best college golf of my career."

Gove, senior Lars Herne, junior Todd Andrews and freshmen Carson Mooney and Kevin Marsh finished seventh in the West Regional at Provo, Utah. All five players have been the team's low scorer in tournaments this year, which is the group's greatest strength, according to Herne.

"We don't have one or two great golfers who can carry the team," he said. "We have five pretty good golfers. We're not the kind of squad that can have two guys play mediocre. We have to play as a team."

Schuette feels the turning point for the Waves came after the West Coast Conference tournament in early April. Pepperdine had been favored to repeat for the third consecutive year, but finished fourth.

"Up until then, whenever we met any conference teams, we'd just blow them away," Schuette said. "The guys went in with a little improper attitude. Maybe too cocky. We started playing better since then."

Herne found the poor showing helpful for himself and teammates.

"We learned you can't get sloppy and take anything for granted," he said. "It was a humbling experience, to put it mildly. It just made us make the commitment."

Todd Andrews qualified for the 1992 NCAA tournament and shot a 36-round score of 145. He missed the cut by a stroke, but hopes the wisdom he gained then can benefit the team this week.

"I made a mistake on the last hole trying to break par and screwed up," Andrews said. "I tried to play out of my limits. If I learned anything, it was that. This time I think it'll be a fun experience for us all."

*

UCLA will be represented in the tournament by seniors Ted Gleason, Jorgen Aker, David Solomon and juniors Kevin Claborn and Brian Bock. Fourth-year Coach Dave Atchison believes that this is his best team.

"We got off to a good start, winning and finishing second in our first two tournaments. That gave us some confidence and we went from there," he said.

At the regionals, the 14th-ranked Bruins won a one-hole playoff over Nevada to take the West's ninth and final spot in the national championships. The top individual was Claborn, a former walk-on who tied for 30th with a 220 total.

"It was a good experience for the guys since they were able to play under some extreme pressure," Atchison said.

UCLA had a 3-3 record against Pepperdine and Atchison feels the teams have similar strengths.

"This course also bodes well for us since it's so tough," Atchison said. "It's the easy ones that have been the hardest for us since we don't have any marquee player who can knock down a 66 or 67. Scores around 70 to 75 are within our comfort zone. We just need two players to step up and the rest will have to play around par."

This is the 12th time in 16 seasons that UCLA has participated in the NCAA tournament. In 1988, the Bruins rallied from 13 strokes down on the final round to win their only national title.

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