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GOLF / SENIOR PGA TOUR AT OJAI : Geiberger Hoping for a Farewell Party

March 04, 1994|DAN HAFNER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

OJAI — This is almost certainly the last time the Senior PGA Tour will hold a tournament in the picturesque setting of the Ojai Valley Inn & Country Club, and Al Geiberger, who lives in nearby Solvang, hopes to make it a neighborly farewell party.

Geiberger will be battling shoulder and heel problems, as well as such rivals as Dave Stockton, George Archer, Chi Chi Rodriguez, Senior PGA champion Tom Wargo, former winner Walt Zembriski and Arnold Palmer, in his bid to score a repeat victory in the $550,000 GTE West Classic.

But he also may have a psychological advantage when he tees off at 11 a.m. today in a threesome with Stockton and Jerry McGee. This is the first time they have played together since June 10, 1977, the day that Geiberger shot his record 59 at Memphis, Tenn.

"This time I'm going to make Jerry sign (Geiberger's) card," Stockton said. "I shot a 76 that day under terrible conditions. The course was long, it was so wet it was pick and clean, so that was the most amazing round ever shot, I think."

The 59 was the first round under 60 on the PGA circuit and helped Geiberger win the tournament without having a round in the 60s. His four-day score at the Colonial Country Club was 72-59-72-70--273.

"One of the things I remember about Allen's round of 59," Stockton said, "was a little old lady walking up to me after I signed his card and saying, 'This must be one of the most exciting moments of your life.' All I could say was, 'No it isn't.' "

Although GTE has announced that it is ending its sponsorship of this event, PGA officials say there will be a senior tournament in Southern California next spring. It is unlikely, however, that it will be held here.

The golfers love the tricky, 6,190-yard, par-70 course and its surroundings, but crowds have not kept pace with the growth of senior golf. This is partly because of Ojai's somewhat remote location--it's more than an hour's drive from the nearest major population center in the San Fernando Valley--and also because of a shortage of seating and parking facilities.

This year, the tournament also suffers from the cancellation of the Palm Springs senior event. Several top players, including Lee Trevino, Raymond Floyd, Bob Charles and Mike Hill, chose not to travel from Florida to California for only one tournament.

So, the final 54 holes at Ojai figure to be mainly a contest among the best in the West.

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