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GOLF / STEVE ELLING : Citing Self-Preservation, Gore Escapes Wildcat Trap

August 24, 1994|STEVE ELLING

Make a list of golfers who seem most likely to become the white-knuckle, ulcer-plagued, teeth-gnashing type and Jason Gore of Valencia would rank dead last.

Gore won friends easily, always had a wisecrack, a one-liner, a quip. He was magnetic, laughed and joked his way through rounds and seemed oblivious to pressure.

It's all in past tense, because Gore couldn't get past being tense.

Sometime, over the past couple of years, everything changed, and the results are unpleasant.

"It's not much fun when you're throwing up blood," Gore said. "Golf was like a job, a chore."

In what qualified as an absolute shocker in the University of Arizona's athletic department, Gore announced this month that he would not return for his junior year.

"This is a big loss for me," Arizona Coach Rick LaRose said. "It definitely affects me personally."

Gore, who was named an honorable mention NCAA Division I All-American after winning his second consecutive individual Pacific 10 Conference championship last spring, said the decision was borne of self-preservation.

He didn't like what the game and the Wildcat program had done to him, he said. He was wrapped tighter than a 100-compression ball and was starting to unravel.

Over the past few months, he experienced violent episodes of nausea before and during major tournaments. This summer, Gore underwent a battery of tests, none of which pinpointed the cause of his stomach ailment.

At first, Gore thought he had ulcers. Doctors said he might have contracted a stomach virus. He's been poked, prodded and probed.

"Everywhere, everything," said Gore, a former Hart High standout. "Every square inch."

Then again, it could be psychosomatic.

"Whenever I got real worked up, I threw up blood," Gore said. "It just knocked me out. I had trouble functioning.

"I've always been easygoing. I found I was (angry) all the time. Finally, the smile's returning to my face."

The same cannot be said of LaRose, who is wondering what went amiss with his star pupil.

LaRose said that Gore, with two Pac-10 titles in as many tries, had a chance of being inducted into the school's hall of fame. Gore could have been "a great pro someday, and still might," he said.

LaRose, in fact, is reeling.

"I treated him like my son and I did a lot of things for him," LaRose said. "Getting him on that All-American team was not easy. It took a lot of work. I talked to him in June, July, August, and he said he was coming back.

"It shows that you never know what kids are thinking."

Gore has enrolled for the fall semester at College of the Canyons. Eventually, he might transfer to another four-year school, but is still considering his options. However it turns out, Gore said, he hasn't been sick since he informed LaRose of his decision.

"You know, sometimes, the guys who are happiest on the outside are dog-paddling like crazy under the surface," LaRose said. "Like a duck, underneath, they're paddling like mad."

Gore said nothing in particular about the Arizona program prompted him to withdraw. Perhaps expectations were too great--Gore was on full scholarship, a rarity in men's golf.

Maybe Arizona expected the big-hitting, 6-foot, 210-pounder to be a Terminator in cleats and wraparound sunglasses. Coaches perceived him as "soft."

"They wanted me to be intimidating," Gore said. "Maybe at my size, I should be. But that's not really the way I am."

It should be emphasized that Gore didn't exactly wilt under pressure at Arizona. He won both Pac-10 championships in sudden death, including a playoff victory over All-American Todd Demsey of Arizona State as an 18-year-old freshman. Gore triple-bogeyed the 72nd hole to blow a three-shot lead in the 1994 Pac-10 final, then somehow came back to win the playoff.

"He was sick all week in the Pac-10s and still played real well," LaRose said.

It's mystifying, LaRose said.

"Golf can be a stressful situation," he said. "It's easy to be happy-go-lucky when you're beating everybody.

"But when people are nipping at your heels, it's a little different and people react in their own way, I guess."

*

Heavy medal: Todd Golditch of Northridge swiped some of his brother's thunder.

Golditch, who will be a sophomore at Chatsworth High, won the individual gold medal in the 13-14 division last week at the Maccabiah Games in Cleveland. Golditch, 14, finished with a 36-hole total of 164.

At the 1992 games in Baltimore, brother Scott, a standout at Taft over the past two seasons, won the gold in the 15-16 division. Scott will play at Cal in the fall.

The family is originally from Philadelphia, but brotherly love only goes so far. Asked when he expects to begin drubbing his brother, Todd said: "Pretty soon."

*

On deck: On the heels of the Women's U.S. Mid-Amateur qualifier last week at El Caballero Country Club in Tarzana comes the male version in Ventura County.

Two-year-old Spanish Hills Country Club in Camarillo, the area's newest layout, will be the site of a men's Mid-Amateur qualifier on Tuesday. The Women's Mid-Amateur begins Sept. 10 in Tacoma, Wash., while the men's event starts Sept. 17 in Minneapolis.

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