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SENIOR GOLF : Zarley Overtakes Aoki to Win Transamerica

October 10, 1994|WENDY WITHERSPOON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

NAPA — The winner was a man Bob Hope once called "the pro from the moon" and whose 27-year-old daughter and caddie was a baby when he last won a tournament here.

The loser was a man who shot a 29 over the last nine holes and then joked in Japanese that he forgot to wear his favorite television outfit.

Kermit Zarley birdied the par-five 18th hole in a playoff against Isao Aoki on Sunday to earn the $90,000 winners' check in the Transamerica senior tournament at the Silverado Country Club.

It was Zarley's first senior championship and the second time he has won at Silverado. In 1968, Zarley won the PGA Kaiser tournament on the same course and earned $25,000 for the victory.

Zarley spent the day trying to catch Aoki, whose final-round 63 tied the tournament record held by Bob Charles and Dale Douglass. Aoki finished with a 12-under 204.

Zarley two-putted the par-five 18th hole for a birdie and a final round 66 to force the playoff.

"I've had a problem out here on the senior tour of collapsing in the clutch," Zarley said. "My putting has been the thing that has held me back. I've been timid. Today, I wasn't like that."

Zarley's final drive proved to be the key. Teeing off first in the playoff on the 500-yard 18th, a dog-leg left that snuggles up against the clubhouse, Zarley hit a draw down the right side of the fairway that landed about 240 yards from the pin.

When Aoki hooked his tee shot into the trees, it was virtually all over.

After Aoki missed a 25-foot putt for a birdie, Zarley tapped in his two-foot birdie putt, raised his black panama hat to the crowd and hugged Christy, his daughter and caddie.

Christy was six months old when Zarley last won at Silverado. She helped her father on Sunday by easing the tension. When Zarley's approach shot landed in a foot of water on the ninth hole, Christy said, "Come on, dad, play it."

Zarley roared with laughter and saved par to finish the front nine at eight under. He birdied the next two holes, as well as the 13th, to close to within a stroke of Aoki.

Zarley, whom Hope once called "the pro from the moon" because of his unusual name, joins Billy Casper as the only players to win both a PGA and senior tour event at Silverado.

Aoki, from Tokyo, had been hoping to win his first tournament since the 1983 PGA Hawaiian Open and the 1992 senior Nationwide Championship.

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