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1997 PREP GOLF / Preview

Brea's Bendt, Sader Take Different Courses to Get to Top

March 05, 1997|MARTIN BECK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

BREA — Brad Sader has been playing golf since he could walk. Steve Bendt picked up the clubs only three years ago. Different paths, same destination: the top of Brea Olinda's golf team.

Bendt, a senior and defending Orange League individual champion, and Sader, a sophomore who finished fourth, are a formidable pair at Nos. 1 and 1A for the Wildcats.

"They are both super guys and good students," Brea Olinda Coach Ken Lutz said. "Steve is very, very mature and he's a tough competitor, and Brad has a little more short-game savvy and a little more touch.

"They're not the longest players on the team, but they seem to get the job done anyway."

The Wildcats are planning big things this season. They have most of their players back from last year's team that finished better than all but four Orange County squads. There is strength in numbers.

"It's fun because you can have an off day," Sader said, "and your teammates will come through to help you out."

Sader didn't have many of those days last season as a freshman. He was consistently strong and edged Bendt for the team's low handicap, 2.36 over par for nine holes.

During one month of the season, Sader didn't have a round over par, prompting a comparison to a certain former Orange League prodigy.

"[Valencia Coach] John Winek and I were joking around saying Tiger Woods won the league title four years in a row," Lutz said. "We said Brad could do the same thing."

Sader struggled at Los Coyotes Country Club in one of the three rounds but still finished high enough to qualify for the Southern Section individual tournament.

Sader came to Brea Olinda well prepared for high school golf. It's the family business. His father, Dick, owns Brea Golf Course, a nine-hole executive layout. His grandfather, the late Marvin Sader, built the Big T Golf Center--now Buena Park Golf Center--35 years ago, but the family lost its lease on the property in 1994.

Dick Sader, who won a Suburban League individual championship for La Mirada High in the 1960s, said he never pushed Brad to play.

Sometimes, however, there was little option. His bus from elementary school dropped him off in front of the family golf course. For some youngsters such immersion can be a turnoff, but not for Brad, who won his first local junior tournament at age 9.

"I've seen it where almost the opposite happens, a child who just doesn't have the interest," Dick Sader said. "But he always maintained the interest, so I guess from that standpoint it has been an advantage."

Bendt didn't have that advantage. Growing up he had played once or twice a year with his family, but the summer after his freshman year at Brea Olinda, he started playing once a week with friends.

It was usually double-bogey time, but soon Bendt was hooked. His sophomore year, he quit baseball for golf and improved enough to be the top player on the Wildcat junior varsity.

Bendt got better because he practiced every chance he got. The next summer he took a job at The Islands Golf Center in Anaheim, driving the boat that gathers range balls out of the water surrounding the floating greens.

That meant more time to practice. "I was always there and hitting balls, whether it be left-handed or on my knees," Bendt said. "We had a lot of fun."

Last season, opponents had to take Bendt's game seriously; it kept getting stronger. He won the league title by eight strokes. Bendt now has a job at Coyote Hills Golf Club in Fullerton. Predictably, when he's not working, he's working on his game. "He's almost always there," said his father, Jim. "Put up a cot and a tent and he'd be fine."

Bendt is playing very well now. He averaged less than one stroke over par during the Wildcats' preseason qualifying play. Sader, who started at point guard for Brea Olinda's 23-2 sophomore basketball team, is a bit rusty in the transition. His qualifying scores tied him for fourth on the team.

"It's just not quick enough for him, so he's a bit frustrated now," Bendt said. "But obviously he'll come around. Give him a week or two and he'll be going good."

Sader wants to get up to speed to help the team and challenge Bendt.

"It's just a friendly rivalry," Sader said. "We don't really talk much about it, but you can tell that we're focusing to beat each other."

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

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