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SENIOR CLASSIC NOTEBOOK

On This Club's Course, It's Ash You Like It

March 15, 1997|DAVE McKIBBEN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

It was a beautiful sunny day in Southern California, but the air was a bit dirty and stale Friday at Newport Beach Country Club. If you don't like the smell of cigars, you'd better stay away from the Toshiba Senior Classic this weekend.

Golf and cigar smoking always seemed to go together, but nowadays they seem inseparable. Try standing around a green or strolling down a fairway without running into the middle of a thick cloud of smoke. It can't be done.

There may be a few women smoking stogies, but we didn't see any. We did see more than half the male gallery surrounding the ninth green puffing away.

Where did everybody buy their stogies? Probably from the cigar stand that's positioned 15 yards from the first tee. Jerry and Pat Barton own and run Classico de Continental cigars, a company based in Atlanta.

"I don't know how we got this spot," Jerry Barton said. "We must know somebody. I got to play with Willie Nelson yesterday."

The Bartons, who have a house along Pebble Beach Golf Course, travel to various PGA and Senior Tour events. They estimate they will sell between 6,000 and 10,000 cigars this weekend. The Bartons said they had several long-standing customers who were playing in this weekend's event.

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It wasn't Tigermania by any means. They were hardly fanatical, they weren't very loud and they weren't exactly marching, but the biggest gallery we saw was about 3,000 people and they were following the threesome of Lee Trevino, Hale Irwin and David Graham. Not a bad group to follow, the three have won a combined total of 86 PGA and Senior Tour events.

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Best path-clearing ploy by a caddie: As the large gallery following Trevino, Irwin and Graham moved down the narrow pathway to the 17th green, Trevino's caddie yelled from his cart, "No brakes, no brakes, no brakes!" in an effort to clear space. Turns out, his definition of no brakes was leaving his foot off the brake pedal.

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If you didn't feel like walking with a particular group, you could have had a prime spot behind the 18th green without much effort. One elderly fan set up shop between two corporate boxes after the third of 25 groups were finishing.

"I just walked up and set down my chair," he said. "There were only a half-dozen people here. I'm not really too surprised. If this was Saturday or Sunday, I'd have to get here pretty early to get this spot."

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The most outrageous price of the day? Might be the $4 for a lemon chill. Since when did frozen lemonade cost more than a Haagen Dazs ice cream bar?

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Shot of the day? Best we saw was J.C. Snead's four-iron from 186 yards on the par-four ninth hole that hooked around two trees, ran up the fairway and stopped within 10 feet of the pin. Snead then made the putt for birdie.

Second place also went to Snead. On the par-five 15th hole, Snead missed the green badly with his second shot. But he lofted his third shot over a bunker and stopped it within two feet of the pin, which was only five feet from the fringe on the narrow, two-tiered green.

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