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Charles' Timing Is Right On

Solid round: Left-hander from New Zealand, not expecting to play well, surprises himself by being two shots behind leader heading into today's final round.

March 16, 1997|STEVE KRESAL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

NEWPORT BEACH — It was a timely decision that prompted Bob Charles to play in the Toshiba Senior Classic this weekend.

He entered the tournament with no real expectations of doing well but instead was using it as a way to help adjust to the time change for his trip home to New Zealand.

"There's a three-hour difference," Charles said to a confused press tent. As odd as it sounds, Charles is right . . . in a way.

He explained that New Zealand is 21 hours ahead of California. "It's four o'clock here, so it's 1 p.m. Sunday afternoon back home," he said. Many think this could just be typical logic from a left-handed golfer.

Charles played once in two weeks and had 12 days off before the tournament at Newport Beach Country Club, causing his expectations to be low. But thanks to another solid round Saturday, Charles also has a chance to return home with two championship trophies.

He had four birdies and only one bogey Saturday to shoot 68 for the second consecutive day. He starts today's final round two shots behind leader David Graham.

"I played much better today than yesterday," Charles said, "I hit a lot more fairways and had the odd birdie to go along with it."

The round also was strong enough to earn him the tournament's MasterCard Championship, which is a two-day tournament for players 60 and older. Charles, who turned 61 Friday, won $18,000 for that title.

It was the sixth consecutive MasterCard title he has won, including two tournaments last year. Charles beat second-place finisher Walter Zembriski ($13,920) by two shots. Charles took the lead from Zembriski with a birdie on the 170-yard par-three 13th. He hit a five-iron to within 20 feet and made the putt.

"I'm very much aware of how it's going," Charles said of the MasterCard tournament. "[Zembriski] put his score on the board, so I had to come up with the goods. . . . You have got to be conscious of how you're doing in relation to the other 60-year-olds and you're also thinking of Sunday's result as well."

The 15th hole--a 492-yard par-five--has quickly become Charles' favorite hole on the Newport Beach Country Club course.

Charles came to the hole at even par Friday, but holed out a wedge from about 100 yards for an eagle.

He hit a lob wedge to about four feet Saturday, then made the putt for his final birdie of the round and a two-shot lead over Zembriski. He made routine pars the rest of the way.

"That hole has treated me well the last two days," Charles said of the 15th. "I'm three-under there alone."

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