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University Freshman Wins Title


PALM SPRINGS — Brian Sinay has won so many junior golf tournaments that he has stopped counting. His father says it's more than 40, including the prestigious Junior World Championship at age 12.

So excuse him for not recognizing the significance of the Southern Section individual boys' championship until he arrived at Canyon Country Club on Friday.

Sinay, a freshman from University High, got a quick perspective adjustment when he read signs staked in the putting green that listed former champions: Ted Oh, Chris Tidland . . . and, oh yeah, Tiger Woods.

"I felt a little pressure when I saw those names," Sinay said. "Not that I wasn't going to try my hardest to do well anyway. But I thought, 'I really want to do well here.' "

Sinay did fine, shooting three-under-par 69 to win the title, becoming the first freshman champion since Oh won in 1992.

Westlake sophomore J.T. Kohut finished second, one-stroke behind at 70, dropping a shot with a bogey on his final hole.

It was a day for patience and perseverance in the desert. With temperatures pushing 110 degrees, 143 of the section's finest labored through six-hour rounds.

There was little wind to provide cooling relief or toughen up the 6,869-yard layout. Two players--both with a bit of PGA Tour experience--appeared ready to take advantage.

Culver City junior John Ray Leary, who played in the Buick Invitational in February, made eagle with a nine-iron shot from 150 yards and got as low as five-under, before losing five strokes to par on his final four holes.

Sunny Hills senior Jin Park, who played in the 1996 Nissan Open, had three birdies in his first five holes. But he also mixed in a bogey and never got lower than two-under, finishing with a 71.

That was good enough for a tie for third place with Servite's Adam Ainbinder, Whitney's David Oh and Arcadia's Mike Jackson. Those four were called back onto the course for a playoff and Oh beat out Ainbinder for third with a birdie on the fourth extra hole.

Ainbinder, a senior who will play for California next year, also had a chance to challenge for the title. But with four holes to play he took a double bogey on 18 to go one-over. He finished with birdies on his final two holes.

Ainbinder said he was lucky to shoot 71. "I was scrambling all day," he said. "I didn't know if the ball was going OB or down the middle, so i was just praying on every shot. I only hit two fairways today and one was with an iron."

Sinay was much more steady, hitting 10 of 14 fairways and 16 of 18 greens in regulation. The most crucial green he hit was the 17th. He landed the ball 15 feet from the pin from the rough 130 yards out.

The shot cleared a stand of palm trees and a greenside bunker and set up a birdie putt that dropped him to three-under with one hole to play.

Scores across the board were lower than usual for a high school tournament on this straightforward course. Two years ago, players shooting 77 played off for the final spots in the CIF-Southern California Golf Assn. Championships.

Friday, the playoff was among those who shot 75. Los Alamitos' Brett Dolch and Sunny Hills' Jeff Park were in the playoff, which was won when Russell Surber of La Canada Flintridge Prep chipped in from the fringe on the second extra hole.

Ten Orange County players, including Sinay, Ainbinder and Jin Park, made it under the wire. Chad Towersey of Corona del Mar and Bret Parker of Mater Dei each shot 72. At 74 were Justin Shapiro of Newport Harbor, Jimmy Pittenger of Santa Margarita, Will Luciano of Servite, Bob Sauer of Mission Viejo and Steve Bendt of Brea Olinda.

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