Heather Graff isn't a local favorite, not yet anyway. The Arizona senior is just one of 49 in the field of 50 at the Pac-10 women's golf championships who grew up outside of Orange County.
But beginning this fall, Graff won't have to travel far to play Tijeras Creek in Rancho Santa Margarita, the tournament site. Graff and her fiance, Jim Zakhar, recently bought a house in nearby Coto de Caza, where they'll move after getting married in August.
Graff looked as if she already possessed some local knowledge by shooting a two-under-par 70 Tuesday to move into second place entering today's final round. Graff was tied for fifth after shooting a 74 in Monday's opening round, but had just one bogey Tuesday and is one of three golfers to shoot a round under par in the tournament.
Graff is no stranger to success. She won the 1996 USGA Women's Public Links Championship and was the medalist in the stroke-play competition of the same tournament in 1997. She reached the semifinals of the U.S. Amateur last year, and was runner-up at the Pac-10 tournament as a freshman in 1995.
Graff is proud of her success in the public links tournaments, which are for players who don't belong to private clubs.
"I think growing up playing public courses has been an advantage," Graff said. "You don't get distracted as much by noise, such as traffic or people just talking loudly, which you'll find at tournaments."
Graff began playing golf in her hometown of Green Bay, Wis., where her father managed a county-owned course. Her dad then bought a public course in Kennewick, Wash., where she went undefeated her junior and senior years and won the Washington state high school title both years.
Despite Graff's solid play Tuesday, she's still well behind Arizona's Jenna Daniels, who set a women's course record for the second consecutive day. Daniels has a seven-stroke lead entering today's final round after shooting a 68. Daniels, a sophomore from Bonita, had a 69 Monday.
With Daniels and Graff shooting two of the three sub-par rounds Tuesday, the defending champion Wildcats have a 12-stroke lead over Arizona State.