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Crash Course

Brooks, Klahn Tee It Up Alongside Legends at Riviera

July 24, 1998|PETER YOON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Gary Klahn is 52 years old and Bill Brooks is 56, but for the past few days they've been feeling like a couple of kids.

Klahn, a Thousand Oaks resident, and Brooks, from Simi Valley, are playing this week in the U.S. Senior Open at Riviera Country Club.

Both have played in the tournament before, Klahn at Canterbury in Beachwood, Ohio, in 1996 and Brooks at Cherry Hills in Denver in 1993--but this is Riviera, where history oozes from every eucalyptus tree and each sand trap has a story to tell.

Professional golf tournaments--including three other majors--have been played at the course since 1929. Ben Hogan, Sam Snead and Byron Nelson have been among the winners.

When Hogan won three times at Riviera in a year and a half, including the 1948 U.S. Open, the course was dubbed "Hogan's Alley."

Just roaming the hallowed fairways with active legends Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Chi Chi Rodriguez and Gary Player is special for Brooks and Klahn.

Brooks had two double bogeys and a triple bogey during a first-round 83, 12 over par, on Thursday. Klahn came in at 81.

Perhaps both found it difficult to concentrate.

"It's amazing," Brooks said. "All these years I've been watching tournaments on TV. Now I'm playing in the same field with Nicklaus, [Hale] Irwin and [Gil] Morgan."

Brooks, a retired LAPD Officer, intends to have his picture taken with as many legends as possible.

He already had one taken with Palmer and was in the process of tracking down Nicklaus after a practice round Wednesday. Player was next on his list, but the three-time Masters champion hadn't signed up for a practice round.

Brooks said hunting around Riviera made him feel like a kid in a candy store.

"It's such a thrill when you see somebody like that," Brooks said.

For Klahn, who turned professional three years ago after retiring from a career organizing corporate golf outings, playing at Riviera is a dream come true.

"I really wanted to qualify here," he said. "I've been in and around the business all my life and I know the importance of Riviera in golf. It'll be terrific with all my family and friends around to see."

After a successful year in 1995 on the Golden State Tour, Klahn has played the last two years on the Senior Series Tour, sort of a minor league of the Senior PGA Tour. He failed to qualify for several other Senior PGA Tour events, making it only as far as alternate status.

After shooting 72 in qualifying at Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis, Klahn was again an alternate--until Monday when Tommy Aaron withdrew because of a sprained ankle.

Brooks, a six-time club champion at Sunset Hills Country Club in Thousand Oaks, shot 70 in qualifying at Redlands Country Club, then won a playoff for the final spot with a bogey on the second playoff hole.

After Thursday, neither seems on target to make the 60-player cut. Brooks, who played briefly on the Golden State Tour in 1992, will go back to playing at Wood Ranch Country Club and to his business delivering cheese to elementary schools.

Klahn will resume his playing career on the Senior Series Tour, try a few more Monday qualifiers, and get his game in shape for the Senior PGA Tour qualifying school this fall.

And they will take with them an experience that neither will soon forget.

*

YOON ON GOLF: The Teardrop Tour is making major inroads in golf's minor leagues, especially in California. C12

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