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On Par With Bill

Television: Newport 7-year-old takes a swing at the small screen, appearing with comedian Cosby.

April 09, 1999|CORINNE FLOCKEN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Seven-year-old Orange County golf whiz Cierra Gaytan has parlayed her gift for golf--and gab--into a television appearance tonight opposite host Bill Cosby on "Kids Say the Darndest Things."

The first-grader, who excels in a sport once dominated by grown-ups in plaid pants, actually taped the segment with Cosby last summer on the links in Tarzana.

Inspired by a "Kids" segment she saw last spring on a piano prodigy, Cierra convinced her mother that she, too, would make a dandy guest for the show.

After a series of phone calls and interviews by the show's producers, the Newport Beach girl was selected. The segment airs at 8 on KCBS Channel 2.

Although she was thrilled to meet and play with Cosby, Cierra didn't feel he was much competition.

"He didn't play very well," she said.

Not that she holds that against him. "He just went for it anyway. He was really, really funny. And nice."

Still, a game's a game, and Cierra says she didn't offer Cosby any pointers. Nor did she play at less than her usual level to make him look good.

"I sank a 20-foot putt!" she said.

That's not unusual for Cierra. According to her mom, Noel Gaytan, she took her first whack at the game as a toddler, playing with a set of toy clubs given to her by her grandfather, Sal Gaytan Sr.

She has since graduated to real clubs and a schedule packed with lessons, practice play and the occasional competition. She's polished her skills under the tutelage of Mom, Grandpa and golf instructor Ray Carrasco of Irvine's Strawberry Farms Golf Club, who calls her "Tigress Woods" because of her natural talent and commitment to the game.

She has snagged top places in junior-level golf contests, and Mom says that although a nasty cold recently kept her from playing in her first USPGA Junior Tour tournament, more competitions are on the horizon.

Are there more media moments ahead for Cierra? Mom says she's for it, as long as it doesn't interfere with more important things--such as friends and school.

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