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ON THE GREEN | CHIP SHOTS / Tee Times

Zakhar Wins a Spot on LPGA Tour With Late Futures Success

August 16, 2000|PETER YOON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Heather Zakhar of Coto de Caza capped off an improbable run on the Futures Tour by winning the Betty Puskar Classic Sunday at The Pines Country Club in Morgantown, W.Va., and earning a full exemption for the 2001 LPGA Tour.

It was the third victory in the last four tournaments for Zakhar, 24, who vaulted to No. 1 on the tour's season money list.

Before her first victory, July 22, Zakhar was 45th on the Futures Tour money list. She needed to finish in the top three to earn an exemption. But earning $26,235 in the final four tournaments, including $10,500 for the victory Sunday, put her on top with $32,995 for the season.

"I honestly never believed I could finish No. 1," said Zakhar. "It's an amazing way to end the season. I'm still kind of in shock."

Before her first victory, Zakhar had considered looking for work as an assistant women's golf coach at Arizona, her alma mater. She kept faith in her ability to play, however, and said the key to her turnaround was understanding her goals.

"You hear so much out here that people don't want to think about winning or the final results," she said. "But the ultimate goal out here is to get your card, so I thought, why not think about it a little bit. I used it as motivation. I never lost confidence in my game and I felt inside that I could do it."

After three consecutive weeks of getting into contention and then blowing final-round opportunities, Zakhar moved to 18th on the money list with her first victory and began thinking about a possible top-10 finish, which would get her into the final stage of LPGA Tour qualifying school.

She finished 31st the next week, but back-to-back victories to end the season saved her from qualifying school.

"It's a huge relief," she said. "I don't think it's quite set in. I was planning on being at the first stage [of qualifying school] and the second stage and hopefully, the final stage. Now I look at my schedule and it's like 'Oh my God, I have so much free time.' "

She will play in the Futures Tour championship Oct. 4-8 in Florida. Though the tournament doesn't count toward LPGA qualifying, Zakhar isn't taking any chances.

"[Tour officials] were teasing me that if I didn't show up, they would take away my card," Zakhar said. "I don't want to find out the hard way if it was a joke or not."

U.S. AMATEUR

Six players with county ties are playing in the U.S. Amateur Championship beginning Monday at Baltusrol in Springfield, N.J.

Don Dubois of Coto de Caza, Jae Jang of Fullerton, Nick Seymour of Tustin, Ken Wertzberger of Fountain Valley, Kyung-man Kim of Fullerton and Mike Lavery of Irvine each survived 36-hole sectional qualifying during the last three weeks and made the 312-player field.

The tournament begins Monday with the first of two stroke-play rounds. The low 64 players after the second round will advance to match play beginning Wednesday. The winner receives exemptions to the 2001 Masters and U.S. Open if he remains an amateur.

KUSH WINS

Daniel Kush of Tustin posted his first AJGA victory by shooting 69-72-75--216 for a three-shot victory Friday in the Marsh Kansas City Junior at Kansas City Country Club in Mission Hills, Kan.

Kush, who will be a junior at Newport Harbor High, entered the final round with a three-shot lead, then survived a rash of six bogeys in the final 12 holes.

"'I didn't play as well as I wanted," Kush said. "I wasn't making putts like I did the first two days, but overall, I just wanted to play a decent round."

WEST FALTERS

Nico Bollini of Yorba Linda, Steve Conway of Newport Beach and Angela Rho of Fullerton won their singles matches on the final day of the AJGA Canon Cup, but the East held on to defeat the West, 27-23, last week at Prairie Dunes Country Club in Hutchinson, Kan.

Bollini and Conway were each 2-1-1 for the West squad and Rho was 2-2 in the matches that pit the top 10 boys' and top-10 girls' from the Western U.S. against their counterparts from the East in a Ryder Cup-style competition.

The East has a 7-3-1 record in the 11-year history of the event.

REAL ABILITIES

Sen. Max Cleland (D-Ga.), who lost both arms and a leg in a grenade explosion in Vietnam, will lead 15 disabled golfers in the Real Abilities Golf Tournament Friday at Pelican Hill.

The golfers will travel the course in wheelchairs while playing shots on a video game that uses a detailed replica of Pelican Hill. The video game controls are activated by facial and head movements.

The tournament is designed to demonstrate how computer technology can make a difference for the disabled and proceeds benefit people who need the technology but cannot afford it.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

TEE TIMES

A look at upcoming tournaments in the region or major events involving top regional players:

AUGUST

* 14-17: AJGA Sacramento Junior Classic, Twelve Bridges GC, Lincoln.

* 14-17: AJGA Southwestern Junior Classic, Isleta Eagle GC, Albuquerque, N.M.

* 15: U.S. Mid-Amateur Sectional Qualifying, Cypress Ridge GC, Arroyo Grande; Desert Island GC, Rancho Mirage.

* 21-22: SCPGA Club Professional Championship, PGA of Southern California GC, Calimesa.

* 24: Seal Beach Seaside Lions Charity tournament Navy Golf Course, Cypress. Cost is $100. Includes cart and dinner. Benefits Seal Beach charities. Information (562) 431-6092.

* 24-27: AJGA Phoenix Junior Classic, Karsten GC at ASU, Tempe, Ariz.

* 28: SCGA Senior Amateur qualifying, Mission Viejo CC.

* 28: SCPGA Two-Man Scramble, Yorba Linda CC.

* 28-29: SCGA Mid-Amateur Championship, Virginia CC, Long Beach.

* 30: U.S. Senior Amateur qualifying, Candlewood CC, Whittier.

* 31: SCGA Senior Amateur qualifying, SCGA Members' Club, Murrieta.

SEPTEMBER

* 1-4: AJGA Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail Junior Classic, Magnolia Grove Golf Club, Mobile, Ala.

* 2: Inland Empire Amateur Championship, Menifee Lakes GC, Menifee.

* 2-4: Ventura County Championship, Buenaventura GC and Olivas Park GC.

* 5: U.S. Senior Amateur qualifying, Oak Valley GC, Beaumont.

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