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Zinnato Gets Grip to Put Cal Lutheran in Chase for Title


THOUSAND OAKS — When Anthony Zinnato first grabbed a golf club, he handled it like a baseball bat.

"I was a baseball player," Zinnato said. "My girlfriend's dad got me into playing golf because he thought I had natural ability. But I had never played before."

Indeed, this was swinging an entirely different stick.

"At first, I would just grip it and rip it," Zinnato said. "That's how I was. But I caught on pretty fast."

That was four years ago, when Zinnato was a senior at Moorpark High.

No longer a neophyte, Zinnato is the top player on the Cal Lutheran men's golf team and will be among five Kingsmen scheduled to participate Monday in the NCAA Division III championships at Bedford Valley Golf Course in Battle Creek, Mich.

Cal Lutheran, which launched its golf program in 1965, is making its seventh postseason appearance and fifth since joining the NCAA in 1992. The Kingsmen advanced by winning their seventh Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship in eight seasons, winning six of seven conference matches.

Brent Hendon, Randy Cox, Tyson Silva and Aaron Bondi also are competing in the NCAA finals for Cal Lutheran.

But first up on the tee for the Kingsmen is Zinnato, a junior from Camarillo and the SCIAC player of the year.

Despite his relative inexperience, Zinnato has taken to the sport like sharp spikes to a soft green. The No. 2 player on his high school team, Zinnato played two seasons for Ventura College, advancing to the junior college regional his second year.

By the time he got to Cal Lutheran, his technique had markedly improved, and so had his game.

"My second year in college is when it started to turn around," Zinnato said. "I matured. I got rid of the rip-and-grip and started playing consistently. And I started playing with better players. . . .

"I think I play smart and I try not to give away shots."

Zinnato had a season stroke average of 76.889 to lead Cal Lutheran. He shot a 10-over-par 154 in two rounds to place fifth in the SCIAC finals at Brookside Golf Club in Pasadena.

Zinnato's best round this season was a two-under-par 70 at River Ridge Golf Course in Oxnard, Cal Lutheran's home course.

"I really didn't ever [shoot] too low this year," Zinnato said. "I stayed at low marks and I kept it decent. But it was my goal over the winter to become conference player of the year. I played so well during the off-season, I figured this was my time."

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