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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS

Women Drivers

Moorpark and Canyons Line Up Experienced Rookies for Golf Teams

November 02, 2000|FERNANDO DOMINGUEZ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Their backgrounds are as different as their ages and golf scores.

But their competitive spirit and resolve are, pardon the pun, on a par.

For Anna-Lena Gustavsson and Sandy Jocoy of Moorpark College, and Kathryn Abild, Susan Latch and Peg Stratton of Canyons, playing college golf has been equal parts challenge and breakthrough.

Jocoy and Latch are the mothers of young children. Abild has two teenagers. Gustavsson and Stratton are grandmothers. None played on a college team until this season.

"They are the exception to the rule," said Will Thurston, coach of Moorpark's first-year team.

All have contributed to the success of their teams, which qualified for the six-team Southern California regional on Sunday and Monday at Menifee Lakes Country Club in Menifee.

The top two teams and the top six individual finishers not on the first- or second-place teams in the regional advance to the state championships Nov. 12-13 at Monterey Country Club in Palm Desert.

Canyons won the Western State Conference title with a 16-2 record and Moorpark placed second at 12-6.

The tournament could be the last one of the year for the women. For Jocoy, it might be her last at the college level.

"I didn't realize I was getting over my head because of the time commitments," Jocoy said. "There's been a little emotional stress."

Jocoy, 37, lives in Agoura with her husband and three children, ranging in age from 11 to 7. She has a degree in psychology from UCLA and enrolled this year at Moorpark strictly to play golf.

But juggling roles as mother and athlete has been difficult.

"I'm not only doing my homework, I'm doing theirs too," Jocoy said, laughing.

Jocoy, who won the first two WSC tournaments this year and the individual title at the conference championships on Monday, will not return to the team next season. She plans to focus on her children and perhaps play in some amateur tournaments.

"I was looking for an opportunity to play serious golf," Jocoy said. "I wanted to learn to trust my swing under pressure. . . . In order to do that, I had to take classes.

"I'm getting what I wanted out of it, but it's getting a little old. The reason why it's worked is because we knew it would be temporary."

Her teammate, Gustavsson, is having too much fun not to return next year. Her circumstances also are much different.

Gustavsson, 55, was a physical therapist in Sweden before coming to the U.S. with her husband and four children in 1991. A 5-foot-1 self-described rebel, Gustavsson is an intense player with a strong short game.

She took up golf seriously in the U.S. and got progressively better, but her game faltered about two years ago while going through a divorce. Gustavsson regained her touch at Moorpark, with scores averaging in the mid-80s.

"My family back home is in awe when I tell them what I'm doing," said Gustavsson, who lives in Ventura. "I'm a freshman. That's unbelievable."

But not unique.

At Canyons, Stratton keeps pace with younger players in her first season. A longtime Canyon Country resident who raised two children and owns a wallpapering business, she played women's club soccer for 20 years before turning to golf.

Stratton, 57, loves golf and is having a great time with the Cougars.

"I'm a great example of what you can do no matter what age you are," Stratton said. "I've made some great friends playing college golf. We really like each other, even if we are on opposing teams."

Stratton's husband, Bob, gets a kick out of his wife's play.

"I'm not much of a golfer, but when I play with her, I love to see the expression on other people's faces when she tees off," he said. "Especially the men."

Like the others, Abild started playing golf only a few years ago, caught the bug and couldn't let go.

"I do have a passion for it," Abild said.

Abild, 45, didn't think much about golf while raising two boys, now 18 and 15. But while working as a starter at Vista Valencia Golf Course in Valencia, she was recruited by Canyons Coach Gary Peterson.

"It's been fun," said Abild, who owns a window-covering business. "It's also been kind of interesting because you are playing with all kinds of different levels of players."

The Vista Valencia connection served Peterson well with another recruit.

"I was approached [by Peterson] at the driving range at Vista," Latch said. "My first thought was, 'Yeah, right. When would I find time?' Then I started thinking about it and really liked the idea of playing [competitive] golf again."

Latch, 30, played on the boys' teams at Marina High in Huntington Beach and at Westminster, then in the junior circuit and later spent one year as an amateur on the developmental Player's West women's mini-tour.

Then she and her husband started a family, which includes children ages 6, 4, and 2, and serious golf was out the door.

"I played maybe twice a year with my husband and maybe went to the range three times a year," Latch said.

Latch rebounded nicely from the layoff, averaging a WSC-leading 80.0 shots and winning five tournaments. She was selected player of the year in the conference.

"It's been a great experience," Latch said. "I'd like to do it again next year, if I can work it out."

Gustavsson, who proudly claims to have been the first woman to play on Sunday mornings at her club, ending what she said was a chauvinistic tradition, already has her sights on next season.

"Two or three women have come up to me and asked me how they can do this," Gustavsson said. "I'm so glad I can inspire some other women."

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