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DIANE PUCIN

Experience Is Mauney's Payoff

Second-round leader falls from contention and misses playoff, but former sportscaster shows potential to challenge again.

March 05, 2001|DIANE PUCIN

There was a nine-hole playoff Sunday to determine the champion of the 2001 Toshiba Senior Classic at Newport Beach Country Club.

Terry Mauney wasn't in it.

He had been the leader after two rounds. A 63 on Saturday had made Mauney, a former TV sportscaster, a lover of NASCAR, a wearer of a diamond stud in his left ear, the unlikeliest leader.

So it wasn't a surprise that Mauney and his wife Gaynell were on a plane home to Charlotte, N.C., long before Jose Maria Canizares, a star of the European PGA, became a first-time senior tour winner by beating Dr. Gil Morgan with a 18-foot birdie putt on the ninth extra hole.

It wasn't a surprise that Mauney shot a six-over 77 in his final round, compared to a 67 by Canizares and a 64 by Morgan. It wasn't a surprise that Mauney made two double bogeys or knocked one drive off the roof of a condo and another into the water.

After all, Mauney lists in the Senior PGA Tour media guide under the category of special interests: yard work.

Gaynell Dalier, Mauney's wife, has hair that stands a good six inches high and is a combination shade of red, mauve and maroon, which you don't find in nature. Mauney and Dalier keep four parrots at home and they were married once, for nine months when they were teenagers, and then, after divorce and marriage to others, they are married again.

So this is not your normal well-moneyed, perfectly groomed, bred-to-the-manor professional golf couple.

And yet it was Mauney, who worked giving golf lessons for seven years so he'd have enough time to practice and get ready for the senior tour, in the lead.

Mauney was ahead of Bob Gilder, Larry Nelson, Tom Kite, Tom Watson, Dave Stockton, Hale Irwin, Ray Floyd, Morgan. Golf legends all, though Gaynell says she wouldn't recognize most of them if they sat down next to her.

So Sunday could have been the experience of a lifetime. It could have been a stomach-churning, nail-biting, hit-it-out-of-bounds disaster.

Or it could have been both.

A drive that went out of bounds on 14. A tee shot that went into the water on 17. Three putts on the first three holes inside of eight feet for birdies and none touched the hole. Turning your head at the sound of every camera whirring, every piece of paper rustling, every cough, laugh, whisper from the gallery because, after all, you've never had galleries before.

All this added up, added up, added up.

Added up to that 77. To a tie for 10th. To experience, good and bad. To Gaynell hugging Terry after he had bogeyed the par-5 18th hole, whispering, "You did good, honey." And to Terry saying, "I've learned a lot this week. In order to learn how to hit out of the sand, you have to be in the sand. In order to learn how to win, you have to be in the position. I'll be back."

As a sportscaster in Charlotte, Mauney's specialty was auto racing and not golf. Yet he had played the PGA Tour for four years. Not well. He had earned only $3,416 for his efforts. But golf had always been part of Mauney's life too. His father, Marvin, who had played triple-A baseball in the St. Louis Cardinal organization, made a cut-off five-iron for Terry when Terry was five.

So Mauney quit his safe broadcaster's job to take a low-paying golf teaching job. He wanted to get ready for the senior tour. He is still getting ready.

Mauney turned 50 in July. Before Sunday, he had managed two top-15 finishes in three starts in 2001. So the guy has game. He just doesn't have a champion's nerves yet.

The big miss came on the 14th hole. Mauney was tied for the lead, at 11-under. As soon as he swung, he knew he had done bad.

"I heard the ball hit the condo," Mauney says. "I heard it say to me, 'You're all done now.' Then I knocked it into the water on 17. Picked the wrong club there. And all those missed putts early. They were all nervy shots."

Mauney didn't not mean nervy, as in brave or bold, but nervy, as in nervous and scared.

Gaynell awoke several times Saturday night. She was nervous. She would look out the window, hoping to see that the predicted giant winter storm had arrived. Then there might not be a final round and Mauney would win.

No rain.

Then she would look at Mauney, thinking he might be awake too, thinking maybe they would talk.

But Mauney was always sleeping.

Gaynell wears five earrings. "I am not the normal golf wife," she says. "We are not the normal golf couple." This life is not normal. These nerves are not normal.

The $35,000 Mauney won Sunday really matters. Gaynell still works full-time as a Liz Claiborne clothing rep for Dillard's department store. She gets $6,000 worth of free Liz Claiborne clothes. Those free clothes really matter.

Morgan has 19 senior tour victories and seven PGA Tour victories. Canizares had won $3.4 million on the senior tour before Sunday's victory and he won seven times on the European tour.

Canizares and Morgan are winners. Mauney isn't.

Yet.

*

Diane Pucin can be reached at her e-mail address: diane.pucin@latimes.com

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