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IN BRIEF/ Southland

Defending Champion Merrick Begins Play

July 12, 2002|Peter Yoon

John Merrick may be feeling deja vu entering the Southern California Golf Assn. Amateur Championship, but he hopes to be feeling even more after the tournament.

Merrick, who will be a junior at UCLA in the fall, is the defending champion of the SCGA Amateur, which takes place today through Sunday at El Caballero Country Club in Tarzana. Last year, he won the tournament at La Jolla Country Club a week after he won the Long Beach City Championship.

Merrick repeated at Long Beach on Tuesday and looks to complete the double-double beginning today when the first 36 holes are played. Should he win on Sunday, he would become the sixth repeat champion in the 103-year-old tournament and first since Craig Steinberg of Van Nuys in 1991-92.

Steinberg has a chance to make history of his own. With four SCGA Amateur titles to his credit, another would place Steinberg with Paul Hunter as the only five-time winners. Eddie Heinen of Las Vegas, who won the California Amateur championship, is vying to become the first player since Johnny Dawson in 1942 to hold both titles simultaneously.

Travis Johnson of Bellflower, who was runner-up at the SCGA Amateur last year, has victories this summer at the Pasadena City, Camarillo City and Public Links Golf Assn. of Southern California events, but he had to withdraw from the tournament because he has not fully recovered from an emergency appendectomy. Greg Puga, the 2000 U.S. Mid-Amateur Champion, also withdrew because of a scheduling conflict with the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship, which begins Monday in Michigan.

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