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Palm Desert, Van Heel Provide Day of Upsets


The Palm Desert High boys' golf team turned a dream season for Santa Barbara San Marcos into a nightmare Tuesday in the CIF-Southern California Golf Assn. finals and Westlake Village Westlake senior Brian Van Heel turned the fears of most top players into reality with a career performance.

Palm Desert, led by freshman Seann Harlington's 69, shot five-under-par 288 at the SCGA Members Club in Murrieta to win the team title by two shots over favorite San Marcos. The five-under par is a tournament record and handed San Marcos its first defeat of the season.

Van Heel, in the tournament because Westlake qualified as a team, shot a career-best four-under-par 68 and won the individual title by a shot over Harlington, Kevin Larsen of San Marcos and Brady Baguio of Bakersfield Highland. Van Heel, who said his previous best in a competitive round was one-under par, surprised a field that included more than a dozen nationally ranked players. The tournament pits top players and teams from the Central, City, San Diego and Southern sections.

He started with consecutive bogeys but had five birdies and an eagle. He hit 13 of 14 fairways and 17 greens in regulation to post the type of score that top players fear in a one-round event.

"It's a strange feeling," said Van Heel, who became the first Westlake player to win the title and will have his name engraved on the same trophy that features the names of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, John Cook and Craig Stadler. "I didn't really expect this, but in a one-round tournament anything can happen, I guess."

Including a Palm Desert victory over San Marcos, which dominated the season and entered the CIF-SCGA finals with a five-player scoring average of less than 360 in their last nine matches. The format for Tuesday's tournament was altered to a four-player total to match the girls' format, but will be changed back to five players next year. It didn't matter Tuesday. Palm Desert would have shot a tournament-record 356 and still won by two shots over San Marcos in a five-player format.

"I knew we had the capabilities to do this, but I didn't know we would do it today," said Palm Desert Coach Tim Kabeary, who called San Marcos the best high school team he had ever seen after finishing two strokes behind the Royals in the Southern Section championships. "We haven't had consistency all year."

It is the third CIF-SCGA title for Palm Desert, which also won in 1998 and 1994. It also spoiled a bid by San Marcos to become the first team to win both the Southern Section and CIF-SCGA titles in consecutive years.

"Of course it's disappointing," San Marcos Coach Aaron Solis said. "You're never going to be happy when you lose, but we didn't really lose. We shot three-under par as a team and got beat. That is a credit to Palm Desert."

Henry Liaw of Hacienda Heights Los Altos, the reigning U.S. Junior champion, struggled with exhaustion after playing a 36-hole U.S. Open qualifier in the Bay Area on Monday. He got three hours of sleep before the tournament. He shot 73 Tuesday and tied for 22nd place.

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