Southern California Amateur

Any self-respecting golfer knows you must practice diligently to achieve ultimate success, right? All the golf books say so. Well, there's one guy those books apparently didn't include.

U.T. Thompson III, who prefers to be called Tom or Tommy, a 29-year-old practicing lawyer, who usually golfs only on weekends, became the exception to the rule when he won the 70th annual Southern California Amateur golf Championship.

Thompson's play was letter perfect throughout most of the contest, even though he admitted to a lot of luck. You see, he played little golf while going through the Marine Cops and three years of law school at Loyola University. Upon graduation he joined Wilshire CC, where he is now club champion, and has been taking lessons from club pro Frank Morey. Morey developed his game to the point where Tommy gave him quite a chunk of credit for the victory.

Even though Thompson led wire-to-wire the going wasn't all that easy. Several of Southern California's finest golfers were bunched close to each other all week. Kip Puterbaugh from La Jolla finished second at 287; Steve Weakley, CCAA champ from Cal State Los Angeles, 288; Gary Sanders, all American at USC, 291; Bud Bradley, L.A. City champion, 293; Barry Jaeckel, the defending champion, 293; and NCAA champion Bob Clark of Cal State L.A., 294, along with Greg Pitzer and John Richardson.

Even though the lawyer finished six strokes ahead of the field there was a time, after the very fist round, that he held but a slim stroke margin over Jaeckel, Howard Coleman, Puterbaugh, Stan Hobert and Joe O'Neill.

Tom acted as if he might wrap the title up on the first day. After 13 holes at San Gabriel CC he was five-under-par. He stumbled a bit on the finishing holes but still managed a one-under-par 70 and tied with Pitzer, the 1967 champ.

After round two the field spread out quite a bit and Puterbaugh set up housekeeping in the number two slot for the remainder of the tournament. At this point he was but two strokes away, 139-141.

Thompson fired a two-under 69 despite faltering again on the closing holes. The 1962 UCLA captain birdied four of the first six holes on the back side to go four under, but bogeys on 16 and 17 deprived him of an even better score.

As it was at this point, only he and Puterbaugh had broken par for 36 holes.The final two rounds were waged at Hacienda GC, home club of SCGA president Clifford Tweedy. But even the change in scenery didn't phase Thompson. He shot his third sub-par round of 70 on a course he had never seen before. It was his week and nobody could catch him.

Puterbaugh shot 72 and fell four strokes back.

"It must be my competitive spirit," quipped Tommy after the third round. "It certainly isn't my golf that's keeping me in this thing. I just keep fighting the ball but it manages to go into the hole." Spoken like a true once-a-week golfer.

Tommy picked the final day not to shoot a sub-par round, but he still managed an easy victory after Puterbaugh peeled away.

His one-over 72 along Hacienda's 6,282 yards of trees, gullies and narrow fairways gave him a 72-hole total of 281, one stroke off the tournament record set by Bruce McCormick in 1963. However, it tied the figure set by Jaeckel last year.

Puterbaugh, from the University of Houston's golfing factory, pulled to within one stroke of Tommy but faltered in the stretch for a 74 and a 287 total.

The last round was hairy, as they say. Thompson began with a four shot edge but bogeyed the first three holes to reduce his lead to one. He three-putted the second hole from about 60 feet, then took a double bogey six on the third hole when he hooked his drive and three-putted again.

"I thought it was all over," said Tommy, "when I chipped past 18 feet on the fifth hole." He knocked it in for par and through some great scrambling preserved that one shot lead he stretched later on to finish comfortably ahead. He didn't have another bogey all day.

While Thompson won all the silver, the booby-prize went to Ray Harbour of Irvine Coast. Ray's final round totaled 115 strokes, but it wasn't his golf that was to blame, it was his book-keeping. His scorer, Virginia Holm, added Harbour's final nine hole score of 41 and put it in the box for the 18th hole score instead of the total column. He unwittingly signed it thereby legalizing the error. His score therefore read 38-77-115.

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