Golf Whiz : At 16, Youngest Player Ever in L.A. Open Has Almost as Many Titles as He Has Clubs

Times Staff Writer

Golfer Bob May, 16, of Los Altos High School already has a list of accomplishments that most players could only dream about.

He has:

- Played in the U.S. Amateur Golf Championship.

- Won the Tournament of Champions for age 18 and younger.

- Finished third in the Professional Golfers Assn. Junior Nationals.

- Won the Southern California Junior Championship.

- Won the Curtis Cup for Southern California.

May accomplished all of those feats while he was still a baby-faced 15-year-old, barely finished with his freshman year at Los Altos.

But all of those achievements may have to take a back seat to what May did in January, when he become the youngest player ever to compete in the Los Angeles Open at the Riviera Country Club, a stop on the professional golf circuit.

As one of only three amateurs in the field of 144 golfers, May posted a two-round score of 149, a two-over-par 73 the first day and 76 the second, and missed making the cut for the final two rounds by five strokes.

May's performance raised a few eyebrows. His score beat out many big-name pros, including Ben Crenshaw, Jerry Pate and Al Geiberger, and he finished in the top four in putting.

It was enough to impress just about everybody, except May. "I think some people were surprised with how I did but I didn't think I did real well," May said. "I bogeyed the first four holes and still came back to get two over par (in the first round. But I played a(?) real bad the second day."

May, who earned a berth in the tournament by shooting a low score of 67 in a qualifying tournament at the Hillcrest Country Club, said he was not nervous about playing against the pros because he had played the Riviera course three times and shot a sizzling 29 in a nine-hole practice round.

"The crowds bothered me more than anything else," the soft-spoken May said. "I'm not used to playing in front of that many people. Playing against the pros didn't bother me as much because I have a lot of confidence in my game."

It is not surprising that May has a lot of confidence in his game, since he usually practices about four to five hours a day.

Dick Slosek, May's coach at Los Altos, will attest that May is dedicted.

"A couple of years ago, he made a resolution that he was going to practice every day of the year and he did," Slosek said.

May has taken an occasional day off since but Slosek says May is one of the hardest workers he has ever coached.

"What is so unusual is to see somebody work so long and so hard at it," Slosek said. "I see a lot of kids come along and they get real good, then they get a car and maybe a girlfriend, and they grow tired of golf. But Bobby doesn't seem to get tired of it."

"Mentally and physically, he's very strong and I credit that a lot to Eddie Merrins, who coaches him at the Bel-Air Country Club. Eddie thinks he's going to be one of the best and I think he's right."

Slosek called May "the best high school player I have ever seen." After May's successful freshman year at Los Altos, Slosek probably will not receive much of an argument.

After all, there are not many freshmen who finish second in the CIF Southern Section finals. Slosek said that was hard to take for many talented seniors on his team, which is a perennial CIF golf power.

"A few egos on the team really took a beating," he said. "It's not every day you see a freshman beating the seniors."

"We had two players get scholarships last year, Jeff Hellman with Pacific and Jimmy Osborn with UC Santa Barbara, and they vacillated during the season but at the end of the year Bobby was the best."

Despite his success, May realizes he still has a long way to go to become a pro-caliber golfer.

"I need to improve on everything," he said. "My game is good but it's not real good. It's a lot of little things that I still need to improve on."

However, Slosek said May has already shown marked improvement since last season. "He was up and down a lot last season but this year he is more consistent."

May is the odds-on favorite to win the CIF Southern Section championship this season. If he competes, that is.

You see, the CIF tournament falls on May 20, the day of the U.S. Open qualifying tournament at Industry Hills Golf Course. Slosek says he has no qualms about May passing up the CIF tournament in favor of the U.S. Open qualifying tournament.

"He competed in the CIF finals last year and I think he should get his chance to qualify for the U.S. Open," Slosek (said ?).

If May makes it, he will be the youngest ever to qualify for the U.S. Open.

That will not be easy, but May is used to being the youngest player in golf tournaments.

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