Moxness Follows Advice and Leads LPGA Tournament by 3 Strokes

Times Staff Writer

When Barbara Moxness first came to the Oakmont Country Club to prepare for the $250,000 GNA Tournament, a member advised her that the putts all break toward Glendale.

The advice has been well taken. Moxness shot her second straight two-under-par 70 Friday, and her 140 total gives her a three-stroke lead over Jan Stephenson after 36 holes.

Stephenson, who said she needed some advice from someone for her balky putter, had a 73, and is the only other player under par on the 6,328-yard course in north Glendale.

At even par are Atsuko Hikage, the Japanese Women's Open champion, and Nancy Lopez. Hikage had 74 and Lopez 71.

Pearl Sinn, the precocious Bellflower High School senior who had a share of the first-round lead with a 70, battled Oakmont's treacherous greens and narrow fairways for a 75-145. Sinn, 17, is the only amateur in the Ladies Professional Golf Assn. tournament.

Amy Alcott, the only player who matched Moxness' low round of 70, is next at 146.

The 36-hole cut was an exceptionally high 11-over-par 155. This was the high cut of the year, exceeding the 152 two weeks ago at the Uniden tournament at Mesa Verde Country Club in Costa Mesa.

Moxness, who will be 32 on May 10, is rather a surprising name at the top of the leader board. She played only two tournaments last year while taking time off to give birth to a son, and this year missed the cut in two of the five tournaments she has entered.

Friday, she had a rather routine birdie on the first hole and a spectacular one on the 16th hole. For the other 16 holes, she played textbook golf. The putts were all breaking toward Glendale and Moxness, from San Diego, was reading the greens like a road map.

On the first hole, a 482-yard par 5, she sank a 15-foot birdie putt after hitting a 9-iron for her third shot. Then followed 14 consecutive pars, only two of which were not two-putt greens. At No. 5, she came out of a bunker and holed a 4-foot putt, and on No. 12 she missed the green and chipped up to 8 feet, from where she sank her par putt.

"I still can't believe what I did on the 16th hole," Moxness said. "I drove my ball far left, through the trees and out on the 12th fairway. I had to cut a high 5-iron (shot) around two big trees and a couple of little ones to get to the green and the ball almost went in the hole. I only had a couple of feet for the birdie putt.

"My blood pressure really went after that shot," continued Moxness, who works as an occupational therapy aide at the Children's Hospital in San Diego when she isn't playing regularly.

Moxness, who has been on her own the first two days while husband Mark, a tax attorney, and son Matthew Elliot, stayed home in San Diego, will have them in her gallery today.

"Matthew will be on papa's back tomorrow," she said. "I'm looking forward to seeing him. A baby is a great distraction to come home to after a round of golf."

The 5-6 blonde, who originally came from Minnesota, has never won an LPGA event since joining the tour in 1978. She finished second twice in 1982, when she won $75,368, but this year her best finish was a tie for 10th at Tucson.

Lopez, another young mother, said she nearly skipped this week's tournament because she didn't want to take (daughter) Ashley back and forth across the country so often, but her husband, the New York Mets' Ray Knight, told her to play.

"When I went back to Florida after the Uniden tournament," Lopez said, "it was either stay in Florida with Ashley or take her and go. Ray said, 'You're playing well, you should take her and go.'

"I travel with a nannie, but when I get home at night, I give Ashley her bath and feed her. I don't know how I lived without her before. When I come back from the course, no matter how I played, she has a big smile and a hug for me."

Stephenson, who will be in today's feature threesome with Moxness and Lopez, whined about her putting woes, despite sinking one 20-footer for a birdie.

"It looks like my putting is back to normal--bad," said the former LPGA and U.S. Women's Open champion. "It was a great disappointment for me to miss so many putts. If I'd had Nancy Lopez putting for me, I'd be 5 or 6 under (par). Tomorrow I'll play with Nancy again, and it's frustrating to see her hit it dead center all the time."

Sinn, an almost straight-A student, is playing in the GNA tournament while her classmates at Bellflower are taking final exams.

"Next week I'll be taking my exams while they are out having fun," Sinn said. "But I am getting so much experience out here playing with all these woman who do it for a living. That is what I want for the future. I got such a big thrill this morning when Donna Caponi and some of the other pros came and congratulated me on my round. They are all my idols."

Sinn, who said her knees were "chattering" when she stepped to the first tee, briefly took the lead alone when she birdied her second hole, but after that Oakmont's double-tiered greens took their toll. Three of Sinn's four bogeys came from three-putting greens.

"I might have had a much higher score but my father (Jay) kept calming me down and telling me not to worry about bad shots," Sinn said of her father/caddy. "He is such a golf nut. Back home in Seoul he was a 6-handicap, and his room was full of golf clubs and trophies and everything he could get about golf. He even had his own little hole to practice."

Sinn was only 8 when the family immigrated to the United States, and she did not start playing golf until she was nearly 10 when her parents operated a restaurant at the Bellflower 3-par course.

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