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Zimmerman Trades Her Dreams for Real Thing

Times Staff Writer

Sometimes while lying in bed late at night, Mary Beth Zimmerman thinks of what it is like when dreams come true.

She envisions her name at the top of an LPGA tournament leader board. Then she pictures herself with the winning trophy, and the winning check that comes with it.

Until 1986, those dreams were nothing more than dust in the wind. This season, Zimmerman has made her dreams come true.

Why the change in Mary Beth Zimmerman? It all reverts to those dreams about seeing herself on top of the leader board.

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Zimmerman, 25, who will compete in the Kyocera Inamori tournament which begins today at Bernardo Heights Country Club, gave her career a shot in the arm with some off-the-course adjustments last June. She paid the best $5,000 she has ever spent to attend a five-day sports seminar in Eugene, Ore., at the urging of D.A. Weibring and Peter Jacobsen, two men on the PGA Tour.

Zimmerman was taught how to think positively about winning tournaments and enjoying the luxuries that accompany the accomplishment. She was told that if she thought she could win tournaments, then there wasn’t any reason she couldn’t.

Everything centered on positive thinking.

“Before, I would go to tournaments and say I would make the cut,” said Zimmerman, who joined the tour in August, 1983. “If I go in thinking I’ll win, I have a chance to win. I’ve had a lot of top-10 finishes because of the way I’m thinking now.”

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Before attending the seminar, Zimmerman’s career-best finish was fifth. The first week after the seminar, she tied for second.

From then on, she began thinking that the positive thoughts she had could become reality. She had five subsequent top-10 finishes in 1985 and finished with $89,088 in prize money.

Zimmerman now says that she used to think too much about what she was doing, and that she too often was thinking of the wrong things in the first place.

“I was more intense then and probably too tentative,” she said. “I wouldn’t be sure if I was hitting the right shot. Now, I make up my mind and do it. If I make a mistake, I make a mistake. You have to trust what you’re doing.”

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Before last June, Zimmerman often distrusted herself.

“I got down on myself and I got angry,” she said. “I still do sometimes. Before, I would let it affect my next few shots. If I get frustrated now, I get it right out of my system and approach the next shot with a new attitude. I just forget about what happened and go on to the next shot.”

So far this season, Zimmerman hasn’t had to get many bad shots out of her mind.

She earned her first tour victory in the Samaritan Turquoise tournament Feb. 23 in Phoenix and then won the Uniden Invitational in Costa Mesa the next week. She is second to Pat Bradley on the money list with $119,612.

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“I thought I’d win,” Zimmerman said. “I could see it coming. I didn’t think it would happen this early because I’m usually a slow starter. I’m playing very relaxed.”

Never was Zimmerman more relaxed than during the Uniden, when she trailed Laura Baugh by five strokes on the back nine on the final day. With birdies on the last three holes, Zimmerman beat Baugh by a stroke, earning the $49,500 winner’s check.

On that occasion, Baugh probably got more publicity for losing than Zimmerman got for winning. In 13 seasons, Baugh has nine second-place finishes--but nary a first.

“I felt bad that Laura had such a lead and lost it,” Zimmerman said. “I felt good for myself. I’m a young player who is struggling, or was struggling. That’s competition. I’m sure Laura’s day will come.”

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Zimmerman’s winning days have come while Nancy Lopez has been on maternity leave.

Perhaps Zimmerman has picked an opportune time to begin thinking positively.

“I’m playing well now,” Zimmerman said. “Who knows what would happen if Nancy was here? I can’t wait for her to get back out here. If you do beat her, you’ve beaten the best.”

For now, Zimmerman can only dream of what it would be like to beat Lopez. She’ll keep dreaming positively until that moment may arrive.

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