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Trans-Miss to Reach Bottom Line Today

A golf tournament that began with 148 players and has gone through thousands of holes in five days was pared to two finalists Saturday at the La Jolla Country Club.

It all added up to a pair of accountants who will tee off at 8 a.m. today for the final 18 holes of the 86th Trans-Mississippi Golf Championships, the oldest match-play championship in the country.

Stephen McCraw, an accountant from Sydney, Australia, playing in his first Trans-Miss, will meet Ron Richard, an accounting teacher from Ft. Smith, Ark., who won the tournament in 1987.

Richard, 45, defeated San Diegans Pat Duncan and Randy Reznicek in the quarter- and semifinals to advance; McCraw defeated Jerry Michals of Vista and Joel Hirsch of Chicago.

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Richard got into the tournament when a spot opened up at the last minute. A teacher and golf coach at Westark Community College, Richard had decided to skip the event after his father had a relapse in May from a previous heart attack.

“My brother had called me and said (his father) was all right and they were letting him go (from the hospital),” Richard said

So Richard called and got in, and now he’s in his second final in two years.

Not bad for a self-taught golfer who didn’t start playing until he was 21. He tried the game after graduating from Nichols State, where he had played baseball. Richard soon found a new sport and an idol. It wasn’t long before he knew Ben Hogan like a book.

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“When I got out, I started playing golf, and somebody said that Ben Hogan was the best, so I got his (how-to) book and read it,” Richard said.

Richard’s interest in Hogan didn’t stop with his book, according to Jerry Parker, who has played golf with Richard for years.

“He would always wear his Hogan cap, his Hogan slacks, and he even had Ben Hogan clubs,” Parker said. “One day we were playing, and I said, ‘Geez, you probably are even wearing Ben Hogan underwear.’ He stopped and pulls down the waistband of his pants and sure enough, it says Hogan.”

It didn’t appear Richard would need to re-read any chapters after Saturday’s two rounds. He held on to defeat Duncan, the four-time San Diego City Amateur champion, 1-up. He then played a solid round in the afternoon to defeat Reznicek, 3 and 2.

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Richard had only one really bad putt and drive, but they let Reznicek back into the match. Richard was three-up after nine holes and had a chance to go four-up on No. 10, but he missed a three-foot putt. Reznicek then birdied to win No. 11 .

Richard sent his tee shot on No. 12 into the trees on the right side, eventually losing the hole and having his lead cut to a hole. Reznicek was in the match until he missed a two-foot putt on 13, and Richard again led by two holes. Reznicek bogeyed the par-three No. 16 to give Richard a 3-and-2 victory.

“I had two bad tee shots on 11 and 12,” Richard said. “But the turning point was when he missed that short putt on 13. He was playing well and on a roll.”

McCraw is on a roll of his own. He is making his first golfing trip out of Australia and two weeks ago he reached the semifinals of the British Amateur. McCraw, 27, defeated Michals, 4 and 3, in the quarterfinals. But he was two down after three holes against Hirsch, who had a chance to go three-up after four holes but missed a four-foot putt.

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Hirsch then bogeyed the next two holes to fall back to even. McCraw made a 10-foot putt for par on No. 7 to go one-up and never trailed again. An 18-foot putt on 13 and 20-footer on 14 won the holes and closed out the match, 5 and 4.


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