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79th CALIFORNIA AMATEUR CHAMPIONSHIP : Plenty of Luck--All Bad--Costs Steinberg in Quarterfinals for Third Year in a Row

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Craig Steinberg will be back at work today, back to the business of making eyeglasses. You can safely bet, however, that he won’t be making any with rose-colored lenses.

Steinberg, you see, won’t be in the most cheerful of moods after spending several hours Thursday looking at the dark side of golf.

Playing the Pebble Beach Golf Links, one of the most stunningly beautiful courses in the world, Steinberg saw the stinking stockyards of Chicago.

When others looked out on a heart-warming scene of fluffy sea otters cavorting in the water, Steinberg saw oversized rats.

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Steinberg returned to the quarterfinals of the 79th California Amateur golf championship for the third year in a row, something no other golfer has ever done. But Steinberg, of Van Nuys, also was trounced in the quarterfinals for the third year in a row. Another record.

This time it was 18-year-old Charlie Wi’s turn to bring the sky crashing down on Steinberg’s head, ousting him from the tournament by a score of 3 and 1 in match play. Wi, who won later in the semifinals, plays in today’s championship match.

Steinberg drove home last night.

“The good news is that this saves me the $150 for a hotel room,” Steinberg said.

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It was his only attempt at humor.

“It’s frustrating,” he said. “Very frustrating. This is three years in a row now and making it to the quarterfinals is not overly satisfying anymore. There’s only one guy who leaves here happy. And once again, it’s not me.”

Steinberg is an accomplished amateur golfer. He is the 1988 Southern California Golf Assn. amateur champion and has made 11 appearances in the tournament, which accepts a field of 102 golfers from the several hundred who attempt to qualify for it each year.

But none of that matters to Steinberg each year when he makes the trip to the Monterey Peninsula, only to be sent home early.

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On Thursday, Steinberg was the victim of some fine play by Wi as well as his own misfortune. Several times he sent iron shots screaming at the pins only to have the ball bounce oddly away from the target.

“People who win this tournament get good bounces, at least a few of them,” he said. “I didn’t get any. I can’t recall a single real good break I got all day.”

The ugliest may have come on the 17th hole, a par-3 that is 209 yards of pure beauty stretching toward the sea.

It’s beautiful, of course, until you have to play it. Steinberg’s tee shot hit the middle of the green and hopped weirdly to the right, onto the fringe of the green.

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He then had a delicate chip shot that he appeared to hit well. But the ball came down on the last blades of rough ringing the green and, despite being on a steep hillside, stopped dead.

“Incredible!” Steinberg shouted to no one in particular as he watched the ball--and his chances of catching Wi--die.

An hour later, he was still discussing it. With no one.

“I just can’t believe what happened,” he said. “I could spit on that grass in the same place and it would get to the green. That ball stuck like a magnet.”

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And being so close to the final and a chance at winning the tournament doesn’t soothe Steinberg.

“It’s always an empty feeling when you lose,” he said. “It might even be worse when you get this close and then lose.”


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