GOLF / MAL FLORENCE : Steinberg Can Make the Time to Win

The occasional weekend golfer laments the fact that he doesn't have enough time to play, with responsibilities at work and home.

Craig Steinberg has an even more demanding schedule. He's a practicing optometrist, who is also attending law school.

"I don't practice (golf) much," Steinberg said. "When the time changes in April, I get out once or twice a week, either after work or early in the morning, and play a quick 18.

"When time changes back again in October, I play sporadically."

Steinberg is not your average weekend golfer. Even with his limited time, he makes the most of it.

He won the Southern California Golf Assn. amateur championship for the third time last Sunday at Fairbanks Ranch Country Club in Rancho Santa Fe. He birdied the first playoff hole to beat Bob Clark of Bear Creek.

"I've always been able to gather my game up quickly," Steinberg said. "It only takes a day or two to get close to tournament sharp. Then, within the first or second round of a tournament I'm playing pretty well again."

Steinberg, 34, who lives in Van Nuys and plays out of Braemar Country Club in Tarzana, began playing golf regularly at 13, before attending North Hollywood High.

He went on to USC, where he wasn't a scholarship player. Nonetheless, in 1980, Steinberg was the medalist in the Pacific 10 championship tournament as the Trojans won the team title.

Moreover, USC beat a UCLA team that included Steve Pate, Corey Pavin and Duffy Waldorf, who are successful on the PGA Tour.

"They got better. We don't want to play them in an alumni match," Steinberg said.

Steinberg said he never intended to become a professional player. He went to optometry school in St. Louis after college and is now attending La Verne Law School in Encino. He said he has 1 1/2 years left to get his degree.

Steinberg has played in the State amateur tournament 13 times, reaching the semifinals twice, losing to Dave Berganio Jr. of Sylmar this year.

His wife, Robin, is also his golf critic, even though she doesn't play.

"She's well versed and educated in golf. She works with me for 30 minutes on the practice putting green, trying to get my stroke working better," he said.

"She sometimes doesn't use the same language my pro (Chuck Montalbano) will, but she listened to him giving me enough lessons."

Steinberg, 5 feet 9 1/2 inches and 145 pounds, was asked to analyze his game.

"I've not won a lot of tournaments, but I've had very few bad finishes," he said. "I play my best on hard courses, where a high score is a good score, because I don't make seven birdies in a round, or hit it 290 (yards) or reach par fives in two.

"But if par is a good score, I do well."

Nick Faldo, who recently won the British Open for the third time at Muirfield in Scotland, described the pressure he felt as the favored player:

"If I had lost it, it would have meant a very big plaster to patch up that one. I think I would have become a fishing pro. There's no pressure dragging out trout.

"The worst of it is the buildup, the weekend of leading and all the spare time you have. You wish you could take your head off and put it on the side with one positive thought, leave it there and then put it on again. "

Faldo had a one-stroke lead over John Cook going to the final hole, and he summed his feelings by saying:

"I know now how tennis players feel when they're serving for the match."

Lee Trevino on Faldo: "I've known Nick for a long time. When he was young, he was looking and learning. We were the ones winning the Opens, Jack Nicklaus and I, and he was always trying to get a practice round with us.

"I watched him grow. You can't deny the fact that he wants to be a champion. Like him or not, you've got to respect the fact that the man's work ethic is fantastic."

Trevino added that Davis Love III is the player he believes will emerge as the best player in America. As for Fred Couples, Trevino said:

"I think Couples has a tremendous amount of talent, but does he want it bad enough? And he is the first to tell you no."

The Daily Mail, a British tabloid, had this unflattering look at long-hitting John Daly in the British Open:

"Only time will tell whether John Daly matures into a player worthy of having won a major championship or degenerates into little more than a fairground freak like the Bearded Lady and Half Man-Half Horse.

"Roll up, roll up to see the longest driver in the world. Gasp at his swing, thrill at his power, marvel at his length. Is it a man, or is it a gorilla?"

Golf Notes

The Cal Schmidt Shootout will be held Monday at Newport Beach Country Club. The tournament benefits the Girl Scout Council of Orange County, an organization the late Judge Schmidt served as president and national director. . . . Actor Robert Mitchum will play host Aug. 10 for the National Veterans Foundation tournament at MountainGate CC. . . . The first Michael Cooper celebrity tournament will be held Monday at Riviera CC. . . . Eldrick (Tiger) Woods will be the defending champion for the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship starting Tuesday at the Wollaston Golf Club in Milton, Mass . . . The fourth annual Drive for Food pro-am tournament will be held Aug. 7 at Soule Park Golf Club in Ojai.

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