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GOLF SENIORS AT OJAI : Course Measures Up in Dollars for Crampton

TIMES STAFF WRITER

You will pardon Bruce Crampton if he thinks the Senior PGA Tour season really starts here.

Actually, the GTE West Classic, the $500,000, 54-hole tournament that starts today at picturesque Ojai Valley Inn & Country Club, is the fifth event on this year’s schedule.

But here, Crampton is more than the defending champion. He is almost always the man to beat. Before shooting a final-round 66 over the 6,190-yard par-70 course to overtake Chi Chi Rodriguez a year ago, Crampton had finished second in the tournament three times.

His 195 total, 15 under par, was a tournament record. Despite delays caused by thunderstorms, he shot a 63 in the second round.

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Now 58, an age at which many senior golfers start preparing for the super-seniors, Crampton is off to a slow start. His best finish in four events is a tie for 14th two weeks ago at Naples, Fla.

“I really enjoy playing here,” Crampton said. “While my play so far has been unreliable, I didn’t come in here last year playing all that well and look what happened.

“People are always asking me what my favorite course is. I’ve always told them it’s anywhere I can win. That certainly makes Ojai one of them. I’m glad to be back.”

Crampton and Rodriguez, who has a second, a victory and a fifth in the last three tournaments here, are wary of Tom Weiskopf, making his official debut on the tour for the 50-and-older group.

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“I watched him tear up the course in the Chrysler Cup last week,” Rodriguez said Thursday after tuning up with a 68 in the pro-am. “He just makes it that much tougher on our tour.

“But you can tell them all this: If Chi Chi’s putting, they are all playing for second.”

Weiskopf had not seen the Ojai course until Wednesday. Rookies on the tour play in pro-ams Wednesday and Thursday, and Weiskopf spent the time learning the course, which is still soft from the heavy rains. He shot rounds of 67 and 68.

“This is one of the prettiest places I’ve ever seen,” he said after another perfect day for golf. “It’s almost like playing two different courses. It is a course for short irons. I would think finesse is a good word for how you need to play this course. It is a perfect course for the setting.”

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Arnold Palmer will draw the biggest gallery. Since winning the Senior Skins Game in Hawaii, Palmer has renewed hopes of winning a tournament for the first time since 1988.

History will be made today when Jerry and Tom Barber become the first father-son combination in a senior tour tournament.


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