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Blowing Lead Enabled Gore to Win Pac-10 Title in Playoff Again

Sure, now he can laugh.

When former Hart High golfer Jason Gore was wobbling down the 18th fairway in the final round of the Pacific 10 Conference men’s championship last week, he wasn’t exactly enjoying the ride.

Gore, a sophomore at Arizona, held a three-stroke lead in the individual tournament before the 18th hole in the fourth and final round at Tucson National Resort and Conference Center.

He didn’t exactly slam the door. In fact, he almost experienced severe esophageal constriction, swallowed his Adam’s apple and forgot how to breathe.

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“They rolled me around on the ground and did CPR,” Gore cracked. “I was trying to get the throw-up off my shirt.”

Gore triple-bogeyed the hole to force a three-way sudden-death playoff at one-under-par 287.

He managed to shake off the near-disaster, however, and won the title with consecutive pars on two playoff holes.

Gore, who turns 20 on May 17, came close to experiencing sudden death on the 72nd hole. Perhaps his lively sense of humor saved him.

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Gore, who won the Pac-10 individual championship as a freshman, was unsure of the extent of his lead as he teed off on No. 18, but by the time he reached the green, he had a pretty good idea that he had all but thrown the title into the deep blue yonder.

“There’s water to the left and water to the right,” he said of the hole, a difficult par-4. “It’s basically nothing but water and fairway.”

Care to guess where the ball wound up? Gore was three-under for the round when he teed off, yet he gave it all back at the 18th. Gore almost gave back his title as well.

Playing in the final threesome of the day, Gore hit his tee shot into the water, a four-iron into a bunker and still wasn’t on the green after five shots. Finally, after chipping to within five feet, he holed a left-to-right slider for a triple-bogey.

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A knee-knocker? You bet.

“Especially when it’s for a seven,” he joked.

For Gore, the playoff was nothing new.

In the 1993 Pac-10 championships, Gore edged All-American Todd Demsey of Arizona State on the second playoff hole. On the second hole of last year’s playoff, Gore missed the green with his approach shot, but somehow salvaged par to close out the playoff when Demsey made a bogey.

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“I got it up and down from where Jesus left his sandals,” Gore cracked.

Amen. Gore is the first player to win consecutive Pac-10 championships since Mike Peck of Stanford in 1977-78. Scott Simpson of USC, who plays on the PGA Tour, won back-to-back titles in 1975-76. Next spring, Gore will attempt to become the first player to win three in a row since Sherman Finger of USC in 1964-66.

Gore, a big hitter, fired rounds of 74-74-68-72 at difficult Tucson National, which is rated 74.9 from the championship tees.

The team will have a few more cracks at No. 18 next week: Gore and his Arizona teammates will play in the NCAA Division I West Regional May 19-21 at Tucson National.

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Checking the fax: In baseball, Pepperdine’s Erik Martinez (North Hollywood/Pierce) ranks second on the team in batting (.313) and stolen bases (21). Teammate Jason Cohen (El Camino Real/Pierce) is batting .295. . . .

Freshman Jeff Tagliaferri (Kennedy) has a .315 average and ranks second on the team in doubles (15) at Long Beach State. . . . David Jacobs (Calabasas) has been a bright spot for Cornell (11-23) with a .395 on-base percentage, second-best on the team. His .278 batting average ranks fourth. . . .

At Michigan State, sophomore catcher Mike Andry (Chaminade) has had to fight for playing time. He has 13 at-bats and a .231 average in 10 games for the Spartans (21-23), who have used 30 players. . . .

Westmont junior outfielder Dan Gray (Glendale/Canyons) carries a .319 average and leads the team in home runs (six), runs batted in (43) and slugging percentage (.513). He was an honorable-mention choice on the All-NAIA District 3 team announced this week. Teammate Chris Ferebee (Montclair Prep) is batting .294 in limited play as a freshman, and junior infielder Greg Thompson (Alemany/UC Santa Barbara) is batting .293 with 30 RBIs and a team-high 15 doubles. . . .

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In softball, freshman catcher Nicole Ochoa (Thousand Oaks) leads Long Beach State in RBIs (23) and ranks second in home runs (four). . . .

Fresno State, which leads Cal State Northridge by one game heading into a crucial Western Athletic Conference doubleheader Friday at 1:30 p.m. at Northridge, will feature senior Kim Maher (Buena) at shortstop and sophomore Jenifer Henry (Buena) in center field. Henry has a .245 average and 22 RBIs. Maher is making another strong bid for All-American status. She leads the Bulldogs in batting (.442), hits (76), runs (48), doubles (15), triples (five), walks (19) and slugging percentage (.745). . . .

In track and field, Marcus Reed (Canoga Park) of UCLA ran personal bests of 10.35 seconds in the 100 meters and 20.66 in the 200 to win those events in Saturday’s quadrangular track and field meet against USC, Brigham Young and Washington. The marks moved Reed to ninth on the all-time Bruin performer list in the 100 and to 10th in the 200.

Staff writers Dana Haddad and John Ortega contributed to this column.

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