GOLF / STEVE ELLING : Gaston’s Woes With Putter Elicit Support

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People couldn’t wait to pat Andrea Gaston on the back.

Nearly everyone could relate. After all, misery loves company.

“They knew what I was fighting,” Gaston said. “It was really amazing how people came out to root for (me).”

They knew the root of her problem was her sporadically miserable putting. They’d been there, done that.

Gaston’s headline-stealing comeback continued over the weekend in Colorado Springs when she placed second in the 53rd Broadmoor Ladies Invitational, one of the nation’s premier amateur tournaments.


Gaston advanced to the 36-hole match play final Sunday before falling, 3 and 2, to USC’s Jill McGill, who completed her college eligibility last month.

For the 36-year-old Gaston, a Canoga Park resident, the turnaround has been nothing short of spectacular. After a 14-year layoff from the sport--attributable to her pitiable and debilitating case of the putting yips--Gaston began playing anew two years ago.

She still suffers an occasional setback with her putter, but more often than not has won her recent skirmishes with the ugly stick. In fact, over the past few months, Gaston’s competitive fire has returned as her putting stroke has become downright, well, tolerable.

At the Broadmoor, a story outlining her putting travails appeared in the local newspaper. She instantly became the favorite of many in the gallery, some of whom could identify with her frustrations and told her so.

“I guess there are lots of people out there with the same problem,” Gaston said.

Gaston, who played at San Jose State and once was a top junior player, has jumped back into tournament play with a head-first dive. Considering the length of her layoff, it’s almost shocking how quickly the laurels have piled up.

“I didn’t know how much I loved the game until I was away from it,” she said.

Over the past year, Gaston placed second at the U.S. Publinx Championships, and won both the Women’s State Amateur and the L.A. City Women’s Championships.


“I’ve pretty much decided to give it everything I can right now,” said Gaston, who works for an acoustics engineering firm in Westlake Village. “I’m at that age when I have to give it a shot. . . . It’s killing my job.”

Things are going so well that Gaston has stopped looking in the rear-view mirror at opportunity gone by. She’s even looking ahead to the 1996 Curtis Cup, a biennial event pitting top amateurs from the United States and Europe. At this pace, she could earn a spot on the team.

More immediate are qualifying attempts next month for the Women’s U.S. Open and Women’s U.S. Amateur. If she continues to can those putts, look out.


Holding pattern: Heidi Voorhees completed her college career last week by leading USC to a second-place finish in the women’s NCAA Division I Championships. She finished 12th individually for the second consecutive year.

Now what?

“I’m really bummed,” she said.

The decision she faces isn’t making the cold-turkey withdrawal from college golf any easier. Voorhees, a graduate of Notre Dame High, has a couple of options, of course. She can turn pro by enrolling in the LPGA Tour qualifying school in August or she can continue to rank among the nation’s best female amateurs.

Right now, Voorhees is riding the fence. Laying up. She plans to play in some top amateur events to gauge the shape of her game, then will decide on whether to turn pro later this summer.


“I’d like to say yes (to turning pro), but I’m going to wait to see how things go,” said Voorhees, 21, who earned her degree in four years. “It’s really hard to go down to qualifying school and not play well. I think it would be tough to keep going back.”


Cuts like a knife: The mortality rate was 100% for area players attempting to land one of four available berths in the U.S. Open during sectional qualifying Monday at Lake Merced Golf and Country Club in Daly City, Calif.

Among those with ties to the area who failed to advance at Daly City were Tom Stankowski of Ventura (75-74--149), Darren Angel of Granada Hills High (76-74--150), Ron Hinds of Westlake Village (77-74--151), Scott Heyn of Alemany High (79-77--156) and former Rio Mesa High standout Lawrence O’Neil (77-82--159).

Bob Klein Jr., (77-78--155), older brother of Emilee Klein, also failed to qualify. The U.S. Open is June 16-19 at Oakmont Country Club in Pennsylvania.

In other sectionals this week, former Alemany standout Dave Berganio Jr. advanced in Purchase, N.Y. Duffy Waldorf, formerly of Taft High, was one of five players who survived a 14-man playoff to advance at Rockville, Md.


Crash and burn: For area high school players, the season skidded to a halt in the final event of the season, the CIF-Southern California Golf Assn. Championships at Redlands Country Club.


City Section team entries Grant and Granada Hills finished ninth and 10th in the 10-team field and no player on either squad broke 80--though both teams were missing major cogs.

Granada Hills was playing without Angel, the City Section individual champion, and Grant played without Allison Wilson, one of the region’s top girl players. Wilson was playing in a junior tournament in Louisiana while Angel was attempting to qualify for the U.S. Open. Both are juniors.