GOLF / STEVE ELLING : Voges Keeps Low Profile by Choice


A long shot wins the granddaddy of national amateur tournaments in storybook fashion, and a couple of years later, folks have already forgotten about him.

Then again, Mitch Voges of Simi Valley hasn’t been actively seeking the champion’s podium lately.

Voges, whose gutsy victory in the 1991 U.S. Amateur Championship at age 41 had television broadcasters gushing praise and accolades, practically has dropped out of sight.


In the U.S. Amateur final, Voges made a college player half his age disappear. Voges’ extra-long putter was the magic wand. Three years later, voila , Voges himself is a ghost.

A few weeks ago, Voges played in an inter-club tournament and his name appeared in the newspaper results the following day. Sort of.

“They spelled it B-O-G-E-S,” Voges said, “so I guess I really am out of it.”

Out of the loop, to be sure. Lately, he’s been Voges the father, Voges the entrepreneur, bogus the golfer. In that order.

“Golf has never been my No. 1 priority,” he said.

The statement has never been more true. Voges, who has children aged 12 and 16, has been busy for months orchestrating a series of golf course development deals locally and abroad. For the next few months, he said, ironing out the development details is about all he can handle.

When it comes to birdies and eagles, Voges has done cold-turkey withdrawal before.

Voges’ victory in the U.S. Amateur was nothing short of remarkable. Twenty years ago, he was a top collegiate amateur at Brigham Young and U.S. International, but persistent back problems forced him to quit the game in the mid-1970s.

Ever hear older players complaining about not being as long as they used to be? Voges knows the feeling.

Voges, 44, had two discs removed from his spine and had three vertebrae fused together. Eventually, after a 10-year layoff, he again forged his game.

By winning the U.S. Amateur title, he joined an impressive list of Southland champions--Phil Mickelson, Sam Randolph, Mark O’Meara, John Cook, Craig Stadler and Gene Littler. Of course, all were considerably younger. Voges was winner second, breadwinner first.


Perhaps Voges’ injury also put the game in perspective. He qualified for the U.S. Open as a collegian in 1972, but was soon felled by back trouble. Still, he was somewhat satisfied.

“I haven’t changed my tune,” he said. “Golf’s never been first with me. I played in the Open in college, and if I didn’t play again, I’d have been OK with that.

“(Playing in the Open) was more than most people have a chance to do.”

By winning the U.S. Amateur--with his son Christian serving as his caddy--Voges earned the right to again play in the Open, not to mention the the Masters and British Open.

Nonetheless, after his season in the spotlight, which included stints as a network color commentator during Walker Cup and U.S. Amateur coverage, Voges has all but shelved the game. He calls playing three times a month a “major effort.”

Maybe this is all a set-up.

Armed with an exemption, Voges has applied to play in the U.S. Amateur next month at Sawgrass Tournament Players Course in Ponte Vedra, Fla. But he isn’t sure he’ll have the time to participate, much less to get his game up to speed.

If he plays, fine. If not, so be it.

“I’m totally out of the game,” he said. “Once in a while, I feel a sad twinge.

“I don’t think I’m all done, though. I’ll be back. When I have time.”


Layoffs, Part II: Andrea Gaston of Canoga Park, who earned a berth in the U.S. Women’s Open by winning a sectional qualifier Friday in Seal Beach, was sitting in her office writing checks the day before the tournament. Predictably, she was thinking about golf.


As Gaston logged Thursday’s date, 7/7/94, she realized that it had been 17 years to the day since she qualified for her only Open by winning a qualifier at Del Rio Country Club in Modesto.

Those 17 years included a 14-year layoff from tournament golf, due in large part to a paralyzing case of the putting yips.

Gaston won the qualifier at Old Ranch Country Club with a one-under 71 and left the next morning for . . . Del Rio Country Club, which is hosting the Women’s Trans-National Championships this week.

Approximately one year after her 1977 Open appearance at Hazeltine, Minn., she quit the game out of frustration. Gaston, 36, has come full circle.

“I think it’s probably (attributable) to maturity,” she said. “Nothing’s taken for granted. It’s a new round every day.

“I have faith in myself now. I’m confronting my fears and meeting them daily, head-on.”


L.A. Law: Dr. Craig Steinberg, like almost everyone else, closely monitored the O.J. Simpson hearing on television.


Unlike most folks, though, Steinberg is picking up a few timely pointers.

Steinberg, an optometrist from Van Nuys and one of the Southland’s best amateurs over the past decade, has completed law school and is taking the state bar exam July 26-28. Unfortunately, the exams have blown a hole in his golf schedule.

Steinberg, 36, won’t be playing in the 95th Southern California Golf Assn. Championship next week at Hacienda Golf Club in La Habra Heights. Steinberg won the SCGA crown in 1988, 1991 and 1992, and is one of five players to have won back-to-back titles. He is the reigning Pasadena City champion.

Steinberg said he “hasn’t picked up a club” since missing the 36-hole cut at the State Amateur Championship at Pebble Beach last month. He wasn’t ready to play, anyway. At least, not ready to play at his high standard.

The call was an easy one. Playing in the SCGA wouldn’t be juris-prudent.

“I either play golf and blow the bar exam or study for the bar exam and not play,” he said.

Steinberg will be back in action next month. He has accepted an invitation to play in the 28th Pacific Coast Amateur, held Aug. 2-5 at Bear Creek Golf and Country Club in Murrieta.


The Bar, Part II: Mark Marino hears complaints all the time. It’s kind of an occupational hazard. Folks bare their souls, whether he likes it or not.


He is a bartender.

Marino, who lives in Newbury Park, has put together an organization he hopes can compete with the Golden State Tour, a mini-tour for professionals throughout the state.

The Fairway Assn. will stage its first event, which is open to professionals and low-handicap amateurs, July 25 at Camarillo Springs Golf Course in Camarillo, where Marino is a bartender.

“I know a lot of people who play on the Golden State Tour,” he said. “One of the constant complaints is that (it) pockets too much of the money. More needs to be spent on purses.”

As with the Golden State Tour, players in the Freeway Assn. will pay an entry fee. Marino said that through the cooperation of courses in the region, which have given him a break on green fees, he hopes to keep his costs low and purses high.

If he can draw a field of 40 for the inaugural event, he plans to offer a $3,400 purse.

“I think everybody would agree that promoters should make a buck,” he said. “But not as much as the guys who are playing.”

Information: (805) 498-6580.


Trivia time: Everett Seaver (1920) and Charles Seaver (1934) are the only father and son to have won the SCGA title, one of the nation’s longest continually contested amateur championships. Everett’s grandson broke the chain, but established quite a niche for himself elsewhere.


Tom Seaver, one of baseball’s greatest right-handed pitchers, earned a berth in the Hall of Fame. . . .

Shane O’Brien’s stunning, seven-under 64 in the final round of the L.A. City Men’s Golf Championship last month not only gave the Hart High graduate a two-stroke victory, but his 72-hole total of 280 was the lowest since left-hander Mike Turner of Sherman Oaks shot 279 in 1981. Turner is the Anaheim City champion. . . .


Bridesmaid: Darren Angel got tired of being labeled second banana.

The junior standout from Northridge had seven birdies during a final-round 70 to win the Las Vegas Founders’ Legacy Junior Championship last week at Legacy Golf Club in Henderson, Nev.

He then let out a considerable sigh. “Finally,” he said.

Angel finished second last summer in the Henderson event, sponsored by the Georgia-based American Junior Golf Assn. It hardly qualified as front-page news.

Last month, Angel was second in the AJGA event in Mission Hills, marking his seventh top-five finish in an AJGA tournament--all without a victory.

Before he finally broke through, Angel, a senior at Granada Hills High, finished second four times in AJGA tournaments.


“It got kind of old,” he said.

This week, Angel will play in the AJGA Rolex Tournament of Champions at Oak Tree Country Club in Edmond, Okla.

Angel is one of six Southern Californians who have qualified for the U.S. Junior Amateur, held July 26-30 at Echo Lake Country Club in Westfield, N.J.


Sun strokes: A pair of hardy golfers found a novel way of welcoming the first day of summer in Santa Clarita. On June 21, the longest day of the year in terms of sunlight, Jeff Zee and Rocky Haserjian played 81 holes at difficult Valencia Country Club.

The twosome teed off at 6 a.m. and stopped at 8 p.m. They played 18-hole rounds from the gold, blue, white and red tees, then played another nine-hole round from the blues. Some workout.

It was Zee’s 47th birthday; Haserjian is 32.

“We could have kept going since we still had some light,” Zee said. “But I had a message from home saying the grand-kids were waiting for me to cut the cake.”