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GOLF / STEVE ELLING : British Event No Walk in the Park for Ladin

Paul Ladin of Westlake Village has an admission to make.

It probably won’t startle many folks. It’s been said before.

“Americans are soft,” he said. “Most of us are out of shape.”

It is a somber voice of experience.

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Ladin, 61, said poor conditioning might have cost him the title at the British Senior Amateur Championship last week in suburban Manchester, England.

Ladin walked the walk.

So he can talk the talk.

Ladin, who won the 1993 State Senior Amateur Championship, was leading the 54-hole event with one round to play, but fell apart as he stumbled through the final 18 holes at Formby Country Club.

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He shot an eight-over 80 in the final round and finished fourth, five shots behind the winner. As the saying goes, Ladin’s wheels fell off.

At least, it felt like they did.

“It felt like an elephant stepped on my feet and ankles,” he said. “I just wasn’t ready for that.”

Players weren’t allowed to use electric carts. Most senior events in this country, including those on the Senior PGA Tour, allow players to ride if they so choose.

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Ladin has been spoiled by the U.S. country club lifestyle. The British frown on the use of carts, it seems.

“I think they use goats,” Ladin cracked.

Ladin walked the course each day, on rock-hard fairways that felt more like runways.

What’s more, there was no practice range available to players. At least the British were consistent: no driving carts, no driving range.

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Ladin said players were allowed to hit their own golf balls into a nearby field to warm up, then had to retrieve the balls themselves. By the third day of the 54-hole tournament, Ladin was too pooped to pop.

The tournament unraveled for him in the final round when he lost a ball on the front nine. Well, he lost it temporarily.

A split second after Ladin decided to play his provisional ball, somebody found the first one.

Sorry, too late. He made a triple bogey and never recovered.

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“My swing just went,” he said. “I was tired, no doubt about it. If I shoot 75, I win the thing. I ran out of gas.”

He has plenty of time to refuel before the U.S. Senior Amateur qualifier Aug. 29 at Wilshire Country Club. The Senior Amateur begins Sept. 19 at The Champions Golf Club in Nicholasville, Ky.

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Reload: Three out of four wasn’t good enough. It wasn’t even close.

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Mike Turner of Sherman Oaks finished nine shots behind winner Mark Johnson of Helendale in the 28th Pacific Coast Amateur at Bear Creek Golf Club in Murrieta, Calif.

It was no mystery pinpointing precisely when Turner lost the tournament.

Turner shot 81 in the third round of the prestigious invitational. He played the first eight holes in eight-over-par 44. In one stretch, he made bogey, double bogey, triple bogey.

“I wish I could have just taken my average on the front nine from the other rounds,” Turner said.

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No kidding. Turner averaged 34 on the front side over the three other rounds, a fourth of which would have given him a one-shot victory.

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Different strokes: You wanna play on the PGA Tour, eh?

Getting there is hard enough. Staying there is even harder.

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Consider the performances this season by a pair of area rookies, former Cal State Northridge standout Bob Burns and Hueneme High graduate Paul Stankowski.

Both have played well sporadically, which on the tour means paychecks are, well, sporadic. Through last weekend’s Buick Open, Burns ranks 98th in tour earnings with $139,241 and Stankowski is 122nd with $107,809.

Burns started fast in January, placing in the top 15 in two of his first three events. Overall, however, he has missed the cut 11 times in 20 events.

Stankowski finished sixth at the Bob Hope Classic in February and eighth at the St. Jude Classic last month, but has only made the cut six times in 21 events.

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Stankowski missed the cut in six consecutive tournaments before he finished eighth in the St. Jude Classic for his best payday, $37,500.

That sounds like a lucrative sum, yet Stankowski and Burns might need a few more fat checks to stay on the tour.

To retain a tour card, a player must finish in the top 125 in earnings for the year, which officially ends Oct. 27-30 at The Tour Championship at the Olympic Club in San Francisco.

If the player doesn’t cut the mustard, it’s back to the grueling qualifying process.

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Approximately 850 players apply annually to PGA qualifying school. Earning a tour card is a three-step process, with the top finishers at each tournament moving on to the next plateau.

At the final stage, only the low 40 players plus ties earn a card for the following year. The qualifying process for 1995 begins in October.


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