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Mockett in Midst of a Comeback : Golf: Newport Harbor graduate returns to LPGA Tour after recovering from shoulder problems.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

At times in her golf career, Cathy Mockett has come up agonizingly short. Twice she missed winning her LPGA Tour card by one stroke.

A year ago, Mockett’s anguish was more intense. Tendinitis in her shoulder made it impossible to swing a club without pain, bringing up a frightening thought.

“It got so bad it was unbearable,” said Mockett, a 1986 graduate of Newport Harbor High. “The scary part of it was there was the possibility that my career was in jeopardy--that I couldn’t play golf on a constant basis.”

However, thanks to physical therapy and her determination, Mockett recovered quickly and last fall played her way onto the LPGA Tour by finishing in a tie for fifth at the qualifying school.

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Last week, she played in her first LPGA event since 1993 and made the cut at the Healthsouth Inaugural in Orlando, Fla. She earned only $589 but it’s a start.

With the LPGA on a break until Feb. 16, Mockett is playing in the Taco Bell Newport Classic Pro-Am today and Saturday at her home course, Newport Beach Country Club.

She will be the first woman professional to play in this 21-year-old tournament. In 1985, as a junior at Newport Harbor, she was the event’s first female amateur player.

During the 1985 Newport Classic, Mockett played in a group with Mike Roy, a Newport Beach physical therapist.

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“She came to me with a wrist problem,” Roy said. “And I’ve been her floating medical guide since then.”

Mockett, who won the 1984 U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship, was a semifinalist in the 1989 Women’s Amateur and won the 1990 Women’s Amateur Public Links title. She went on to play at USC and Tulsa.

She turned professional in 1991 and narrowly missed winning her tour card that fall. After playing on the Asian tour and the Futures tour in 1992, she qualified for the LPGA in 1993.

That was a tough year for Mockett.

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“There’s a lot to learn when it’s your first year out on tour,” Mockett said. “I was really excited to be there. I really wanted to do well. I guess it was a little overwhelming.”

Mockett missed the cut 16 times in 23 tournaments and earned only $11,772, finishing 135th on the money list.

To make it worse, her shoulder started hurting. The problem was diagnosed as tendinitis of her rotator cuff.

Mockett completed the season, but because of her low finish had to re-qualify at tour school. She missed the cut for the 1994 LPGA season by one stroke.

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“It turned out to be a blessing in disguise because two months later I couldn’t swing a golf club at all,” Mockett said.

She again sought the help of Roy, who started the slow therapy to strengthen her shoulder. Eventually, Mockett was able to lift her arm above her shoulder without pain.

Antsy to compete again and needing to prepare for qualifying school, Mockett went east in June to play in the Futures tour. She quickly regained her edge, finishing in the top 10 six times in the nine tournaments she entered.

“There are very few who are determined as her to get back to feeling good and getting back to what she wants to do,” Roy said.

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Notes

The professional field for the Newport Classic includes 22 PGA Tour professionals and 44 Nike Tour players. The field includes Sam Randolph, former USC All-American and U.S. Amateur Champion, Brent Geiberger, son of PGA Senior Tour player Al Geiberger, and Visalia’s Joe Acosta, who at 21 is the youngest player with a PGA card. . . . The first tee times are at 7:07 a.m. today and Saturday. There is no admission charge.


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