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Kohut Hits Road in Pursuit of Summer Slam

J.T. Kohut is about to find out just how good of a golfer he really is.

You might think his record would speak for itself:

A quarterfinalist in the 1997 California Amateur, runner-up in the 1997 Southern Section high school championships, top 10 at the Southern California Amateur, and second place at the 1998 AJGA ClubCorp tournament.

Kohut, who will be a senior at Westlake High, already has 13 holes in one, including one on a par-four hole at Sunset Hills Country Club.

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Those accomplishments pale in comparison to what Kohut could do over the next month, a month that could shape his future in the sport he hopes to make his career.

He will play in the AJGA Rolex Tournament of Champions next week at Coto de Caza Golf and Racquet Club, then in the Western Junior Amateur Championship in Chicago July 14-18.

He goes to Ontario, Canada, for the Canadian Junior Amateur championship July 20-24 and to Dallas on Aug. 3-7 for the AJGA Boys’ junior championship.

“It’s an important month,” Kohut said. “It’s the biggest of my life.”

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The AJGA Rolex Tournament of Champions is considered the crown jewel of junior golf.

The AJGA Boys’ junior is next.

Those two tournaments and the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship are junior golf’s three majors championships, but because the U.S. Junior Amateur doesn’t allow 18-year-olds, the AJGA events carry more weight.

“This is the best field I’ll ever play in,” said Kohut, who turned 18 in December. “It’s the kind of field where I could play really well and still take 20th.”

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Though his performance over the next month will have a huge impact on college scholarship offers and national rankings, Kohut is taking it in stride.

“I’m trying to treat them like any other tournaments,” Kohut said. “I only need to prove some things to myself, I don’t need to prove anything to the world.”

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Valley-area golfers received good news Wednesday when Encino Golf Course became fully operational after nearly six months of partial closure.

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Encino had been operating as a nine-hole course since Feb. 11, when flooding caused severe water and mud damage.

This was the fourth closure in nine years for Encino, which is built on a flood control basin near the Sepulveda Dam.

“It seems like every three years we have a closure,” course manager Jim Dodds said. “We had the usual damage. This wasn’t as bad as 1992, but it was a lulu.”

In 1992, the course was closed from Feb. 9 through Oct. 26.

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Though there are no temporary greens in play, parts of the course are still wet and electric carts are not allowed on the fairways of holes five and six.

“It’s not completely 100% yet,” Dodds said. “But it’s playable. I’d say that within two to three weeks we’ll be OK.”

The Southern California PGA Tour returns to Crystalaire Country Club in Llano Monday for the SCPGA Players championship.

Brad Sherfy of Camarillo, the men’s golf coach at UCLA, is the defending champion of the tournament, a major championship on the SCPGA schedule.

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Krystal Shearer of Northridge, a junior-to-be at Alemany High, played five tournaments in June and won three of them. She also finished second and third.

The biggest victory for Shearer was an Optimist International Junior Golf qualifier, where she shot even-par 72 and advanced to the national championship at PGA National in West Palm Beach, Fla., later this month.

She is playing in the Junior World championships next week at Torrey Pines Golf Course in La Jolla.

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