Starkjohann wins sectional

NORTHEAST GLENDALE — Chris Starkjohann hasn't played at Oakmont Country Club much throughout his 20-plus years on the tournament trail.

One of his appearances at the historic course came in 1987, though, when he lost in a playoff in the Southern California PGA Sectional Professional Championship. Twenty-three years later, that moment hasn't escaped Starkjohann's mind.

Starkjohann can add a more favorable memory, however, as he shot a six-under-par 65 on Wednesday to win the sectional crown by four strokes and capture the tournament for the third time in his respectable career.

"I haven't played here much, but I wanted a better result on this course," said Starkjohann, who won the event in 1991 and 2004 and is the professional at Torrey Pines Golf Club & Outings. "The fire is still there from losing in 1987."

Starkjohann finished with a three-round score of 209 on the refurbished 7,015-yard course to best Tim Parun of Sail Ho Golf Club (213) and Oakmont assistant professional Donny Lee (214).

"It took a couple of rounds to get familiar with the course, and the key [Wednesday] was playing with patience," Starkjohann said. "I was able to reach the fairways and greens and make my putts."

Starkjohann picked up plenty in addition to the glass trophy on the 18th hole. He collected $14,000 of the estimated $80,000 purse and will compete, along with the rest of the top 11 players from the tournament, in the 2011 PGA Professional Championship, which will take place June 26-29 at Hershey Country Club in Hershey, Pa. Starkjohann received an exemption into the 2010 Soboba Classic Nationwide Tour event and the 2011 Bob Hope Classic.

Starkjohann, 54, won his second sectional in consecutive weeks. He took the Senior Section PGA Professional Championship on Aug. 24 in Beaumont.

"I've been able to stay focused, and I focused a lot better [Wednesday]," said Starkjohann, who recorded 10 pars and seven birdies Wednesday. "You have to have a bit more focus playing here. I had no knowledge of the greens coming into the tournament and I putted real awesome."

Parun, who registered a 69 for a three-round even-par 213, said he played three respectable rounds in the 54-hole stroke-play competition that began with 149 participants. He earned $9,000.

He recorded four of his five birdies through six holes before encountering trouble while starting the back nine, where he bogeyed the 10th, 11th and 12th holes.

"Being four under through six holes, I felt like I was near the lead and feeling good about myself," said Parun, who received an exemption into the Soboba Classic. "Then I bogeyed those three straight holes, but I still thought I had a chance to get back into it.

"I closed out with five pars and a birdie."

Lee, who entered the final round alone in second place with a 173, carded a 71 on Wednesday.

Flanked by a contingent of club members watching his every move, Lee was one-under through nine holes and stayed within striking distance of Starkjohann and Parun. After parring the 10th through 14 holes, Lee bogeyed the 15th before completing his round with three pars in a row.

"It was an amazing experience for me and I was amazed at how calm I was," said Lee, who finished with 14 pars, two birdies and two bogeys Wednesday. "I started three off from the lead and thought I might have a chance to win if I could get in the 60s.

"Chris was on fire. I was just trying to qualify and I was able to. I did OK getting the ball in the hole for par, but I didn't hit enough approach shots close to make birdie."

Also advancing to Hershey are Grant Strobel, Kyle Kelly, Jerry Herrera, Jim Gormley, Bruce Nakamura, Mike Miles, Jim Schaeffer and Scott Mahlberg. Strobel of Carlton Oaks Country Club fired a 75 to finish fourth (215). Strobel entered the final round with a three-stroke lead over Lee.

Kelly of Tamarisk Country Club fired a 69 to take fifth (216). Herrera of Azusa Greens Golf Club and Gormley of Palos Verdes Golf Club notched 69s to tie for sixth (218). Nakamura of Aviara Golf Academy finished with a 71 to place eighth (219). Miles of Virginia Country Club fired a 70, Schaeffer of Los Angeles Country Club carded a 72 and Mahlberg of Stadium Golf Center notched a 74 to tie for ninth at 220.

Oakmont head professional John Milligan posted a 78 to finish tied for 56th at 232.

The top 30 finishers receive exemptions into the 2010 California State Open, which will be held in November in Beaumont.

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