August Southern California Notebook

By Tom LaMarre, Contributor

SANTA CLARITA, CA -- When two fires broke out in Santa Clarita recently on a hot summer day, golfers at Robinson Ranch in Canyon Country had an opportunity to see some of their tax dollars at work, up close and personal.

Firehawk and Sky Crane helicopters from the Los Angeles County Fire Department swooped down on the course to scoop water from a large man-made lake that comes into play on the third, fourth and sixth holes on the Mountain Course.

"That's happened three or four times now," said Rick Smith, head pro at Robinson Ranch. "They have also taken water from lakes on the 18th hole of the mountain course and the 17th hole of the Valley Course.

"Those recent fires were pretty close to my house, so I was glad the water was here for them."

The Firehawks, the only two in existence, are the most advanced firefighting helicopters in the world. Each Firehawk weighs 23,500 pounds when fully loaded with 1,000 gallons of water, which it can draw from a lake in 50 seconds.

Lee Benson of Somis is the chief pilot for the L.A. County Fire Dept. and works out of the San Fernando Valley.

"We are very cognizant of the people on the golf course, but I think we surprised them the first time we went there because we came right up over the driving range," Benson said.

"But when we went back, the same people were waving at us. Some guy came out of the clubhouse and pointed at the waterfall to show us that they had turned the pumps on to refill the lake. He gave us a thumbs up, so it seemed they were glad we were there.

"By the end of the day, we had an audience of about 100 people, a lot of them taking pictures."

Benson also has pulled water from lakes at Palos Verdes Golf Club in Palos Verdes Estates, Industry Hills Golf Club, Antelope Valley Country Club in Palmdale and Meadlowlark Golf and Recreation in Quartz Hill.

He could be coming to a course near you soon.

"This is likely to be happening more and more with these new Firehawks," Benson said. "There's a chance we will use any golf course that has a lake if there is a fire nearby.

"We've had only one minor problem. One of our pilots landed on a green and caused a lot of damage. I understand it costs something like $10,000 for a new green. So we had a class and got all the non-golfers straightened out on what is a green and what is the fairway. The pro at that course called and was really nice. I think he was joking, but he said the next time to make sure the tracks go toward the hole."

But when the copters are incoming, it's no joke. . .

Eagle Lands Title for Bollini

Nico Bollini of Yorba Linda, brought back to earth by a series of bogeys, soared at the finish with an eagle. Bollini gave away a four-stroke lead in the final round of the 103rd Southern California Golf Assn. Amateur Championship but took the title from defending champion John Merrick of Long Beach by sinking a 15-foot eagle putt on the second playoff hole at El Caballero Country Club in Tarzana.

"I knew I had to wake up," said Bollini, a sophomore at USC, who shot 40 on the front nine, losing seven shots to par on nine holes after making a birdie on the first.

"The key was I never lost it emotionally. In the past, I would get hot-headed when that would happen, but I've learned how to control my emotions."

Bollini, who finished at 69-73-65-75, 282, six-under par, played the last eight holes of regulation in two-under par and wound up in a playoff with Merrick, who totaled 70-74-68-70,282, and Michael Lavery of Irvine, who wound up at 73-72-72-65,282.

Lavery was eliminated when he missed an 18-foot putt for par on the first playoff hole, where Merrick lipped out a 30-foot birdie putt.

Tangtiphaiboontana is Second-best

Jenny Tangtiphaiboontana of Long Beach reached the final of the 54th U.S. Girls Junior Championship before losing to In-Bee Park of Eustis, FL, 3 and 2, at Echo Lake Country Club in Westfield, NJ. Tangtiphaiboontana, 17, was a sentimental choice, having lost her parents last November in a car accident as they were returning from a tournament.

"This more than exceeded my expectations," said Tangtiphaiboontana, who missed the cut in stroke play at the last two U.S. Girls Junior Championships. "Just making it to the finals, overall, like how I recovered after some bad shots."

Tantiphaiboontana putted well until the final. She three-putted on the sixth hole, missed from seven feet on the ninth and 10th holes, from 10 feet on the 11th and again from six feet on No. 12.

Final Goes Wrong for Wright

Lindsey Wright of Pepperdine pulled a big upset in the semifinals of the Ladies British Amateur Championship but ran out of gas in the final and lost to Rebecca Hudson of Wheatley, Yorkshire, England, 5 and 4, at Ashburnham Golf Club in Carmarthenshire, Wales. Wright, who is from Australia but was born in Kent, England, took the lead with a birdie on the first hole, but fell behind when Hudson, who recorded six birdies and was four-under par when the match ended, won three of the next four holes.

After Wright sank a 15-foot birdie putt to win the 12th hole, gaining ground for the first time since the opening hole, Hudson made birdies on the Nos. 13 and 14 to end the match.

Wright toppled leading qualifier Alison Coffey, the Irish national champion, 3 and 2, in the semifinals.

Another Big Day for Knight

At 77, Helen Knight keeps coming up with new ways to beat younger opponents. With Jane Winston one stroke behind but on the green, Knight holed a 40-foot sand shot on the final hole to win the womens club championship at El Caballero Country Club in Tarzana for the 39th time.

"It was very exciting, sort of shocking," said Knight, who started playing golf at 17 and took lessons when she was young from the great Tommy Armour.

Knight, who has played in every club championship at El Cab since 1957, won the first 32 she entered through 1989, won again in 1991, then experienced a little slump but has won the last six in a row.

Bookend Bogeys Can't Deny Satarak

Walailak Satarak stumbled at the start and the finish of the final round but still had plenty to win the 72nd Long Beach Womens City Championship at Recreation Park Golf Course. Satarak, Womens NCAA Freshman of the Year this season at UC Irvine, made bogeys on the first and last holes but pulled away from Hanna Kim of Los Angeles on the back nine to win by five strokes.

"I was really nervous when the day started," Satarak said. "I had a three-stroke lead and I had lost it by the second hole. But once I got the lead for good on the eighth hole, I stopped worrying about Hana and concentrated on playing my game."

Satarak finished at 69-73-71, 213. Kim was second at 75-70-73, 218, followed by Sunny Oh of Torrance at 75-71-74, 220 and Vivian Phosomran of Long Beach, the 1988 champion, at 72-74-75, 221.

McClean in Driver's Seat for Hyundai Matches

Dick McClean of Monarch Beach has been appointed tournament director and 141 Communicator has been chosen tournament event management company for the Hyundai Team Matches at Monarch Beach Golf Links in Dana Point. McClean also is tournament director for the Michael Douglas and Friends Celebrity Golf tournament at Ojai Valley Inn and Spa.

Defending championship teams are Fred Couples and Mark Calcavecchia of the PGA Tour, Allen Doyle and Dana Quigley of the Senior PGA Tour, and Lorie Kane and Janice Moodie of the LPGA Tour.

The 2002 Hyundai Team Matches will be played Nov. 16-17 and will be televised on ABC Sports.

Lee Surrenders Early in Publinks

Hwanhee Lee's dream week quickly turned into a nightmare. Annie Thurman of Highland, Utah, took advantage of Lee's early mistakes and coasted to a 6-and-5 victory in the 36-hole final of the U.S. Womens Amateur Public Links Championship on the Meadows Course at Sunriver Resort in Sunriver, Oregon.

Lee, a sophomore at Nevada Las Vegas from Long Beach, played consistently all week to reach the final, but made bogeys on six of the first 14 holes in the title match.

"I was so ready to play well," Lee said. "I made a lot of mistakes out there. It was like somebody else got into my body and destroyed my swing. My putting, my short game was terrible. I hit some of the worst shots I have ever seen."

Tom LaMarre, Contributor

Tom LaMarre has been a sportswriter and copy editor in California for parts of five decades, including 15 years with the Oakland Tribune and 22 with the Los Angeles Times.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment