MICHELE LYFORD, TWICE AS OLD AS TIGER WOODS: ‘HE WAS HALF MY SIZE’

Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods, long after the day when he played an a golf exhibition at Redlands Country Club, a 6-year-old on his way to a prominent career in the sport. He played against Redlands’ Michele Lyford, shooting 51 to her round of 43.

CORTE MADERA, Calif. — Michele Lyford-Sine, who lives in a quiet neighborhood in this smallish community a half-hour’s drive north of San Francisco, remembers running into PGA golf professional Dave Stockton in New York a few years back.

Stockton, who was playing the Westchester Open, stayed with Lyford-Sine and her family in that 1999-2001 era.

“When we lived there,” said Lyford-Sine, originally from Redlands, “he’d come stay with us when he played in that tournament.”

Stockton, a Redlands resident, mentioned to Tiger Woods, said Lyford-Sine, telling the 2019 Masters champion, “I’m sleeping at the house of the only girl that’s ever beaten you.”

That remark might have caught the 15-time major champion by surprise.

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A 15-year-old Michele Lyford hits off the practice tee, the scene coming just a few years after beating a tiny Tiger Woods in a golf exhibition at Redlands Country Club.

The date was Dec. 30, 1981.

The site: Redlands Country Club.

“I was only 12,” said Lyford-Sine. “I was asked to play.”

Redlands Country Club golf professional Norm Bernard, described as a huge proponent of junior golf, had known Rudy Duran, who was Tiger’s personal coach. Together, they formed the match, a 9-hole exhibition on RCC’s front nine.

“I was nervous,” Lyford-Sine said. “I couldn’t let this 6-year-old beat me. I was twice as old as he was and he was half my size.”

In the end, she shot 41 — not a bad score for a 12-year-old on the par-35 RCC front nine — and Tiger shot 51.

“It was,” she said 38 years later, “a little weird not having my dad there.”

Ted Lyford, the multi-year RCC club champion, was at work. Neither was her mother, but younger sister, Jennifer, followed the play.

“The way people hover over their kids,” said Lyford-Sine, “kind of made it seem strange. That’s the way it was back then. Parents didn’t hover as much as they do now.”

Tiger’s dad, Earl, was there, she recalled. “I remember his dad lifting him up so he could see the slopes of the course.”

Tiger, who was just turning six, had already appeared on the Mike Douglas Show, ABC’s That’s Incredible and, perhaps, another program or two. He was considered a golfing prodigy. Few probably figured that this kid would someday turn professional golf on its ear.

Lyford-Sine shared another small connection with Tiger. They both eventually attended Stanford.

“My entire goal in life,” she said, “was to get a full scholarship to Stanford. I won a few big tournaments and that got me in.”

Among those “big” tournaments was the 1987 Girls CIF-Southern Section championship, beating Rialto Eisenhower’s Brandie Burton, that year’s runner-up, at North Ranch Country Club. Burton would later become a top LPGA Tour player.

Lyford-Sine was a San Diego Junior World champion in 1983, shooting 227 to win the girls 13-14 division. Lyford-Sine repeated in 1987, winning the girls 15-17 division by shooting 295.

By the way, a kid named Eldrick Woods was the 9-10 champion in 1984, winning the first of six Junior World titles.

Eldrick Woods is none other than Tiger Woods.

Stanford, though, was a tough haul for golfers — male or female — with certain majors in school.

“You’re in a school that has the smartest people on the planet,” she said.

If she was looking to show off her golfing accolades and her academic prowess, consider most people would take on a major that’s routine enough to include both athletics and academics. “There are some majors you can do that with,” she said.

“Tiger left (Stanford) after two years.”

Whether he left to pursue a brilliant pro golf career, or that he was caught up in that academic-versus-athletic war is unknown. “I’ve never thought to ask him,” she said.

“You cannot compete athletically and compete academically,” she said. As golfers, “we missed so much school. It doesn’t feel good.”

After two years, she left golf to complete her academic workload.

“I did okay (in golf), not great,” she said.

Six years earlier, just after Christmas at Redlands Country Club in 1981, she probably wasn’t thinking about a Stanford academic workload.

“We had people following us,” she said, “but I got over the nervousness.”

Afterward, Bernard threw a birthday party.

“I remember,” said Lyford-Sine, “we sang happy birthday to him and he blew out candles on a cake inside the restaurant at Redlands Country Club.”

PRO GOLFER DAVE STOCKTON GAVE A LESSON OF A LIFETIME

Redlands Connection is a concoction of sports memories emanating from a city that once numbered less than 20,000 people. From the Super Bowl to the World Series, from the World Cup to golf’s U.S. Open and the Olympics, plus NCAA Final Four connections, NASCAR, the Kentucky Derby and Indianapolis 500, Tour de France cycling, major tennis, NBA and a little NHL, aquatics and quite a bit more, the sparkling little city that sits around halfway between Los Angeles and Palm Springs on Interstate 10 has its share of sports connections. – Obrey Brown

Here it is, August 16, 2018. On this date in 1976, another major golf championship was awarded. On Aug. 13, 1970, a previous major title had been awarded.

Pro golfer Dave Stockton taught me a lesson about sports I never forgot.

I’d never met the San Bernardino native. I’d interviewed him a couple times – years ago – by telephone. A onetime Pacific High School star, who won the 1959 CIF-Southern Section championship, had a stalwart golfing career.

Dave StocktonJACQUELIN DUVOISIN SI
Dave Stockton, a San Bernardino native now living in Redlands, holds the Wanamaker Trophy, symbolizing victory in one of professional golf’s grandest prizes — the PGA Championship (photo by Wikipedia Commons).

He’s won the PGA Championship twice, in 1970 and 1976. He’s a Senior U.S. Open champion. There have been other championships, including the Los Angeles Open and a few other prominent tournament titles. Around these parts, Stockton’s considered a General among those who’ve achieved at the highest levels in any sport.

The seeds of my life’s lesson were planted in August 1970. That’s when  Stockton, who was in contention at the 1970 PGA Championship at Southern Hills Golf Club in Tulsa, Okla. was taking on a rather large challenge.

Arnold Palmer – not to mention Arnie’s Army – was the hurdle standing in Stockton’s pathway.

(A curious note, perhaps: About 15 miles from Redlands, the city of Beaumont includes a housing complex dubbed Tournament Hills. Street names include Trevino Trail, Woods Way, Casper Cove, Hogan Drive, Nicklaus Nook, Palmer Ave.

Other streets are named Crenshaw, Bean, Miller, Mickelson, Runyan, Irwin, Bean, Venturi, Shore (as in Dinah) and Pepper (Dottie), among others, plus parks named for Trevino, Palmer and Nicklaus.

Get it?

I happen to live on the corner at Stockton Street.)

At age 15, I’d only caught a minor glimpse on how formative Arnie’s supportive fans could be. I also had no idea how rugged they could get against a player who was challenging Palmer’s run to a memorable golf championship.

The PGA Championship is the fourth major golf tournament, following the Masters, U.S. and British Opens. I believe only Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and, eventually, Tiger Woods have won the Grand Slam of Golf.

Jack Nicklaus
Jack Nicklaus, who is receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom (photo by Wikipedia Commons), was very close to Dave Stockton in both of his PGA Championship victories, which came in 1970 and 1976.

Nicklaus and Woods are multiple ’Slam winners.

My Dad, Neal Brown, and I watched Palmer go after that elusive fourth major in 1970, a title he’s never won despite an otherwise illustrious career. Dad was such a fan of Palmer’s that he actually fashioned his own golf swing after Arnie’s, whose swing was often a source of discussion among the sport’s purists during his days.

In August 1970, Dad and I sat and watched, rooting for Arnie. We were definitely part of Arnie’s Army, TV-style.

Stockton stood up under the heat and the pressure.

Pressures of a major golf championship are immense. It included the likely possibility that gallery members – Arnie’s Army supporters – were doing things to irritate him.

Like Dad, I was disappointed that Arnie didn’t win.

INSIGHT INTO THAT 1970 PGA TITLE

Fast forward a decade, or so.

I was now working for the Redlands daily sports section.

The Stockton family had moved back to Mentone, a neighboring community next to Redlands. I got the telephone number where Stockton was staying while he was playing at a tournament in Canada.

He was obliging, honest and frank in his answers. I could hardly wait to hit him up with my remembrance on how he knocked off Arnold Palmer at the 1970 PGA Championship.

I was certain he could fill in some of the gaps from that experience.

It was likely the highlight of his career. When the subject came up, the onetime Pacific High and University of Southern California golf star was ready.

Arnold Palmer? The missing link in his trophy case? The destiny with history? Golf’s Grand Slam?

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Arnold Palmer’s chances of winning golf’s Grand Slam was cut off by Dave Stockton at the 1970 PGA Championship in Tulsa, Okla. (Photo by Wikipedia Commons).

“My family,” said a serious Stockton, without missing a beat, “needed it more.”

Palmer, who was a remarkable golfer for decades, had won four Masters titles, two British Opens and the 1960 U.S. Open. He tied for second at the PGA Championship on three occasions — including 1970.

For the record, veteran golfer Bob Murphy tied for second with Palmer at one-over par. Stockton was two-under.

Jack Nicklaus was four shots back.

Johnny Miller held the first-round lead.

Stockton shared the second-round lead with Larry Hinson.

After three rounds, Stockton held a three-shot lead over Raymond Floyd heading into the final 18 holes. Palmer trailed by five.

Stockton, who shot a final round 73, shared the experience of holing out a 125-yard wedge shot.

He’d also shared that the media referred to him as an “unknown.”

After he notched the victory, he was no longer that unknown.

“I hit a tee shot into the trees,” he recalled, “and I heard (an Arnie Army reserve) holler, ‘go get ’em, Arnie.’ That made me hot.”

Said Stockton: “I had some work to do. That (final round) wasn’t easy.”

That was the lesson, folks. Who cares if there was a blank spot in Palmer’s trophy case? Palmer needed that championship about as much as the Yankees needed another World Series trophy.

The esteemed Palmer seemed to do quite well, I noticed, never having won that fourth major. It might be a blank space on his trophy case in 1970, but no matter. His bank account probably didn’t suffer all that much in 1970.

Neither did his career.

ONE MORE WANAMAKER TROPHY ADDITION

Stockton, however, added a jewel to his trophy case, which also included the L.A. Open. At Riviera Golf Club, Stockton outdueled another golf legend, Sam Snead a few years earlier.

Since learning that lesson from Stockton, I don’t necessarily root against the Yankees. Or against Notre Dame’s football machine. Or against the Lakers or the Celtics pulling out another NBA title.

I love the Final Four when a mid-major like Gonzaga or Marquette or George Mason or Butler, challenges for that elusive prize ahead of North Carolina or UCLA or Duke or Kentucky.

What I do love are the good stories coming from unexpected winners.

That lesson came via Stockton.

“My family needed it more,” keeps shooting through my mind.

The Wanamaker Trophy, symbolizing the PGA Championship, found its way back into the Stockton family six years later.

On the 72nd hole in 1976 at Congressional Golf Club, Stockton connected on a 15-foot par putt to beat Floyd and Don January by a single shot.

The ever-dangerous Nicklaus, defending champion and looming closely to the top, was beaten by two strokes.

Let’s not overlook Stockton’s other top finishes at major championships.

He tied for second place at the 1974 Masters, trailing Gary Player by two shots alongside Tom Weiskopf.

In the 1978 U.S. Open, he tied for second place with J.C. Snead, one shot behind Andy North at, of all places, Cherry Hills (Colo.) Country Club – the site where Palmer notched his only U.S. Open victory.

Stockton’s best finish at the British Open, a tie for 11th place, came one year after winning the 1970 PGA Championship. Lee Trevino won at Royal Birkdale.

As for the San Bernardino native, Stockton moved to Mentone in the 1980s. A couple decades later, his family moved again — this time to Redlands, near the traditional country club.

Gerald Ford
President Gerald Ford is one of a handful of honorary members at Redlands Country Club (photo by Wikipedia Commons) that also includes golfer Dave Stockton.

Along with comedian Bob Hope, President Gerald Ford and Dodger owner Walter O’Malley, Stockton was presented as an honorary member at Redlands Country Club.

He told me, again by telephone, “I had no idea there were honorary members at Redlands.” Stockton seemed moved. This wasn’t an Arnie’s Army remembrance party.

It was part of that Redlands Connection.

 

 

 

K.K. LIMBHASUT GOLFS HIS WAY FROM REDLANDS TO BERKELEY

Redlands Connection is a concoction of sports memories emanating from a city that once numbered less than 20,000 people. From the Super Bowl to the World Series, from the World Cup to golf’s U.S. Open and the Olympics, plus NCAA Final Four connections, NASCAR, the Kentucky Derby and Indianapolis 500, Tour de France cycling, major tennis, NBA and a little NHL, aquatics and quite a bit more, the sparkling little city that sits around halfway between Los Angeles and Palm Springs on Interstate 10 has its share of sports connections. – Obrey Brown

For years, Redlands High’s K.K. Limbhasut worked his way into the Terriers’ golf lineup at the No. 1 position — all four seasons, in fact. When he notched a victory at  the Ka’anapali Classic in Lahaina, Hawaii last November, he shot his way to collegiate golf’s mecca.

He has just capped his junior season at Cal-Berkeley, shooting just over 71. Limbhasut’s collegiate career includes two prominent wins, a dozen top 10 NCAA finishes, plus a 10th place at the 2016 NCAA Championships as a freshman.

The Thai-born Limbhasut (pronounced Lip-ah-SOOD) was one of those athletes that showed up as a Terrier, who averaged 68 shots every time he played 18 holes as a prep.

KK LIMBHASUT
K.K. Limphasaut, a Redlands High School product, is playing his way through UC Berkeley on a golf scholarship. The fifth-year senior has won some collegiate events in his time (photo by Cal Bears).

He goes into a list of Terrier athletes that might’ve been surprises in the school’s traditional Blue Line.

Athletes like future Olympic high jumper Karol Damon, plus Brigham Young University tennis’ Hermahr Kaur, soccer’s Landon Donovan, football and track star Patrick Johnson, among others, who showed up, perhaps unexpectedly, to carve out a niche.

Those athletes could’ve easily shown up on some other campus.

When Limbhasut shot a 67 at the CIF-Southern Section championship at Mission Lakes, he’d outplayed Oregon-bound Aaron Wise (now on the PGA Tour), of Corona Santiago, by a single shot to win the 2014 championship.

Names like Tiger Woods (three times, in fact, for Anaheim Western) are on that same winner’s list. So are PGA Hall of Famers like Dave Stockton (San Bernardino Pacific) and Billy Casper (Chula Vista), plus Vista Murrieta’s Ricky Fowler.

Limbhasut  probably won’t ever forget that eagle on the 16th hole at Mission Lakes which lifted him to his win over Wise and an entire field of gifted prep players.

His grades, not to mention his game, got him a shot, literally, at the academically sound Berkeley campus.

He’s paid his dues at Berkeley. There was that 2014-2015 Aggie Invitational triumph in Texas, plus a tie for first place at the John A. Burns Intercollegiate Tournament in Hawaii one season later.

Limphasut has been a three-time All-West Region. Like most top-flight amateurs, he’s played in plenty of major events. He just finished playing at the Arnold Palmer Cup, held in France, losing in match play while representing the International team.

Let’s not forget that any time, he tees up in a collegiate match — particularly in the super talented Pac 12 — Limbhasut’s taking on top-flight future pros. In Cal’s NCAA Regionals, played in Raleigh, N.C., an 11th place finish failed to land a spot in the NCAA Championships.

Limbhasut’s tie for 32nd place, shooting 212, was middle of the road play.

It’s probably far too premature to pronounce a pro future on Limbhasut, which is the likely conclusion to draw from any golfer with such a growing list. It’s probably too premature to rule it out.

His final round 66 at the Royal Ka’anapali Course included three pars on the final three holes, shooting 12-under par for a 200 total, edging South Carolina’s Scott Stevens by a shot. Limbhasut’s Cal teammate Collin Morkiwaka started the final round in first place.

Limbhasut’s patience and iron play held steady.

“I controlled my ball flight this week,” he told an area magazine, “which helped when the trades (infamous Hawaiian winds) picked up.”

Noting a 25-foot uphill putt he sank for an eagle on the ninth hole, Limbhasut seemed perfectly up to that up-and-down part on the 18th hole to close it out.

Next stop: Limbhasut, a fifth-year senior, will begin play this fall.

JIM SLOAN ‘SHOT’ BEN HOGAN

Redlands Connection is a concoction of sports memories emanating from a city that once numbered less than 20,000 people. From the Super Bowl to the World Series, from the World Cup to golf’s U.S. Open, plus NCAA Final Four connections, Tour de France cycling, major tennis, NBA and a little NHL, aquatics and quite a bit more, the sparkling little city that sits around halfway between Los Angeles and Palm Springs on Interstate 10 has its share of sports connections. – Obrey Brown

Jim Sloan never really pushed his photos on anyone. In the media business, whether it’s on large metropolitan dailies or a mid-size, there are also small town dailies that attract a group of contributors ranging from writing correspondents to photographers. Sloan was a true professional.

The guy hustled, figured the angles, brandished his gear, fed film into the canisters, throwing his heart in the art long before modern technology – aka digital – was available.

Sloan, who specialized in Boy Scout photography throughout the years, had presented the local newspaper with a lengthy list of photos throughout the years. On the back of those mostly black-and-white glossies was the familiar hand stamp – “Photo by James Sloan.”

There were photos of President Eisenhower, especially during that time when the World War II general was living out his final years in the Coachella Valley. Sloan caught the ex-president in a variety of poses, mostly on the golf course.

Fellow photographer Ansel Adams, musician Stan Kenton and politician Ted Kennedy were among the celebrity shots. Plenty of stories could be written about his photography connections with those famous faces. In his own way, Sloan, himself, was a celebrity photographer.

One of his photos, however, stood out. I remember when he brought it into my office. “I got this,” he said, pulling the 2 x 4 black-and-white out a small white envelope, “when I was down in Texas. I got him to pose for this.”

I looked at the mug shot. Smiling, handsome, almost stylishly posing, was the familiar face of golf legend Ben Hogan.

459px-Ben_Hogan_Walking
This isn’t the photo that Jim Sloan provided to me during my days as a sports editor in Redlands. That photo, if it even still exists, is in possession of the newspaper. The Ice Man? This wasn’t the shot of golfing legend Ben Hogan that Redlands photographer Jim Sloan presented me with, but it will have to do (photo by Wikipedia Commons).

I glanced slyly at Sloan’s face. Hogan was a well-known recluse, a superstar who rarely claimed the spotlight. Players from Hogan’s era had often commented on Hogan’s arms-length distance, a coldness, a reluctance to seek the spotlight – but a legendary golfer.

Sloan’s photo was apparently opposite of such a philosophy. Was it a lie? Did Hogan occasionally shed that image? Was Sloan a personal friend? No, way. Couldn’t be. Ben Hogan, who had captured every major championship – four U.S. Opens, a British Open (in his only attempt), two Masters and two PGA titles – while overcoming that infamous 1949 car collision with a bus that nearly killed him.

All of which is a well-known story by now, part of history – along with that picturesque swing, the calmness, ice water in his veins, the famous comeback, the movie that depicted his life around the crash, Follow the Sun: The Ben Hogan Story. No sense in reciting all that here. This story is A Redlands Connection between a local photographer and a golfing icon that breathed immortality.

It was hard to trust Jim; I didn’t know him all that well, but I had to trust him. In a way, Jim Sloan was far more worthy than I was on a local front. A trick? A way to claim some kind of connection to a legend? A little self-indulgence? Redlands was a golf community, its country club often playing host to a variety of legendary connections. Wouldn’t it be great to fabricate a story with those golf partisans? A story connecting Jim Sloan to Ben Hogan would be a good one.

Golf had plenty of prominent connections to Redlands.

Club manufacturer Mario Cesario, whose son Greg was an All-American golfer at Arizona State, made golf clubs for Tom Watson, Nancy Lopez, Gene Littler and others – in Redlands. Watson himself even journeyed to Mario’s local shop for consultation.

Tiger Woods came to Redlands as a well-known five-year-old.

Phillips Finlay, younger brother of Madison Finlay, once took on Bobby Jones in the Roaring 20s. Or was twice? Or three times?

Dave Stockton, who famously outdueled Arnold Palmer at the 1970 PGA Championship, hailed from San Bernardino – but moved to Redlands.

On the other hand, here was a photo print of the Ice Man, Hogan’s historical nickname, that bore all of Sloan’s photographic trademarks. Remember my cynicism. That started melting away. I believed Jim Sloan was telling me the truth.

I asked the first question that came into my head.

“Did you shoot this photo in Redlands?”

Excuse my excitement. Jim, of course, had already told me that he was in Texas when he took the photo. Texas was Hogan’s home, somewhere near the Dallas area. I was excited to think that, somehow, Hogan might’ve traveled to Redlands.

All of which would have begged several questions: Why was he here? Who does he know from Redlands? Will he be returning here sometime? But, no, Hogan was never on local turf.

I wish I could re-create the conversation I had with Jim Sloan about his Hogan photo – but he was always in a hurry. There was no real conversation. Any time he showed up, it was always a quick-hitting visit. Sloan, in my memory, only showed up a few times for talk, presenting photos, or discussing some sports-related shot he’d taken. Something about the guy, always on the move, seemingly like he was late for something.

“I’ll give you this,” he said, “to use when he dies. Keep it in your obit file.”

And Jim Sloan disappeared. A few years later, Jim Sloan died. Hogan outlived him by a few years.