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College events played despite smoke

By SEAN MARTIN
Assistant Editor

The scene earlier this week at Saticoy Country Club in Somis, Calif., was straight out of a movie. Not “Caddyshack.” Try “Dante’s Peak.”

Georgia State head coach Matt Clark compared competing in the ClubGlove Intercollegiate to being in the climatic scene of that big-budget volcano action film.

“It’s kind of like sitting in your fireplace after you put out a fire and then turning on the fan,” Clark said in an e-mail. “Everything we own is black and smells like smoke.”

Click here to read about USC's Jamie Lovemark,
whose father's home was threatened by fire.

Some players wore surgeon’s masks. Others covered their faces with towels as they played 36 holes Monday.

The smoke was coming from a fire about 30 miles away near Santa Clarita, one of 15 fires in the Southland. Two more were burning within five miles of Sycuan Resort near San Diego, but the Sycuan Intercollegiate was also played earlier this week.

“I’m a little conservative and careful. I was a little concerned, but I trusted the coaches at (host) San Diego State. They said we were OK,” Wichita State coach Grier Jones said Wednesday. “It just seems a little unreal that we were playing a golf tournament and people’s houses were burning down.”

The campus of Pepperdine, host of the ClubGlove, was threatened by fire Sunday in Malibu.

Neither tournament was in danger, but players had to deal with Santa Ana wind gusts up to 60 mph, ash and flying debris.

The conditions made for a tough time at both events. Pepperdine won the ClubGlove at 41 over par; Georgia State’s Joel Sjoholm shot 9 over par to win the individual title. Wichita State senior Ryan Spears shot even-par 216 to win the Sycuan Tuesday and help the Shockers win the team title at 20 over par.

The wind was so strong that Spears hit a 5-iron 150 yards – 45 yards shorter than normal – to set up a tap-in birdie on No. 11 in Monday’s first round. The swirling winds caused him to change clubs five times on one par 3. A tree that was standing behind the fourth green when Spears played the hole Monday morning had been blown over by the time he played the hole again that afternoon.

“It blows pretty hard in Wichita and we’re used to wind,” Spears said, “. . . but (the wind at Sycuan) could make you look like an idiot.”

The mountains surrounding the course protected players and coaches from smoke. The same cannot be said for Saticoy. The local news advised people to stay indoors, but 36 holes were played Monday.

“I know there were some coaches questioning whether we should even play,” Clark said. “It probably wasn’t the wisest decision we all made in our career.”

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