State - INACTIVE

Heller, Stone win Modesto city golf titles

To hear Spencer Heller tell the story, her swing is a mess.

To watch her waist-high backswing, you believe her.

But check her results. She'll run with those scores, thank you very much.

"It's not a good swing," she admits, "but it's working right now."

The 5-foot-6 Heller, the dynamo who just earned honorable-mention All-America honors at Sonoma State, has added the 28th Modesto City Golf Championship to her résumé.

She patiently finished off a 77 Sunday at Creekside and, added to her wind-swept 71 the day before at Dryden Park, cruised to a five-stroke win over Modesto's Christine Uhalde.

In the championship flight, Stockton's Josh Stone shocked the field with three eagles at Creekside en route to a 67 to edge Modesto car dealership owner David Halvorson.

Heller, a Turlock High graduate one year into an already impressive collegiate career, used her all-around game to trump a power shortage. She was outdriven for two straight days by partners Uhalde, bound for Fresno State, and Jane Irwin, the two-time defending champion.

Her answer, however, was: 1. Excellent putting despite Saturday's wind gusts, and 2. Hitting it straight and true.

"She was nothing less than solid both days," praised Irwin (74-83 -- 157), who couldn't find enough fairways at Dryden to cover a three-stroke deficit. Then again, Irwin married fellow City contestant Jim Findarle last week. She wasn't stressing over missing her three-peat.

Meanwhile, there remains a disconnect between Heller's strong freshman season and her I'm-not-sure-what-I'm-doing swing.

Her hands barely ventured above her hip on her backswing last weekend. During some tournaments, she takes a full swing and sets her hands at the top. On others, well ...

"I'm working on it," Heller said. "I was thinking about my swing too much for a while. This tournament I just made it work."

She's good at making it work. Heller averaged a school-record 77 strokes per round and anchored Sonoma State's march to a fifth-place finish at the NCAA Division II Championship. This was major news for a program in only its third year.

"It was very exciting. We just came together as a team," said Heller, who's lowered her scores about three strokes a round over the past year. "I practiced a lot. It paid off."

Youth also was served on the men's side. Stone (74-67--141), 20, strafed Creekside's par-5s Sunday in 7-under-par:

The 498-yard first: A 3-hybrid second shot to five feet. Eagle.

The 515-yard sixth: A 6-iron from 185 yards to five feet. Eagle.

The 507-yard 13th: A 3-hybrid from 238 yards to 25 feet. Eagle.

The 558-yard 16th: A 4-wood second shot and two putts. Birdie.

"I had to score on the par-5s and take advantage of my length," said Stone, a a member of the San Joaquin Delta team the last two years. "I was able to hit the longer clubs close and putted good all day."

He needed all of his power to creep past Halvorson (73-69--142), 50, who blew past several contenders with his closing 32. In fact, both Halvorson and Stone overtook the first-day leaders who were grinding about an hour behind them. Scott Hardy of Pleasanton (73-69--142) annexed third.

Rob Thompson of Merced (74-70--144) captured the senior championship flight. Other flight winners: First, Frank Oliveira of Modesto via tap-in birdie on the first playoff hole to top Jesse Perez of Riverbank; second, Jan Rapp of Modesto (78-85--163); who birdied the second playoff hole to edge Bill Donaldson and Scott Elliott; third, 18-year-old Derrick Ferreira of Modesto (76-83--159); senior net, James Ohn of Modesto (80-78--158).

Bee staff writer Ron Agostini can be reached at ragostini@modbee.com or 578-2302.

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