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Rookie leads L.A. Open

Rookie Michael Allen, who served a lengthy golf apprenticeship playing around the world, shot an 8-under-par 63 Thursday to take the first-round lead in the Los Angeles Open. Allen, 31, who took six years to earn his PGA Tour card, held a two-shot edge over Peter Jacobsen and Rocco Mediate after the opening day at Riviera Country Club.

Pat Fitzsimons, who won the L.A. Open 15 years ago for his only tour victory, was another shot behind as golfers profited from the ideal conditions on the par-71, 6,964-yard course that was built in 1927.

Allen, who turned pro in 1983 but earned his tour card just last year by finishing 12th in the qualifying tournament, is playing only his sixth PGA event.

His best finish was last weekend at San Diego, when he wound up tied for 14th. He has earned $27,088 in his five previous tournaments, missing the cut just once.

While he came close to giving up on a golfing career several times, Allen's hope of playing in the United States was kept alive when he had some success internationally.

Playing on the European PGA Tour from 1986-89, he won the Bordeaux Open in France in 1986, then took the Scottish Open last year.

"I kept playing to see how good I could get," said Allen, who also competed in Asia and South Africa.

His victory in Scotland last year may have marked a turning point in his career, Allen said.

"When I won the Scottish Open, I started to believe in myself and felt I could beat anybody in the world," he said. "I'm not in awe of the players out here because I've played with the best in the world."

Allen wasn't always brimming with confidence. He recalled that he had set age 28 as a deadline for making a career decision.

While he thought about giving up golf, the win in France revived his determination to stay in the game.