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Lietzke leisurely claims spot in elite tournament

Many golfers on the PGA Tour spent the past few weeks agonizing over their position on the money list.

They were grinding to finish among the top 125 in order to keep their playing privileges in 1995. Or if they were higher on the list, they were hoping to finish among the top 30 to gain a spot in this weekend's lucrative Tour Championship, which begins today.

Not Bruce Lietzke, who is definitely a different breed of golfer.

He plays far fewer tournaments than most of his peers, usually takes the entire summer off, and this year did not play in any of the major championships.

And when he is home, he rarely practices, preferring to leave the clubs alone to spend more time with his family.

That's why he was looking at last weekend's Las Vegas Invitational as nothing more than the tournament that would end his year. He wasn't worried about the money list, or playing this weekend in San Francisco.

Then he goes out and wins the tournament and the $270,000 first prize to gain a spot in the $3-million season finale, which has a first prize of $540,000.

There would have been no remorse had Lietzke not made it.

"You don't know how much I was looking forward to a long vacation," he said. "I usually play all my good golf in the spring, take the summer off, then come back in the fall. My game usually suffers from the break. . . . But I got on a little roll last week (fourth place in San Antonio), and this was just a carry-over."

It was the 13th victory of his career and put his earnings at $483,926 for the year _ 28th on the money list.

He'll be among an elite group of players at San Francisco's Olympic Club, including Nick Price, the reigning British Open and PGA champion and the PGA Tour's leading money-winner.

Lietzke, 43, has no designs on becoming that type of golfer.

"I have my own priorities," Lietzke said. "I'm not trying to live up to anyone else's expectations. I tried that once, and it didn't work."

Tiger tales: The irony didn't escape Tiger Woods earlier this week, before he won the Jerry Pate National Intercollegiate tournament at Shoal Creek in Birmingham, Ala.

Woods, one of the nation's top amateur golfers but also one of the few up-and-coming black players, was at the place that brought attention to golf's minority problems.

Before the 1990 PGA Championship at Shoal Creek, the club's founder declared it would not be pressured into accepting black members.

"I thought it was a sad situation," said Woods, a freshman at Stanford who has won both college tournaments he has entered. "It's not supposed to be like that in the '90s. Isn't this America? Aren't we supposed to be one big melting pot?

"Then again, it woke everybody up that this kind of stuff still happens."

The Shoal Creek controversy led to policies dictating that clubs have open membership policies in order to be tournament sites.

Do as I say : Also at the Shoal Creek tournament this week was John Daly, off from the PGA Tour for the rest of the year and with plenty of time on his hands until the season resumes in January. Daly was helping Arkansas, his old college team, at the request of coach Bill Woodley. He found himself preaching a conservative approach, even though he seldom follows such advice.

"I still haven't learned how to play it conservatively myself," he said. "But I can try to tell them how to do it."

Olazabal opts out: Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal of Spain said he will not join the PGA Tour full time next year.

"The 15-event minimum over there is too many," Olazabal said in Sotogrande, Spain, as he finished preparations for today's start of the Volvo Masters. He played eight tournaments in the United States this year, and also won the World Series of Golf.

Commitments: Former U.S. Open champion Lee Janzen has committed to the JCPenney Classic Dec. 1-4 at Innisbrook. He will play with Brandon's Colleen Walker in the mixed team event. Robert Gamez, who finished second to Lietzke in Las Vegas on Sunday, will play with Helen Alfredsson. Tickets go on sale Saturday at JCPenney stores. They are $15.

_ Information from other news organizations was used in this report.