Ron Agostini

Beyer grad falls just short at qualifying

Marina Martinez of Modesto has just learned a painful lesson about not reaching a high-level golf goal.

"I have to go out and get a job," she said.

Martinez, 18, will find work, of course. It just won't be her desired place.

If the graduate of Beyer High had her way, she would have turned pro and plied her new trade next year on the Duramed Futures Tour, the official developmental circuit for the LPGA Tour. She missed the 54-hole cut by only two strokes last week, however, at the Futures Tour Qualifying Tournament.

Martinez (77-77-74 -- 228) regrets her four bogeys in the last five holes of her third round in Lakeland, Fla. An under-par score would have earned her another round and at least limited Futures Tour status.

As it stands, she may squeeze into one or two events, but nothing more. She remains an amateur, a status she planned to put in her past.

"I have to keep working on my mental game. That's what killed me," she said. "I knew I was close and I got nervous."

The Futures Tour has become one of the top stepping stones to the LPGA, the world's most prestigious women's golf stage. Futures graduates have won 314 LPGA tournaments and 33 majors over the years, and six of the 12 members of the victorious Solheim Cup team were Futures products. In 2001, Beth Bauer defeated Christina Kim of San Jose in a playoff for a Futures victory at Diablo Grande.

Martinez sought a berth in the 2008 schedule that features 19 tournaments in 14 states. The former Northern California high school champion figured to contend at the Qualifying Tournament, given her length off the tee and dramatic improvement over the past year.

But breaking through on your first chance, however, is not easy. Martinez was sobered by the scene when she arrived last week in Florida: A field of 312 prospects gunning for about 40 to 50 exempt berths.

"At first it was intimidating seeing all the girls out there," Martinez said. "But once I got out there, I realized I could play with them."

Martinez played her third round at Schalamar Creek GC in Lakeland, the tightest and arguably the most difficult of the three tournament venues. Wisely leaving her driver in the bag, she negotiated the front nine in even par but lipped out an eight-foot birdie putt at the ninth. Her slumping finish signaled to her that she's not yet ready for the Futures.

"The bermuda rough around the greens was tough," Martinez said. "I couldn't get up and down for pars, and one or two of those holes became double bogeys. That's how I messed up."

Which is why she's joining the work force, at least for the next year.

THE SHAG BAG -- Lake Don Pedro's revival reaches a milestone with tonight's members dinner at the remodeled clubhouse. The restaurant opens for breakfast, lunch and dinner Dec. 1, with the golf course -- closed and abandoned since 2002 -- scheduled for reopening on Presidents Weekend in February. ... Robert Louis Stevenson High School senior Mina Harigae, the reigning U.S. Amateur Women's Public Links champion, brought her impressive game to Ripon's Spring Creek CC last week where she won the NCGA/CIF girls title. Harigae shot a 72, two strokes clear of the field. "I just try and play well. It hasn't been my best season," she said. Harigae will continue her collegiate golf this fall at Duke. ...

Wente Vineyards, the scenic Greg Norman design tucked into the hills south of Livermore, was the Nationwide Tour's toughest course for the second consecutive year. Even without the rains of 2006, the Wine Country Championship last spring produced a stroke average of 75.235, the highest on the Nationwide since the 75.421 at the 2002 Monterey Peninsula Classic at Bayonet. Fast greens, penal rough and weekend wind hiked the scores in the event won by veteran Omar Uresti.

HOLE-IN-ONE -- Pete Arellano, Escalon, 80-yard second at Escalon, pitching wedge.

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

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