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Desert Duel

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In the Sr. Palmer Flight, Dan Steinman (left) will try and spoil the three-peat attempt by Clifford Conover (right) in the final round on the Norman Course at PGA West. 

LA QUINTA, Calif -- The 90s Chicago Bulls, 2000 L.A. Lakers, and Clifford Conover.

For Conover, the reigning king of the Sr. Palmer flight (4.0-7.9), the coveted three-peat is in sight. He won the flight’s National Championship both last year at TPC Sawgrass and in 2009 here in La Quinta. 

While Conover's best finish all year is a third place (and that was in March), he says its no accident he peaks come nationals. 

”I groove into this,” said Conover. “I work hard on the range and chipping green the last month (before the national tournament).”

Conover says he plays with the Roosevelt High School golf team, where he is a parent and helps coach, rather than compete in tour events leading up to nationals. He says teaching the kids course management reinforces his own game. Conover uses clutch putting and short game as his tools of intimidation.  

”I hit the ball shorter than anybody,” said Conover. “But I’m straighter than most.”

Clinging to a one-shot lead over Conover is Dan Steinman, a second year player on the Chicago Tour and competing in his first National Championship. Steinman qualified for Nationals with a third place finish at the Puerto Rico Championship at Trump International. 

”I’ve been a lot more consistent this week,” said Steinman, who carded a 76 on the Mountain Course - only Conover had a better round with a 75. “I just haven’t made many big mistakes. We’ll see if that can continue.”

Steinman probably should have had more cushion than one shot. In the third round, on the 18th hole, Conover knocked in a long par putt (and damaged his 9-iron after hitting his second shot off rocks), while Steinman three-putted for bogey. 

Along with Robert Corbello, they’ll make up the lead group on the Norman Course Wednesday. 

”Cliff is one of the nicest guys I’ve ever played golf with said Steinman. “We have very similar games. He’s an experienced guy and it’ll be a fun day.”