Football Breakers and not-so-funny bounces; Hu Na at tennis academy

Frustration apparently goes hand-in-hand with playing pro football in New England. The New England Patriots have spent years butting their helmets against the wall. Now no team knows the troubles seen by Boston's United States Football League franchise, the Breakers (or Heartbreakers, as they should be known).

Last weekend they lost their third cliffhanger in a row, and as usual, the setback had its bizarre aspects.

In a switch, Boston was attempting to sit on a lead when things collapsed. First Tim Mazzetti, the USFL's scoring leader, missed a 28-yard field goal attempt, which would have put the Breakers up seven with 1:06 left. Then the Los Angeles Express dissected Boston's prevent defense to win 23-20 on an 80 -yard, 45-second touchdown drive.

Trailing 28-24 the week before, Boston drove to Michigan's one-yard line as time expired. The Breakers claimed the clock should have been stopped with two seconds left, in compliance with league rules governing automatic timeouts following first downs.

And the week before that, an official appeared to mis-spot the ball after a successful fake field goal play, denying Boston a first down at the Philadelphia one late in the game. The Stars won 23-16.

So instead of being 8-2, the Breakers are 5-5 and in danger of dropping from playoff contention. Hu Na's tennis story

When Chinese tennis player Hu Na defected last July, her national team was in California.Now, after a prolonged period of seclusion, she has resurfaced in Bradenton, Fla. as a student at the renowned Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy, where she is on a scholarship valued at $1,400 a month. The academy lists Jimmy Arias, Carling Bassett, and Chip Hooper among its star pupils.

Bollettieri says Hu Na has the potential to be a touring pro, but needs better footwork, more patience, and improved conditioning. Because she hasn't played much since defecting, it could be three months before China's No. 1 player is ready for tournament competition.

A 20-year-old who speaks limited English, Hu Na has created quite a stir in political circles (see commentary on p. 23 of Tuesday-dated Monitor, May 10). China has broken off cultural and sports exchanges with the United States since it granted her political asylum. Women golfers take aim

Kathy Whitworth and Amy Alcott are on the verge of achieving personal milestones in women's golf.With her next tournament victory, Whitworth will move ahead of Sam Snead with 85 career wins. Alcott, meanwhile, is only $4,140 shy of becoming the sixth player in LPGA history to surpass $1 million in career earnings.

The way Whitworth's been playing (seven top-10 finishes this year), she could notch No. 85 at any time. Yet a few years ago, the slumping Texan was considered a virtual has-been. She proved otherwise, however, coming back last year to win her first title in three years and break a tie with Mickey Wright, with whom she had shared the LPGA record of 82 victories.

Alcott, a nine-year tour veteran, took a giant step toward joining the million-dollar club when she collected $55,000 for winning this year's Dinah Shore Invitational, the LPGA's richest event. Despite her wealth, or maybe because of it, Alcott spent part of last winter as a short-order cook at a Santa Monica sandwich shop called the Butterfly Bakery.

Alcott has expressed interest in someday owning a restaurant, and thought the experience would give her a feel for the business. ''I learned what pressure was like,'' she told an associate.''It's having 30 people waiting for food with half-hour lunches.'' Touching other bases

* Baseball's designated hitter rule has come under fire from the people it was designed to please - the fans. That, at least, is what a readership survey conducted by The Sporting News shows. Seventy-one percent of 2,193 respondents (a Sporting News record in such surveys) were against the continuation of the DH rule, which is used only in the American League. This figure may not speak for the masses, but it certainly gives an indication of the position taken by hard-core fans. After 10 years, their opposition to the DH doesn't appear to be eroding as some may have anticipated.

* Weekend golfers generally have a hard time relating to long-hitting, super-accurate pros. David Graham, however, proved to be a very human champion at last week's Houston Open. He came from five strokes behind to win, but it was what he did the day before that endeared him to duffers everywhere. Instead of declaring an unplayable lie, he tried hacking his way out of the woods, only to take a quadruple bogey 9 on the first hole. Twice he hit trees, and once he did get out, his ball rolled into the rough.

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