Pak holds on to win by two

Updated: August 18, 2003, 1:30 AM ET
Associated Press

SYLVANIA, Ohio -- Se Ri Pak was just waiting for the weekend.

Pak became only the eighth player to win the same LPGA tournament four or more times, struggling at times during an even-par 71 Sunday to hold off Hee-Won Han and Marisa Baena by two shots.

''I always play better on the weekend,'' Pak said. ''Starting the engine -- I always have trouble doing that.''

Actually, she shot a 2-under 69 in the opening round and a 4-under 67 in the second. But it was her 7-under 64 in the third round that gave Pak the lead heading into Sunday.

Her final round wasn't a vintage performance. Pak double-bogeyed the 16th hole to fall back into a tie with Han before taking command by chipping to 4 feet for a birdie on the par-5 17th. She was able to salvage par on the final hole to close out the win, worth $150,000.

Pak has become a fan favorite in the Toledo area. She credited the large, supportive galleries for boosting her to the win.

''This tournament is always exciting and always something special,'' she said after a large crowd showered her with cheers yet again. ''The reason I won this week is all the people in this city who love me. They gave me the power to win.''

As a rookie in 1998, Pak shot a 61 in the Farr to set an LPGA scoring record that has only been exceeded by Annika Sorenstam's 59 in 2001.

In addition to the 1998 Farr, Pak also won the tournament in 1999 and 2001 to give her the title in four of the last six years.

She began the final round with a one-stroke lead over fellow South Korean Han, who won the Wendy's Championship for Children last week. Despite playing the front side in 2-under, Pak's margin was still just a shot at the turn.

She parred the first four holes on the back nine while Han had two bogeys. Pak still led by two strokes after a bogey at No. 14 and a par at the 15th hole.

At the par-4 16th, Pak pushed her drive into the right rough and punched out with a pitching wedge short of the trap on the left side of the green. She chunked a wedge shot, knocking the ball into the trap. After blasting out of the bunker, she failed to hit the putt and dropped into a tie with Han.

''I put a little bit of pressure on myself,'' Pak said. ''I was struggling off the tee.''

At the 17th, Pak was in the fairway with her drive and hit her second shot just short of the green into the left rough. She chipped up to 4 feet and rolled in the birdie putt that proved to be the difference.

''I chose to go for it,'' she said. ''I didn't think the right choice was to make a safe play. ... That's probably the smartest I played all day.''

Han, with eight top-10 finishes and a pair of wins in a breakthrough season, parred the hole to drop a shot back.

On the last hole, also a par-5, Han hit her second shot behind an evergreen tree. She punched out short of the green and then fluffed her fourth shot, which also came up short. Then she nearly holed her 50-foot chip for par -- the ball coming to rest on the lip of the cup. She was 1 over for the final round.

Han declined to speak to reporters after finishing her round.

Pak smiled and waved to the crowd after hugging her caddie and Han, whom she had chatted with in Korean while waiting on the tees of the par-3 holes.

Pak celebrated the victory by jumping into the swimming pool at Highland Meadows Golf Club.

The shaky finish was perhaps understandable, since Pak's day had begun at 7:24 a.m. when she reported to the 14th green to complete the third round, which had been suspended by lightning and heavy rain. Pak played those five holes in 1-over after playing the first 13 in 8-under.

Pak won for the third time this season, following victories at the Safeway and the Chick-fil-A.

The victory was Pak's fifth in the state of Ohio, where she has placed in the top 10 in 12 of 17 starts and has won almost $1 million.

Pak moved past Grace Park and into second place behind Sorenstam on the money list this year with more than $1.1 million. Sorenstam, who won the Farr in 2000, skipped the tournament after playing last week in Sweden.

Baena's second-place finish was the best of her five full years on tour.

''It was a great day. This is the best I've ever played,'' the native Colombian said. ''I was so consistent -- four rounds under par. I only hit two bad tee shots all week. For me that's a record. I usually hit it all over.''

Heather Bowie's 66 moved her into a tie with Mi Hyun Kim (68) for fourth place at 10-under 274. Danielle Ammaccapane and Janice Moodie were another shot back.

The last player to win the same tournament at least four times was Laura Davies, who captured the Standard Register PING in four straight years, 1994-97.

Pak was surprised by her feat.

''I didn't know that,'' she said. ''If I had, I don't think I would have won.''

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press