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Doolan holds off Park, King to win LPGA Tour opener

3/16/2003

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Wendy Doolan sports a golf bag emblazoned
with the slogan, ''Anything Is Possible.''

The 34-year-old Doolan, who waited tables and fixed poker
machines in her native Australia while working her way into
professional golf, proved it on Sunday.

Doolan shot a 5-under-par 65 in soggy conditions to win the LPGA
Tour's season opener by three strokes.

''I hadn't felt it until the last six months, but I've tried to
believe in that for quite a while,'' she said after capturing her
second title, the Welch's-Fry's Championship.

Doolan won $120,000 -- nearly half of her 2002 earnings -- with
her score of 21-under 259.

''I've seen the girls shoot 20-plus under par,'' she said. ''I
never knew I was going to do it, but I did it today, and that's
something that I feel really good about.''

Doolan held up under pressure. She ignored the leaderboard and
responded to a discouraging bogey with a birdie on the next hole to
blunt charges by Grace Park and Betsy King down the stretch.

On the 18th green, she asked her caddie if she needed a birdie
to win. He shook his head, and she made a routine par.

King carded a 65 to tie third-round leader Lorie Kane (70) at
262.

''On 17, I had a 12- or 15-footer that I wimped on,'' King said.
''I haven't been up there for a little while, so my putting stroke
today was not as fluid.''

Park, derailed by a double bogey on the 17th hole, settled for a
67 and a tie with Christina Kim (70) at 263.

Kim, trying to become the first rookie to win her LPGA debut
since Beverly Hanson in 1951, also had late bogey problems.

Meg Mallon fired a 70 for sole possession of sixth, five shots
off the lead.

Mallon had a 60 on Friday, the second-lowest round in LPGA play,
to lead at the midpoint. But she was only 6 under in the other 54
holes of the tournament.

Doolan had a career-low 62 on Friday. And what has commonly
happened during her career, another player grabbed the spotlight.

But Doolan, whose breakthrough victory came two years ago in
Dayton, Ohio, in a five-hole playoff with Wendy Ward, was not to be
denied this time.

She overcame two bogeys with a seven-birdie effort, starting on
the first hole.

Doolan dipped to 20 under on No. 14, where her approach shot
came up short of the green after a brief pause to put on a sweater
during a rain squall. She chipped 5 feet past the flag and missed
the comebacker.

Then she responded with a 12-foot, downhill birdie putt on the
next hole and parred out while the competition faltered.

Kane seemed poised to make a run when she birdied the 16th hole.
Instead, she gave Doolan the last bit of breathing room with a
bogey on No. 17, falling three shots back.

She said it was never that close.

''My game plan was to birdie the last five holes,'' Kane said.
''I knew I had to make at least three or four to have a chance. And
so, standing on 17, I was thinking I needed to make a 1.''

Park, who got within one stroke at 19 under on No. 15, took a
disastrous double bogey-5 on the 137-yard 17th when her tee shot
landed in a bunker and she three-putted from 12 feet after blasting
out of the sand.

The race was tight at the start, as Kim made up her one-shot
deficit on Kane with a birdie on the first hole.

By the fourth, though, Doolan got her third straight birdie and
took the lead. She also birdied No. 6 to go 20 under and went up by
two shots.

That lasted long enough for Kim to reach the sixth green, where
she rolled in a birdie putt to reach 19 under.

Doolan gave back a shot with a bogey on No. 7, but Kim followed
suit when her putt from the fringe to save par rolled 3 feet past
the cup, and Doolan went two strokes ahead again with a 7-foot
birdie putt on the eighth hole.

On the pivotal 12th hole, Doolan got her sixth birdie of the
round and went up by three shots when Kim two-putted from 4{ feet
and bogeyed.