LPGA: ROSALES: CHAMP, ALMOST
Vienna, Ohio, June 17, 2003 By Dante Navarro (Star) Jennifer Rosales stood seven feet away from fame and glory but failed to overcome her emotions, flubbing the birdie putt on the second playoff hole and enabling Rachel Teske to snatch the Giant Eagle LPGA Classic crown on the third hole of sudden death in Vienna, Ohio Sunday.
"I had a feeling I was going to make it but got too excited and just didn’t make it," said Rosales, referring to that crucial birdie putt from seven feet that could’ve won her the elusive crown outright.
But fate frowned at the ace Filipina shotmaker, who subsequently missed from 16 feet on the third playoff hole after Teske had made hers.
Winless in four years on the tour, Rosales closed out with a 68 to force a four-way tie at 204.
Teske earlier made a 35-foot birdie on the last hole to join the playoff cast that included the fancied Swede Annika Sorenstam and Lorie Kane, then ended it by rolling in an 18-foot putt for birdie on the third hole of sudden death to pocket the top purse of $150,000.
"When Jen (Rosales) missed that putt (on the second playoff hole), I said to my caddie, ‘let’s make the most of this opportunity.’ And I did," Teske said.
Rosales actually flinched when ranged against Sorenstam in the early going as she bogeyed two of the first three holes. But she flashed some kind of resiliency by birdying six of the next 15, including back-to-back birdies from No. 17 to join the playoff cast.
"It was tough on the first few holes to get used to it, but I hung in there," said Rosales on her matchup with Sorenstam. "I will take this experience and move on."
"Just give her a little more time and she’ll finally be able to win her first crown in the LPGA," said her coach and noted swing guru Bong Lopez.
In fact, Lopez, a former national team coach, will leave for the United States next week to help Rosales prepare for the US Open next month.
But getting into the playoff was nerve-racking, said Rosales, adding: "I couldn’t even take it back, but after that I was fine."
"Overall, I had a chance. I just blew it, but it’s not the end of the world," said Rosales, who nevertheless took home $69,945 (P3.7 million) for her feat.
That hiked Rosales’ earnings to $209,943, moving her from 34th to 18th in the money rankings. It was Rosales’ fourth top 10 place finish in 11 tournaments in the ongoing tour.
Fil-Am Dorothy Delasin, two-time winner of this event, rallied with a 68 and finished joint 21st at 211 worth $10,174.
"I just felt like I walked straight into a wall," said Sorenstam, who had won her last two LPGA Tour events. "I kept eating carrots, energy bars, bananas and I tried to drink everything I could.
"My husband said, ‘What do you need?’ I said, ‘I need a week off. Do you have one of those in your pocket?"’
Teske, who shared the lead with Jean Bartholomew at the start of the day, closed with a 69 to finish at 12-under 204. She made the playoff when her lengthy birdie putt at No. 18 slammed into the back of the cup, popped into the air and then settled into the cup.
"My thought was to get some pace on the ball, but I hit it way too hard," the Aussie said. "My caddie said coming up the 18th fairway, `Hit it in the middle of the hole.’ Fortunately, it jumped up and went."
After making the winning putt, she pumped her fist.
"You don’t get that many opportunities to win, so you have to make the most of them," she said.
Kane broke the tournament record with a 63 that included four birdies on the front side and five more on the back without a bogey.
Rosales’ 68 provided the highest finish of her pro career. She tied for third at last year’s British Open.
Sorenstam, who also shot a 68, sagged at the finish and rested by sitting on her golf bag between shots.
"My knees have been shaking for the last three hours, so I’m ready to go home and take a break," she said.
Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi
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