Teske's win was even more impressive considering she had to birdie the final two holes of regulation just to earn a spot in the playoff, which she won over top-ranked Annika Sorenstam, Jennifer Rosales and Lorie Kane after drilling an 18-foot birdie putt on the third hole. The win was her first of back-to-back triumphs in 2003 (Wegmans Rochester LPGA), which improved her career playoff record to 4-1 and helped propel her to the best financial season of her career.
This year, the Aussie has been a model of consistency, making all 12 cuts and notching a pair of top-10 finishes. In fact, Teske comes into this week having made the cut in her last 32 events, so chances are she'll be teeing it up on the weekend with a chance to successfully defend a title for the first time in her career.
Teske's title defense will have to go through some stiff competition, as the 144-player field includes 43 players who have tasted victory on the LPGA Tour a combined 193 times. Heading that list is LPGA Tour and World Golf Halls of Fame member JoAnne Carner and her 43 career titles, followed by Dottie Pepper with 17 and Sally Little with 15. This will be one of Pepper's final six events, as she recently announced 2004 will be her last season on Tour.
Other LPGA stars teeing it up in the $1 million 54-hole event include Laura Diaz, local favorite Tammie Green, Natalie Gulbis, Pat Hurst, Christina Kim and Michelle McGann. Both Green (1994, 1997) and McGann (1995-96) are past champions of the event, and 1999 champion Jackie Gallagher-Smith is also competing this week.
A host of 2004 LPGA rookies, 25 of the 29 total first-timers, in fact, will be battling for a chance to earn their first career LPGA titles. In addition, LPGA T&CP member Suzy Whaley, who made headlines in 2003 by qualifying for and competing in the PGA Tour's Greater Hartford Open, is participating. Whaley, who played on the LPGA Tour in 1990 and 1993, is playing in her eighth LPGA event in the last two years.
The 54-hole event features a tournament within a tournament, as the first 36 holes will serve as the LPGA's U.S.-based qualifier for the Weetabix Women's British Open, the Tour's final major of the 2004 season. Five players who have not otherwise qualified for the major championship and who express their wish to compete in the qualifier can earn a spot in the Weetabix Women's British Open field via the Giant Eagle LPGA Classic.
The top five scores from the eligible players at the conclusion of the first 36 holes of play at the Giant Eagle LPGA Classic will determine the players who earn spots in the Weetabix Women's British Open. The five players from the U.S.-based qualifier will join the top-70 LPGA players from the 2004 ADT Official Money List after the conclusion of the U.S. Women's Open on July 4 and the top-35 Robe di Kappa Ladies European Tour (LET) players from the 2004 LET Order of Merit as of July 5 who are already exempt for the event.
All other players who entered and are not already qualified will have a chance to participate in the final qualifier being held at North Hants Golf Club in Fleet, Hampshire, England, on Monday, July 26. The Giant Eagle LPGA Classic was also the U.S.-based qualifier for the Weetabix Women's British Open in 2002.