Creamer Back with Degree Win in Hand

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GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP, N.J. -- The last time Paula Creamer played at the Seaview Marriott Resort course, she nearly made history.
 
Competing as a 17-year-old high school senior, she came within a stroke of winning the ShopRite LPGA Classic, missing a birdie putt on the last hole that would have put her in position to be the first amateur to win a tour event in 35 years.

She's older than that now -- and a high school graduate, to boot. A year later, she returns with her degree in hand, her LPGA tour card in her pocket and her first tour victory under her belt.
 
Beating the rest of the 144-player field may be even tougher this time around, though. Top-ranked Annika Sorenstam, defending champion Cristie Kerr and perennial Classic contender Juli Inkster also will be playing when the $1.4 million Classic gets under way Friday.
 
'When the No. 1 player in the world is in the field, everything starts higher. It will be more known,' Creamer said earlier this week. 'But a win is a win at the end of the day.'
 
Her first came two weeks ago when she hit a 17-foot birdie putt on the final hole to win the Sybase Classic in New Rochelle, N.Y., becoming the second-youngest first-time winner in LPGA history.
 
The victory has helped turn her from curiosity to budding star.
 
'It's been hectic. It's different,' Creamer said. 'I used to kinda get looked at. Now, it's more of, like, a stare. It's nice. You work hard and you want to win. If this is what it's going to be like, fine with me. I'll take it.'
 
In last year's Classic, Creamer turned in a stellar 10-under par performance but missed a 10-foot birdie putt on No. 18 to finish tied for second with Giulia Sergas behind Kerr.
 
Despite a victory last month at the Michelob Ultra Open and her spot at No. 2 on the LPGA money list, Kerr said her game's not in top form.
 
Still, she's hoping last year's success carries over; if not, at least the Classic serves as a tuneup for the two major tournaments still to come this month -- the LPGA Championship and the U.S. Women's Open.
 
Unlike last year, Kerr has to worry about beating Sorenstam, who skipped the 2004 Classic. There's an up side to that, though, she said.
 
'It makes it sweeter for whoever wins the tournament when she's in the field. But again, there are a lot of people starting to challenge her on a weekly basis now and I think that's very, very good for our tour,' Kerr said.
 
Sorenstam, who tied for second in last week's Corning Classic, is still fighting a cold and taking antibiotics but said she feels pretty good physically.
 
A two-time Classic winner, she almost always plays well here -- then again, she does that everywhere. She has won four of the six tournaments she has played in this year and eight of her last 12.
 
'Confidence is everything in golf, and I have that right now,' she said Thursday.
 
Inkster has also won the tournament twice and posted top-10 finishes 12 times. She thinks this year's tournament could be decided on the final holes of the bayfront 6,071-yard par 71 course, which has been windy and damp all week.
 
The weekend forecast calls for sunny skies.
 
'Depending on the what the weather does, it could be a shootout Sunday,' Inkster said.
 
Related Links:
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