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King misses cut in final major

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Betsy King played one hole on a near-empty golf course Saturday morning, then said goodbye.

Not exactly the way one of the game’s greats hoped it would end. But not that big of a surprise, either.

The 55-year-old King briefly came out of retirement to play in the U.S. Women’s Open this week, leaving the door slightly ajar to more if she played well on a difficult course at the Broadmoor.

She didn’t, and tried to enjoy the moment, even though going through the motions on a golf course has never been her thing.

It was nice, very nice,” the soft-spoken King said. “But it’s hard when you’re not playing well.”

King missed shots, putts and finally the cut as she wound up 18 over, tied for 142nd out of 156. Her final farewell came early Saturday, when she returned to close out the rain-delayed second round.

An unusual way to end it for the six-time major winner, who knew the odds were against her – returning to a major championship without playing a big-time round in six years.

“That’s the problem,” said one of her contemporaries, Juli Inkster, who didn’t make the cut, either. “Trying to qualify for the Open and playing in the Open are two different things. I think she knew that going in. But you’ve got to hand it to her for qualifying and doing this.”

King thought she was using the U.S. Open qualifying rounds as practice for a senior event coming up a few weeks down the road. Instead, she made it into the field, where she was the oldest – and one of the most decorated.

She won her first U.S. Open title in 1989 – the year Yani Tseng, the top-ranked golfer in the world, was born.

King won another the following year – when Michelle Wie was barely 6 months old.

This version of Betsy King didn’t resemble those versions. She shot rounds of 12-over 83 and 6-over 77.

“Starting out, I had a couple of birdie chances early on. I didn’t convert. Just didn’t play that well after that,” King said.

For King, this wasn’t so much about being in contention as embracing the experience. She was paired with longtime friends Sherri Steinhauer and Pat Hurst.

“I try to keep a good attitude,” King said. “There were a lot of fans out here, not just for me, but in general. I had some friends come out to watch me play. That was nice.”

If she stays retired as planned, King will concentrate on her other passion – charity work. She founded Golf Fore Africa, a nonprofit group that supports kids on that continent who have been orphaned or affected by AIDS.

King has enlisted the help of LPGA players such as Stacy Lewis and Inkster.

“It was unbelievable just seeing things you never thought you’d see before,” said Lewis, who ventured to Africa with King. “It just really puts golf and our life and everything we do into perspective.”

After a rough week back at the majors, King doesn’t anticipate another return.

“It’s funny, because I’ve looked at other players that have tried to come back and I said, `I’ll never do that,”’ King said. “And I wasn’t planning on it.

“I got away from it and decided that I’ll try it a little bit. You know what it takes to be (competitive), to play your best, and I definitely don’t have the desire to do that.”