Perrot Cashes in on Futrues

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Futures TourAVON, Conn. -- AVON, Conn. -- You could argue that Nicole Perrot was the last player standing in the final round of the GMAC Futures Golf Classic. While others fell off the leader board or lost their composure when the going got rough, Perrot was as solid as her swing and steady as the wedge that bounced balls while she waited on the 18th tee for her final shot.
 
The native of Vina del Mar, Chile could have easily folded when she sandwiched an eagle on the third hole between a pair of bogeys on holes 2 and 4 at Blue Fox Run Golf Course. But rather than losing ground, the 20-year old charged onward with two more birdies on the front nine holes and two on the back to finish with a final-round 68 at 4-under 209 for her first professional victory and $9,800 winner's check.
 
'Every moment you have in a golf career is important,' said Perrot, who was doused with a bucket of water by her friends while her caddie/brother Raul waved the Chilean flag. 'I'm so happy. I've always wanted to be a professional and I knew it would be a process to go to another country and play. Today, I just had fun playing golf.'
 
The word fun wasn't exactly tumbling off the lips of at least four other players who were in contention at some point during the final round on the par-71, 6,154-yard course. Stephanie George, who began the day with a two-shot lead, bogeyed her first two holes and double bogeyed the ninth to play the front nine at 5-over 41 - then four shots behind leaders Michelle Murphy and Lindsey Wright. George rattled off birdies on four of her next five holes to draw even with the leaders, but consecutive bogeys on the last three holes knocked her off the leader board.
 
'I got it back, but finished bogey-bogey-bogey,' said George, of Myerstown, Pa., who posted a final-round 75 to tie for fourth at 212. 'This one hurts more than missing the cut. I let it get away from me with too many errant shots.'
 
Murphy, who started the day two shots behind the leader, also ran into trouble late in the round. The native of Tacoma, Wash., lost four shots on the last seven holes as the wind kicked up, making club selection critical. She finished with a 74 and tied for ninth. And Wright, the Tour's money leader from Albury, Australia, dropped off the board, losing four shots on her last five holes to card a 2-over 73 and finish 12th.
 
To add insult to injury, Young Jo of Suwan, Korea, held a one-shot lead with five holes to play when her soon-to-be downward spiral began. Playing with Perrot and Australia's Kylie Pratt, Jo's group was notified by rules officials that they were out of position after the 13th hole. Each player in the group was timed again on holes 14 and 15. After she putted out on No. 15, Jo was assessed a one-stroke, slow-play penalty for exceeding the Futures Tour's allowable time to execute a shot. The penalty came after Jo had been warned for slow play and assessed a stroke in the previous week's tournament. Players only receive one warning for the year.
 
Rattled by the penalty, Jo lost focus and bogeyed the next two holes. 'Of course the penalty affected the bogeys,' said the visibly upset player through her caddie David Lee after the round. Jo finished the day at even-par 71 to tie for fourth.
 
Naturally, the timing of the penalty drew harsh criticism by Jo's compatriots. But head rules official, Kelly Wergin, offered some explanation: 'Our responsibility on the Futures Tour is to make sure we have an even playing field for all players, whether they are shooting 85 or 65. This is very unfortunate, but now is the time for this player to learn. This is what this Tour is about -- learning here so they can excel at the next level.'
 
With attrition taking its toll down the stretch, Perrot needed only to finish strong and avoid making mistakes for her first win. As the leaders faded, a few late challengers emerged, but they ultimately ran out of holes to catch the South American player. Jeanne Cho of Orlando, Fla., fired a final-round 70 to finish solo second, while Katie Connelly of Beloit, Wis., posted her second consecutive top-five finish for third place. Seul Ki Kim of Incheon, Korea shot her career-low round of 66 to tie for fourth with four others.
 
But it was Perrot who held on with the experience of a third-year professional embarking on a lifetime goal. With her victory, she became the first Chilean golfer to win a professional event outside of South America.
 
'My first two years were tough,' said Perrot, who won the 2001 U.S. Girls Junior Championship and was runner-up at the 2001 U.S. Women's Amateur Championship. 'After I turned professional, I was trying too hard. I had to learn how to let things happen and to take care of the things I can control.'
 
As it turned out, Perrot's self-control came with good timing. And the woman still on her feet late in the day raised a new flag as champion.
 
Notes: This year's 54-hole event, presented by the Lincoln Financial Group, was held for the sixth year. The 135-player field competed for a $70,000 purse.
 
Invited amateur Marika Lendl of Goshen, Conn., played at even par for most of today's final round, but suffered a triple-bogey-6 on the par-3 final hole when her tee shot became unplayable. The 14-year-old daughter of Tennis Hall of Famer Ivan Lendl carded a 74 to finish tied for 15th. 'I played 53 great holes and one bad one,' she said.
 
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