Golden Defends First Career Title


SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - Over the past 27 years on the LPGA Tour, the State Farm Classic has crowned nine first-time winners. In last year's event, Kate Golden added her name to that notable list after firing a final-round 9-under-par 63 to defeat Annika Sorenstam by one shot. Golden, who played on tour for nearly 10 years, earned the win and her best finish since a fourth-place finish in 1997.
This week, the event features not only several American players striving for those last few Solheim Cup points - Pat Hurst, Danielle Ammaccapane, Dorothy Delasin and Nancy Scranton - but also a list of players trying to win the State Farm LPGA Series Bonus Pool, which culminates Sunday. Sorenstam leads the bonus pool standings, but players do have a chance to catch her since points are tripled for the final event.
Nine past champions are playing this week and the list includes LPGA Tour Hall of Famers Beth Daniel, Betsy King and Nancy Lopez along with Laurel Kean, Michelle McGann, Barb Mucha, Pearl Sinn and Mary Beth Zimmerman.
Seven winners off the 2002 LPGA Tour season are competing. Three-time winner Se Ri Pak and two-time winners Laura Diaz, Mi Hyun Kim and Rachel Teske are all looking for another victory, while Cristie Kerr, Meg Mallon and Gloria Park all are in the hunt for a second season victory.
Rookies Natalie Gulbis and Beth Bauer continue to battle for the last few Rolex Rookie of the Year points. The points race ends at the Safeway Classic in Portland, Ore., Sept. 15. Bauer overtook Gulbis after a top-10 finish at last week's First Union Betsy King Classic, but leads by only one point, 600-599.
In last year's event, Sorenstam led throughout all three rounds and was 18-under-par heading into the final round. During the final round, Golden began six shots behind and played one group ahead of Sorenstam. Golden began her round with a birdie on the third hole and then reeled off four consecutive birdies on holes 6 through 9 to make the turn at 17-under-par.
At that point, Golden was just two shots off Sorenstam's lead. Golden added a pair of back-to-back birdies on the 11th and 12th holes and then again on the 14th and 15th holes to get to 21-under-par for the tournament. Golden was then one stroke ahead of Sorenstam after the 15th hole. A bogey on the 16th hole put Sorenstam two strokes behind Golden, but a birdie on the 17th hole brought her back to within one. After missing a birdie putt on the final hole, Sorenstam finished the day with a two-under-par 70 and in second place.
Moira Dunn finished in third place with a 17-under-par 271 after a final-round 67 (-5), her fourth consecutive round in the 60s. Emilee Klein finished in fourth place at 16-under-par 272, while Laura Diaz was fifth at 15-under-par at 273.