Saiki Seeks Rare Repeat in New York


PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- Kim Saiki waited more than 38 years for her first LPGA victory, and now less than 12 months later, she returns to the Wegmans Rochester LPGA at Locust Hill Country Club in Pittsford, N.Y., as defending champion. Saiki, who last year became the second-oldest Rolex First-Time Winner at the age of 38 years, 5 months and 3 days old, is hoping to recapture the magic she found last summer when she carded four rounds under par to become the only the fourth first-time winner in the event's 28-year history.
Another win for Saiki would put her in elite company, as only LPGA Tour and World Golf Halls of Fame members Nancy Lopez (1980-81) and Patty Sheehan (1989-90) have successfully defended their titles at the Wegmans Rochester LPGA. She could also become only the fourth player in LPGA Tour history to win her first and second LPGA titles at the same event in back-to-back years (Danielle Ammaccapane, Standard Register PING, 1991-92; Lisa Walters, Itoki Hawaiian Ladies Open, 1992-93; and Dorothy Delasin, Giant Eagle LPGA Classic 2000-01).
But between Saiki and those obscure notations, not to mention the $225,000 first-place paycheck, are numerous past champions looking to recreate some championship memories of their own. Laura Davies, who has been playing very strong as of late with three-consecutive top-10 finishes, won the Wegmans Rochester LPGA in 2001 and tied for seventh last year. Rosie Jones, one of four players to win the tournament multiple times, captured titles in here in 1991 and 1998 and is looking for her sixth top-10 finish in 2005, which she has said will be her last full season on Tour. Other past champions in the field include Deb Richard (1987), Penny Hammel (1997) and Rachel Hetherington (2003).
The Wegmans Rochester LPGA field is also chock full of 2005 tournament winners looking to ensure Annika Sorenstam isn't the only player to win more than one event this season. Rolex First-Time Winners Paula Creamer, Jimin Kang and Stacy Prammanasudh will be looking for their second career victories, while 2005 champions and Tour stars Cristie Kerr, Jennifer Rosales and Wendy Ward are also hoping for another win this year.
At last year's event, Saiki came into the week 77th on the ADT Official Money list and with nothing better than a tie for 21st on her performance chart for the season. But after carding rounds of 66-69-68, Saiki entered the final round with a one-shot lead over Jones and a good chance at her first career title.
Saiki suffered a potentially disastrous double-bogey on the second hole to jeopardize her chances, and the twosome of Saiki and Jones traded the lead eight times throughout the final round. But Saiki's 7-footer for birdie on the 14th hole, the second-most difficult of the week, against Jones' double-bogey gave the California native a comfortable cushion for the remainder of the round. Her final-round 71 was enough for a four-shot victory, ending a 272-event winless streak and taking her to 14th on the ADT Official Money List.
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