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Life very different now for Hilary Lunke

Hilary Lunke is finding life as the U.S. Women's Open champion a bit hectic.

Since winning a dramatic three-way playoff with a 15-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole Monday, Lunke has been mobbed by media, fans and friends. For a previously unheralded 24-year-old player who entered the U.S. Open as a qualifier, it's been a life-altering experience.

"It's starting to hit me that my life is different," Lunke said after arriving in Vancouver for this weekend's Canadian Women's Open. "I showed up here at the golf course, didn't take a shower, didn't put on any makeup, just came right out of the hotel thinking I could come and register and get out of here."

Instead, she was greeted by a wall of cameras and microphones as soon as she stepped out of the car.

"I've never walked into a parking lot and had that happen to me," Lunke said.

She did find time to stop in Portland, Ore., Monday night and celebrate with friends her $560,000 payday -- more than eight times her two-year career winnings before the U.S. Women's Open. Since then, it's been one interview after another.

She turned down a request from NBC's "Today" show to fly to New York on Tuesday night, but found time Wednesday for live appearances on ESPN Radio's "Dan Patrick Show" and Fox's "Best Damn Sports Show, Period."

Even her voicemail is having a hard time keeping up.

"I'll leave my phone off for three hours, and I have 18 new messages," she said.

About the only thing Lunke hasn't done since Monday is practice on the narrow, tree-lined layout at the 6389-yard, par-72 Point Grey Golf and Country Club.

"I haven't hit a shot since I made that putt on 18, so I'm not exactly prepared to tee off," she said.

When Lunke does tee up Thursday in the $1.3 million tournament, she'll see many familiar faces. Among them will be Angela Stanford and Kelly Robbins -- the players she beat in the playoff.

Lunke also will have to oppose LPGA Tour money leader Annika Sörenstam and 14 of the Tour's other top-20 earners.

Sörenstam, whose uncharacteristic bogey on the final hole cost her a chance to win last week, made the trip north despite a cold and lingering fatigue from her appearance with the men the last week in May at the PGA TOUR's Bank of America Colonial.

"I am tired, and for me I wish this tournament was maybe later in the year," Sörenstam said. "But I had all intention of being here."

She won the Women's Canadian Open in Ontario in 2001, but didn't defend her title because of a conflicting event in her native Sweden.

"I'm not defending, but kind of defending," she said.

Meg Mallon won in Sörenstam's absence last year in Quebec. After missing the cut in the U.S. Women's Open, Mallon is looking forward to being back in a country where she won twice in the last three years.

"I don't know what it is, but I'd like to bottle it," Mallon said.


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