Sunrise Hawaiian Ladies Open
Sunrise Hawaiian Ladies Open
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England's Nicholas, the smallest LPGA player, wins

KAPOLEI, OAHU, Hawaii With the weather unpredictable, Alison Nicholas had a simple game plan for the final round of the $650,000 Sunrise Hawaiian Ladies Open: Hit the middle of the greens and play for pars.

It paid off today for the 5-foot Nicholas, the smallest player on the LPGA Tour.

Despite shooting a 1-over-par 73 over the final 18 holes, the 1997 U.S. Women's Open Championship winner posted a 54-hole total of 7-under 209.

Although the win was by only one stroke over Moira Dunn and Annette DeLuca, Nicholas, a native of Gibraltar who now lives in England, was in charge.

"I thought par or one-over-par would be good," she said of playing in the rain and wind. "To get that, I had to hit the middle of the greens and two-putt.

"Because of the weather, I knew it was going to be tough for everyone. I thought someone from the middle of the field would come up."

Some did, but, by the turn, Nicholas had pulled away to a three stroke lead.

"You need a combination of everything to win," she said. "Everything came together this week."

A chip to within two feet of the 426-yard seventh hole gave her the only birdie on her card. She recorded bogeys at the 13th and closing hole, but the outcome was all but settled by then.

"I'm delighted to be back in the winner's circle," she said after collecting the $97,500 winner's check. "Last year, I was ill (pneumonia twice) and fell off a moped. So this is a great change."

Dunn (68) and DeLuca (70) got birdies late in the round to go to 6-under, but it was too little, too late.

"What's great about this week is I played my game and had fun," DeLuca said. "The greens are grainy and it can blow. So if you put any kind of sidespin on the ball, you're in trouble. I didn't too much."

Jan Stephenson (71) got to 6-under on the front side, but could not continue the drive and finished alone in fourth at 211.

"It's nice to be back in contention again," said Stephenson, who has not won on the LPGA Tour since 1987. "I really thought I had a chance to win the tournament."

But she didn't help her cause by leaving four of six putts from inside 15 feet short of the hole.

Maria Hjort, Pat Hurst, Helen Dobson and Cindy McCurdy were at 4-under 212. First-round leader Mardi Lunn and Kelly Robbins in a group at 213.

Michelle McGann, who shared the lead with Nicholas going into the final round, fell apart on the 6,100-yard Kapolei Golf Course. She lost three strokes on the front nine and then disaster struck on the return trip as she registered four double bogeys.

She did eagle the 526-yard 14th and wound up the final round with a 9-over 81 and a three-day total of 217.

"Michelle had a tough day," playing partner Nicholas said. "We didn't talk a lot. We tried to talk about other things."

Among the Asian players, Yu-Chen Huang of Taiwan got to 5-under midway through the front nine and ended up at 214 with Hee-Won Han of South Korea another stroke behind.

The best scorers from the Japan LPGA were Aki Takamura, Natsuko Noro and Yuri Fudo, who were all at 2-over 218.


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