Rookie Michelle Louviere, who made her first cut, vowed she will "always play this tournament."
By BRIAN RICHESSON
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
VIENNA -- Marianne Morris knows what it's like to have a bad day on the job. At least for four hours Saturday, her headaches were forgotten.
A native of Middletown, Ohio, Morris shot the day's best round, a 6-under-par 66, in the Giant Eagle LPGA Classic at Squaw Creek Country Club.
A two-round total of 138 brought Morris to within four shots of leader Se Ri Pak for today's final round.
"Nobody likes to have a crappy job, but if you're not playing well, that's what it is," Morris said.
By making the cut in 26 of 29 events in 1996, Morris earned $300,000, easily her best finish in an 11-year career.
Since then, however, Morris' career has spiraled, and she's not afraid to admit it.
Take, for example, this year, when she missed the cut five times in nine events before coming to the Valley.
Finally: "I was playing terrible until today," she said. "I've really struggled for the past two or three months."
A decision to use her old irons might have shifted Morris in the right direction; ironically, she hadn't used them since her breakout 1996 season.
"I hit them well, I can work them, I can control them," she said. "They're going to stay in the bag."
Morris began her round on the back side and birdied Nos. 11, 13 and 17. She continued a torrid pace with birdies at Nos. 2, 7 and 9.
"I started out hitting it solid and making some putts. I just stayed really patient," Morris said. "I only hit a couple of bad shots today, and I didn't get into trouble."
While everyone will be looking toward Pak to win today, Morris at least can enjoy the fact that she's in contention, seeking her first victory.
"The first two or three holes will tell the story," Morris said. "If I can play solid there, I think I'll be fine."
Morris recorded the day's best finish in the afternoon, but rookie Michelle Louviere matched four golfers for the best morning round.
First cut: Louviere made her first cut as an LPGA professional by shooting a 3-under-par 69, joining Betsy King, Tina Fischer, Lori Atsedes and Sherri Turner.
A Baton Rouge, La., resident, Louviere is competing in her sixth LPGA event.
Her best round before Saturday was even-par 72 in the first round of the LPGA Corning Classic in Corning, N.Y., in May.
"This is a great day," said Louviere, who is even-par 144 after two rounds. "I'll tell you what, I will always play this tournament as long as I'm on the tour."
Louviere birdied Nos. 6, 7, 9 and saved par with good putts on Nos. 14 and 15.
"I'm not hitting my driver very long, but it's still OK," she said. "I'm still hitting a lot of greens. Mostly, I played steady and solid."
Louviere, 25, who played at Louisiana State University, opened the tournament Friday with a 3-over 75.
"[Friday] I played pretty good, also. I just missed the putts; they didn't drop for me yesterday," she said. "I still felt very comfortable."
Getting some help: Caddie Jeff Stickel calmed Louviere throughout the round. An Ohio State University student, Stickel normally caddies for Kim Williams, who took the week off.
If Louviere continues to play well, she should earn a permanent spot on the LPGA tour.
"Being out here is everything I thought it would be and more," Louviere said of the LPGA tour. "I'm being completely honest when I say that."
Louviere, who thrives on her driving accuracy and putting, is a conditional player, meaning she doesn't automatically qualify for any LPGA event.
"It's been a tough year because I'm bouncing between the Futures Tour and out here," Louviere said. "It's a challenge schedule-wise.
"I love it when I get to play out here," Louviere said of the LPGA tour. "It's very frustrating when I don't get into an event, because once you get a taste of it, this is really where you want to play."