Who better to ask about Squaw Creek Country Club than a past champion.
By PETE MOLLICA
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
VIENNA -- It's been 10 years since Deb Richard won the Phar-Mor in Youngstown LPGA Classic, but she still has vivid memories of the tournament and the golf course on which she won.
In 1991, Richard defeated Jane Geddes in a one-hole, sudden-death playoff at Squaw Creek Country Club.
The Phar-Mor in Youngstown tournament was held for three years at Squaw Creek, beginning in 1990. Following the Phar-Mor scandal in 1992, the tournament moved to Avalon Lakes Golf Course in Howland and became the Youngstown-Warren LPGA Classic.
In 1997 Giant Eagle became the title sponsor of the tournament.
The best: Richard remembered her victory; in fact, that season was her best in the 16 years she has been on the LPGA Tour. She also won the Women's Kemper Open that year and had her best season financially ($376,640), which ranked fifth on the money list.
Richard has three other Tour victories, but only two have come since her win at Squaw Creek. She has been hampered by injuries to her back and shoulder. She took a medical leave last season and had additional surgery.
"The thing that I remember most about Squaw Creek is that it is a shot-makers golf course," Richard said. "You have to be able to move the ball both left and right here, and the greens are small, so it doesn't come down to a putting contest.
"It's been 10 years, but it still looks like the same golf course, except for the trees," she said. "I remember looking around today. So many of those trees were just little saplings 10 years ago, and now they have grown into pretty big trees.
"Anytime you've played a golf course well, as I have here, those things live on with you, and they'll come back even more when you get back to playing the golf course again."
Down the stretch: Richard, who posted a 9-under-par 207 to tie Geddes after 54 holes, remembered the finish very well.
"I had to birdie 18 to force a playoff and I had just hit a great shot and sank a big putt to do it," she said. "We went back out for the playoff and I hit almost the same exact shot and the ball was almost in the same spot, so I knew what it was going to do and made it again for the win."
Richard has played well in other Youngstown tournaments. She lost to Nancy Lopez in a playoff in 1993, the first year the event was played at Avalon Lakes.
"Youngstown is really what the LPGA is all about," said Richard. "It's a small town where the community comes out and really supports the tournament and that atmosphere is what we professionals really love to play in front of."
Richard was asked if she would have an advantage in July because of her past success at Squaw Creek.
"In the last 10 years the LPGA has had a drastic change-over of players," she said. "There probably won't be more than 30 or 35 players in this year's field who played this course back when I won."
Richard said her health is as good as it's been in almost a decade.
"The last time that I played completely healthy was in 1992," she said. "My game is starting to come around and I'm getting closer. I'm making lots of good shots, but I've been missing cuts by just one or two shots."