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LPGA LONG DRIVE Event attracts the big hitters

Published: Sun, July 14, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.

Of the six amateur qualifiers for Tuesday's finals, four hail from the Valley.
VIENNA -- Kristen DiGaetano of Gibsonia, Pa., crunched a drive 269 yards to lead a list of six qualifiers into the Schwebel's Amateur Long Drive competition Tuesday at Squaw Creek Country Club.
The Amateur Long Drive competition will be held at 2 p.m. as part of the Giant Eagle LPGA Classic, which runs all week at Squaw Creek.
The amateur competition will be one of three parts to the long drive event. There will be six LPGA players taking part in the professional event and there also will be a celebrity event.
DiGaetano was making her first appearance in this event, although she has competed in other long drive competitions.
She hit her long drive on her third swing and also had a 260-yard drive on her final attempt.
Alexandra Casi of East Palestine, who won the qualifier a year ago, finished second on Saturday to DiGaetano with a drive of 267 yards.
Casi, who just graduated from East Palestine High and will attend the University of Maryland in the fall on a golf scholarship, won last year's qualifier with a drive of 252 yards. She finished second in the finals during last year's tournament.
She will also be trying to earn a spot in the LPGA tournament field on Monday when she competes in the qualifier at 1 p.m.
"I'm really excited about it," Casi said. "I've played the course twice with my coach, Ted Ossoff of Valley Golf Course, and he really showed me a lot of things that I never thought about.
"My father is going to caddie for me on Monday, so good or bad I know he'll be there for me."
Drivers advance
The other four qualifiers for Tuesday included Denise Barnholdt of Beaver Falls, Pa., with a best drive of 265 yards, Marilyn Woods of Hubbard at 252 yards, Ginger Deuley of Youngstown at 248 yards and Michelle Rura of Warren at 247 yards.
Rura is going into her senior year at Howland High School, where she has been a three-year standout in basketball. She has been forced to cut back on her basketball activities because of knee problems and is concentrating more on golf this summer.
Two golfers tied for seventh place, just 1 yard away from qualifying.
Boardman's Stephanie Matasek, a Youngstown State University standout, and Theresa Statler of Canton each had a best drive of 246 yards.
If one of the six qualifiers can't make Tuesday's finals, Statler will be the first alternate, since she had the second best drive of 238 yards.
Fifteen golfers took part in Saturday's qualifier. Each golfer hit four drives, with the best drive determining the final positions.
Casi's final drive of the competition was estimated around 280 yards, but just rolled outside the out of bounds marker.

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