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Bader hangs tough at end



Published: Mon, July 22, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



VIENNA -- If you analyzed Sunday's finish at Squaw Creek Country Club, perhaps you noticed that five of the top seven finishers were under 30 years of age.

The champion, Mi Hyun Kim, is 25. Dorothy Delasin, the two-time defending champion, is only 21. Grace Park is 23 and Natalie Gulbis is just 19.

The fifth member of the "Young and the Restless" Club, Beth Bader, is 28 years old, but in the rough and tumble world of ladies professional golf, she is a relative neophyte, in the midst of just her second year on tour.

So when the Iowa State graduate tore up Squaw Creek on Friday, tying Kelly Robbins for the new competitive round record of 64, it generated more than a few raised eyebrows.

After all, in a little more than one year on tour, Bader had done little to distinguish herself.

See it to believe it

And, when she told reporters her goal for Saturday was, basically, to just keep it going, the response was pretty much a universal feeling of "yeah, right."

We've all seen many first-round wonders turn into Saturday flubbers at this tournament. It wouldn't have been surprising, then, to see Bader fall out of contention and merit little more than a sentence in today's recaps.

But instead, Bader turned in the kind of second round she vowed she would, a 1-under-par 71. It could have been even better, she said, but left a few birdie putts hanging on the back nine.

That left the "little Iowa girl," as she described herself, three shots off the lead. Certainly within striking distance for many players, but what about a player who had never finished better than 30th place and had missed the cut in 28 of her 41 professional tournaments?

Well, this little Iowa girl more than held her own. Playing with Danielle Ammaccapane, Bader played par golf through No. 5, then birdied No. 6 to go to 10-under. She added another birdie on No. 8 to make the turn at minus-11.

A bogey on the par-4 11th pretty much ended any chance she had at winning the tournament, but she birdied No. 13 to get back to 11-under.

Bader came to No. 18 with a chance to finish as high as third, but an errant tee shot left her behind a tree and no choice but to punch out to the fairway.

Her approach found the green, but she left her putt for par about 2 feet short.

"I felt like I made a great par putt on 17, but I had errant shots off the tee on 16 and 18," she said. "But overall, I'm ecstatic with the way I played."

She admitted to watching the scoreboard ... well, she tried to, anyway.

"I kept looking to see what the others [leaders Kelly Robbins and Mi Hyun Kim] were doing," she said, "but I must have always been looking at the wrong time because I never saw the leaderboard."

Still, Bader knew she was within striking distance.

"I hit my irons great, but my putts -- they just didn't drop," she said. "I put myself in excellent position [to make birdies]."

Doubled her earnings

Bader began this tournament having won just more than $9,000 on tour this year and less than $35,000 in her career.

On Sunday, she nearly doubled that career total, earning a check of $34,416.

"Finishing 1-under and 1-under [the last two days], I achieved one of my goals [for the weekend]," she said.

"I feel like I've been playing really well for the last month, but this [finish] is a huge momentum boost for me," continued Bader.

"I had a chance to win; I was in contention, and that's all I can ask for. It's not a situation I've ever been in before."

The tournament also qualified Bader for the Weetabix Women's British Open in three weeks, which will be played at Turnberry.

She plans to play next week in New Rochelle, N.Y., hoping to put together a string of good finishes.

And for next year's Giant Eagle LPGA Classic? "Oh yeah," she smiled. "I'll be back."

XRob Todor is sports editor of The Vindicator. Write to him at todor@vindy.com.




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