Daniel shows she is 'raining' champion

June 24, 1991|By Phil Jackman | Phil Jackman,Evening Sun Staff

WILMINGTON, Del. -- You know the old expression "It never rains on the golf course?" Beth Daniel wishes it was a permanent condition.

Most people awaken on a Sunday morning, see it's a lousy day TC outside and either slip into a funk or back between the sheets for another 40 winks. Not Beth.

It was raining. Beautiful. It was chilly and the wind was kicking up. Great. The lengthy Du Pont Country Club would play extra long for the final round of the McDonald's Championship. The woman couldn't wait to climb into her foul weather gear, grab those wet grips and get going, literally.

"The conditions definitely were in my favor," Daniel noted after carding a 68 and overcoming a two-stroke deficit to win the $750,000 tournament by four shots, her 27th LPGA Tour victory.

"The longer a course plays, the more it is to my advantage, because I hit the ball high and carry it a long way," she said. "I love it when a course is soaking wet and the ball doesn't roll at all."

Roll? If drives weren't stopping dead in the fairway, like darts on a dartboard, they were splashing down and turning over once or twice, tops.

Playing partner Sally Little started the round with a two-shot advantage, but that was spent after four holes, the leader making bogey on the second hole, Daniel rolling in a 12-footer for birdie at No. 4. Completing the cast was Pat Bradley, who started the day three back, but jumped into the thick of things with a birdie at the sixth.

The day crowd count was 19,000, about 25,000 spectators less than for the final round last year due to the inclemency, and it seemed every last one of them was dogging every step of the final threesome.

Not only were the conditions favoring Daniel, said Little, "so was the pressure situation. You could really feel the competitiveness among the three of us. It was definitely in Beth's comfort zone because she's been in the position [playing for the top prize on the final day] so often. She definitely had the upper hand."

Bradley agreed, pointing out, "Good long iron play was an imperative today and Beth's one of the best long iron players on the tour."

Not if you heard her lamenting after Saturday's round. "When I moan and groan it fires me up," said Daniel. Her complaint after a third-round 67 was her chipping "stunk. It was so bad, I figured it might take a psychologist to straighten me out."

Instead, she hit 17 greens in regulation yesterday. "No need to chip," she said, wryly.

Despite her almost flawless golf, the competition hung tough until the 14th hole when both challengers lost another shot to par. "I don't watch other players play," insisted Daniel, but someone must have told her since she felt a surge of confidence sweep over her.

"I hadn't felt good over putts all week. Suddenly, on the back nine today, I did. Good time for it," she said. Her birdie putts coming in measured nine, 15 and 16 feet, and the latter, at No. 16, cinched it.

Bradley and Little finished tied behind Daniel's 273 at 277 with Ayako Okamoto and Michelle McGann at 278 and Tammie Green and Kristi Albers at 279.

Next up for Daniel & Company is the Mazda LPGA Championship, which starts Thursday at Bethesda Country Club with Beth as defending champ. "I'm glad I'm feeling good going in because the key to playing well there is driving the ball since it's so tight off the tees," she said.

"And there will be pressure for me. Mazda is my main sponsor and there will be a lot of people from the company there. I guess you could say it was a 'Mazda Day,' because it won the '24 Hours at Le Mans' today for the first time and I was up watching until I came to the course."

Of course. Weren't all the ladies up early and tuned in to ESPN for the big Formula One race from France? Nope. Only the ones watching the rain pelt down and praying it wouldn't let up.

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