Sheehan's encore to LPGA Fame is a major score Her final round of 69 produces 1-stroke victory

June 14, 1993|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,Staff Writer

BETHESDA -- Patty Sheehan's response to what she would do for an encore after she made the LPGA Hall of Fame was clear and unmistakable.

She would keep winning.

She had reached the required 30 wins for automatic Hall of Fame enshrinement in March at the Standard Register Ping in Phoenix. Now she would search for No. 31, never mind complacency and never mind that she's 36 years old.

Entering the final round two strokes behind, Sheehan shot a 69 for a nine-under 275 to capture the $1 million Mazda LPGA Championship yesterday at Bethesda Country Club.

Lauri Merten had four birdies on the first eight holes and finished second at 276 after a 67, and Barb Bunkowsky was third at 277 after a 70. Third-round leader Jenny Lidback soared to a 78 and tied for 17th.

Sheehan, the 13th Hall of Fame player, won her fourth major and third LPGA title, climbing over Trish Johnson into first place on this year's money list with $366,826. First prize yesterday was $150,000, plus a new Mazda.

"I am so glad to get over this No. 30 business," Sheehan said. "People asked what I would do after I got in the Hall of Fame. How would I feel? Well, I feel exactly the same. I just want to keep playing well. I'm not going to roll over and die just because I'm in the Hall."

The 30-victory rule for Hall of Fame inclusion bothers Sheehan. She thinks it should be changed, but has no recommendation as to how. All she knows is that since Pat Bradley reached 30 two years ago, she hasn't been the same.

"It made [her] lose her motivation," Sheehan said. "The Hall is set up for you to get in and then go away. Amy Alcott has 29, and it's devastating to her that she can't get 30. That's a crime."

Aside from that somber note, Sheehan was in rare form in the interview room yesterday. On a table in front of her was a bottle of champagne on ice and the 120-year-old winner's silver cup.

"I'm going to pop this sucker," she said, proceeding to send the cork into the audience.

Sheehan took a sip from a small goblet, then poured the rest of the bottle into the silver cup and drank deeply from it.

And the Mazda? What would she do with that?

"Put it in my garage," she said, "with the three other cars."

Sheehan made it plain that this is not the end of her encore. She wants to win the U.S. Open a second time. She wants to become Player of the Year for the first time since 1983.

As Lidback faded, Sheehan, playing with her, took the lead on the third hole with a birdie to go eight under.

"I imagine Jenny was nervous," Sheehan said of her partner, whose previous best finish in a major was a tie for 64th. "It's difficult to be in that position for the first time. I felt for her. But the experience will help make her a better player."

Sheehan was as many as 10-under until she bogeyed the 16th, leaving her one shot ahead of Merten.

"That was a tough hole for me," Sheehan said. "I tried to blow it off and go on. There were still two holes today."

Merten was in with her 67 and on the driving range when Sheehan was staring at a four-foot putt that she needed for a par 4 to avoid a playoff.

"An official told me Patty made it," Merten said. "I thought she would. She's too good a player not to. I was kind of numb at that point. I didn't think I had a chance until she bogeyed 16."

Sheehan wanted no part of a playoff. Her record in playoffs "is not too good" -- 5-6, to be precise.

"I was very nervous," Sheehan said. "My hands were shaking good. I didn't know which shake would hit the putt."

Although Merten, 32, didn't overtake Sheehan, she was pleased with second place. She has two tour victories, but none since 1984.

"I'm happy to finish second in a major, tickled, in fact," Merten said. "I've never played this well in a major."

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